A large determinant of opportunity is draft position, but it isn’t the only factor. We must also dig into the opportunity available for targets and production at rookie landing spots. We all want our dynasty rookie picks to quickly appreciate in value, and the best way for that to happen is for a rookie to start out with strong production in their first year. After a fairly slow run of receivers taken to start the NFL draft, the second and third rounds included some selections to landing spots with immediate opportunity.
One of the biggest determining factors of whether a player is productive is his opportunity, especially for picks beyond the first round. Would Allen Robinson have put up the same rookie numbers if Cecil Shorts and fellow 2014 selection Marqise Lee didn’t miss time with injury? Would the dynasty values of Jordan Matthews and John Brown have appreciated so quickly if they weren’t drafted into situations that could provide opportunity to a third receiving option?
We updated out 2016 rookie wide receiver opportunity scores yesterday, and last week went through the landing spots for first-round receivers Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell. In essence, the opportunity scores are an attempt to identify which teams have quarterbacks much more highly rated than receivers (based on ADP), meaning a rookie could more easily surpass veterans on the roster. In this post, we’re going to assess the destinations for second and third round receivers Sterling Sherpard, Michael Thomas, Tyler Boyd, Braxton Miller and Leonte Carroo. While you can’t really go wrong using a high dynasty pick on a first-round receiver, correctly gauging opportunity for later round receivers is critical for finding high-upside selections.
* Pre-draft scorces have adjusted slightly after adding the previously missing Philadelphia Eagles.
Pick 40: Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
The Rams technically have the higher opportunity score, but the Giants could still be the best destination for a rookie wide receiver. While the Rams’ score is driven by a complete wasteland at receiver, the Giants can provide opportunity based on an above-average offense. Shepard was a productive college receiver, with plus NFL combine measurables. Film gurus Matt Waldman and Matt Harmon place Shepard near the top of the class in route-running ability, but the age-obsessed RotoViz crowd has wondered if that ability is mostly a function of his advanced age (turned 23 years old in February). Because Shepard has received so much hype, and the landing spot is almost universally seen as a positive, his dynasty rookie draft price tag isn’t going to be cheap.
Pick 47: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
New Orleans was praised as a pristine landing spot, or an A+ destination, the but opportunity scores don’t agree. Going into the draft, Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Coby Fleener had top-100 ADPs in MFL10s, and Thomas adds another mouth to feed. Thomas could displace Snead for the WR2 spot and have a productive rookie year. But from a draft-agnostic perspective, Snead was a better prospect, and his ability to be productive in the NFL gives his outlook an additional boost.
I’m not saying that I’d rather have Snead than Thomas, but we can’t completely discount the chance that he’s a better player, and it just reinforces the fact that Thomas might not have as much opportunity as many perceive.
Pick 55: Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
Boyd landing in Cincinnati was also perceived as advantageous for his chance at production, and the opportunity scores agree. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert had strong ADPs leading into the NFL draft, but the rest of the receiving corps is barren after the departures of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency. Boyd should be able to step in immediately and fill a valuable role in one of the leagues top passing offenses. Boyd was an ultra-productive receiver in college, only narrowly losing to eventual winner Corey Coleman in our WR Prospect Sweet 16 Tournament. Boyd’s chance of NFL success was already elevated by his elite receiving market shares, and his prime landing spot can only help.
Pick 85: Braxton Miller, Houston Texans
Miller doesn’t check any of the production boxes that we look for at RotoViz: the converted quarterback’s career market share of receiving yards was only 4 percent. Houston looks like a good landing spot based on its opportunity score, but the fact that the team also used its first round pick on receiver Will Fuller complicates things. When you combine the fact that Miller will be competing with target hog DeAndre Hopkins and a higher draft pick with Miller’s weak prospect profile, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to get excited about. It’s not that Miller has no chance of success, but it’s unlikely that he’ll fall enough in dynasty drafts to be a bargain.
Pick 86: Leonte Carroo, Miami Dolphins
You may have been able to hear the collective groans of the RotoViz crew when Carroo was taken in the third round by the Dolphins. Miami has the worst opportunity score of any team that took a wide receiver in the first three rounds, and the passing attack under Ryan Tannehill hasn’t shown the ability to support multiple fantasy-relevant receivers. It’s possible that Carroo is able to push his way up the lineup to meaningful production, but he’ll have to leapfrog either DeVante Parker or Jarvis Landry to do so. Landry hass proven to be a solid contributor, registering the most catches over a player’s first two years in NFL history. And Parker was the Dolphins first round pick only a year ago, who profiles as a likely breakout this year