We write about opportunity for wide receivers a lot around here. And Brian Malone recently wrote about a Football Perspective article reporting that NFL draft investment in WRs doesn’t positively correlate with production. So when Danny Tuccitto wrote a post at Intentional Rounding building on Stuart’s work by incorporating opportunity, my interest was piqued. And it confirmed the somewhat obvious: the historically good 2014 WR class is costing younger WRs production.
First, I’ll recommend you read both Stuart and Tuccitto’s posts. They cover a lot of ground and details that I will not cover here. The big takeaway from Stuart’s piece, as I said, was that he found overall draft investment to not be positively correlated with production. In fact, he actually found it to be negatively correlated. Similarly, Tuccitto found that draft value isn’t a significant predictor of production over the first five years of a WR class’ career.
But what Tuccitto found that Stuart didn’t, in part because he used a more complex model, was the following (in his own words):
“The AR1 and AR2 terms are significantly different from zero, which means that the percentage of WR production in a given year depends on the percentage of WR production in the past two years (e.g., 2001 depends on 2000 and 1999, etc.). AR stands for “autoregression,” so you can think about these two terms as indicators of regression to the mean over time.”
To simplify that some more, the takeaway is that the more WR production there is over the two years leading up to a given draft, the less you should expect that WR draft class to produce over the first five years of their career.
As Ben Gretch jokingly pointed out, there are 10 young WRs right now who already have claims to being among the five best young WRs of all time. And that’s not even including guys like Jordan Mathews, DeVante Parker, Stefon Diggs, Tyler Lockett, Kevin White, or Breshad Perriman. For the purposes of the 2016 class, we’re already starting to see the effects of this. Shawn Siegele not-so-jokingly referred to the landing spots for the rookie WRs as “the apocalypse scenario”.1
One practical takeaway for dynasty purposes is that if you need or want WRs, you’ll probably have better luck getting production out of players who are already in the league, with the added benefit of getting it sooner. It’s easy to get excited about the JuJu Smith-Schusters, Mike Williamses,2 and Corey Davises of the future, but it looks like they’ll be coming into a pretty inhospitable league environment. Even if you don’t fully buy the hype about the 2017 RB class, it seems they’ll be more strongly positioned to contribute to your dynasty team in the first few years of their career than the WRs.