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Historical Comps for Malcolm Mitchell’s Rookie Season

How does Malcolm Mitchell’s rookie season compare to other recent rookies, and how do those comps inform our expectations going forward?

If you’ve been around RotoViz for any length of time, you know we like making range of outcome-based projections. And we’ve got a fantastic Screener to facilitate that. My goal is to set some expectations for the 2016 rookie wide receivers.

To do that, I set the Screener to find rookies from 2010 – 2016, and selected some basic production and usage numbers as variables. I also included draft pick. The influence of draft pick on a player’s opportunity declines over time, but it’s still relevant heading into a player’s second season. Then I asked the Screener to find seasons comparable to my target player.1 Up next, Malcolm Mitchell.

The Comps

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I find it interesting that three of Mitchell’s top five comparables were drafted quite a bit earlier than him. Two of those have been quite successful. Emmanuel Sanders and Alshon Jeffery have both had multiple good seasons. Each has been a WR1 at least once, and a WR2 at least once. Dorial Green-Beckham has failed to really emerge in two seasons, but is still just 23 years old. Jacoby Ford had a three-year career, and David Gettis lasted just a single season.

As second-year players, these comps averaged 6.9 PPR points per game, but there’s quite a spread, from Ford’s 4.7 to Jeffery’s 17.7. For their post-rookie careers, these comps have averaged 12.6 points per game. That’s a very good number, but it’s all on Sanders and Jeffery, as the others contributed little or nothing.

Pros

Mitchell finished just 10 targets behind Chris Hogan, despite playing in one less game, and handily out-targeted Danny Amendola. Mitchell appeared in 14 games, recording stats in 12; those are good numbers for a rookie WR. Over the past four seasons, the average rookie WR has recorded (receiving) stats in just eight games. When targeting Mitchell, Tom Brady posted a 9.3 AYA.

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That’s  well below Hogan obviously, but it’s a very good number in its own right. Just from a dynasty trade value perspective, exceeding expectations and playing in New England have given Mitchell a bit of cachet.

Cons

Mitchell would have to do some serious depth chart climbing to have a consistently relevant role. New England’s WR3 has averaged just eight percent of targets over the past five seasons. That’s not much. The league average is around 14 percent. So Mitchell would have to supplant Hogan as the team’s WR2.

Outlook

It’s possible that Rob Gronkowski’s injuries keep him from being as heavily involved, but then it’s also possible that New England re-signs Michael Floyd or brings in another WR. It’s possible Edelman starts slowing down, but he just set career highs for targets and yards. In other words, for every potential pathway to more opportunity, it’s just as easy to see another scenario that limits Mitchell’s opportunity. He’s worth a hold in very deep leagues, but it’s not clear to me that he’s got a significantly better outlook than several other second-year WRs.

  1. The app provides 20 comparables, but I’m limiting myself to the top five. I’m also excluding fellow 2016 rookies from the comps.  (back)

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