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A Brief Reminder on the Importance of Age for Rookie Wide Receivers

Fantasy Douche already broached this subject in his case for Laquon Treadwell, but I thought it was worth diving into a little deeper. Age matters for prospects, especially wide receivers. With the recent news about “disappointing” pro days for both Treadwell and Pharoh Cooper, I think it is easy to forget that both will play their rookie season at age 21, and just how important that is.

The Importance of Age

I started making this case the other day on Twitter, but I think that at some level you almost need to throw out everything that you know about a prospect other than their age and draft position when both of those things are expected to be very low (in a positive sense). Both Treadwell and Cooper are expected to be taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft per CBS. As I mentioned previously, they will both play their rookie seasons at age 21. Here is how 21 year old first and second round picks have performed in their first two seasons since 2000.

PlayerYearRoundTmRook RankSoph Rank
Amari Cooper20151OAK210
Devin Funchess20152CAR630
Brandin Cooks20141NOR5614
Mike Evans20141TAM1322
Sammy Watkins20141BUF2720
Allen Robinson20142JAX666
DeAndre Hopkins20131HOU4814
Robert Woods20132BUF5945
Stephen Hill20122NYJ95101
Rueben Randle20122NYG8851
Randall Cobb20112GNB9016
Kenny Britt20091TEN5134
Percy Harvin20091MIN2422
Jeremy Maclin20091PHI3614
Hakeem Nicks20091NYG338
Dwayne Jarrett20072CAR141131
Sidney Rice20072MIN7194
Chad Jackson20062NWE103182
Mike Williams20051DET87116
Larry Fitzgerald20041ARI312
Reggie Williams20041JAX9578
Antonio Bryant20022DAL4465
Koren Robinson20011SEA5614
Travis Taylor20001BAL6650

I chose first two years of production since I think that is basically the shelf life for dynasty rookie WR picks before you start getting impatient and trade out of the asset. So while Sidney Rice did have a great third year, his first two seasons were so bad that he may have not produced that third year for the team who originally drafted him.

In any event, the production is quite strong for this cohort of players. Overall, half of them produced at least one top 24 or better PPR season in their first two years. That’s right, half. So without even looking at anything else, if a player will play their rookie season at age 21 and goes in the first or second round, you have a really strong shot at acquiring a productive player.

If I split it by round, the case gets even stronger for Treadwell, as 71 percent of first round picks put up at least one top 24 or better PPR season in their first two years.1 And while that means the second round cohort had just a 20 percent success rate, it should be noted that of all the second round picks, Cooper looks the most like a HIT, Randall Cobb, as Jon Moore has already pointed out, due to his amazing versatility.

Conclusion

We are always trying to look for better ways to analyze prospects, but we can’t forget some of the basic filters that work for finding the most successful ones. At WR, age and draft position are both incredibly strong predictors that, when both are positive, should lead to a lot of confidence in a player. That means that even if you don’t “like” prospects such as Treadwell and Cooper, you should at least consider drafting them and ignore whatever other bias may exist in your analysis.

  1. And I still, of course, believe he will go somewhere in the first 32 selections.  (back)

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