Since we began working on wide receivers with the birth of RotoViz in 2013, we’ve written hundreds of articles on the position. Most of them arrive at the same conclusion: Understanding age-adjusted market share production allows you to hack the NFL’s evaluation process and get tremendous bargains at the position.
This was the message of Jon Moore’s Phenom Index, RotoDoc’s rookie WR model, Kevin Cole’s regression tree analysis, and my research that led to the selection of Stefon Diggs as last year’s breakout star.
In Part 1, I mentioned some of the components likely to be included in the machine-learning model RotoDoc and Josh Hermsmeyer are currently building. Before we get to that point, it’s helpful to build a solid foundation. In this series, I will attempt to present the career raw and market share production of the 2017 class in an apples-to-apples format. Each experience sub-group will get their own article.
* Market share yards (msYD) and market share TDs (msTD) represent the percentage of the team’s receiving yardage accounted for by the prospect. Games missed due to injury are removed. Games without a catch due to coach’s decision are included.1
* Recruit rankings are from 247 Sports unless otherwise stipulated.
* Age, when available, is taken from the Rookie Age Database.
Darreus Rogers, USC, 23.3
Rogers burst onto the draft radar with big games against Cal (6-97-2) and Washington (6-84-1). Unfortunately, he scored only one other TD and had only one other 80-plus yard game as a senior. He has the weakest resume of any WR who is expected to be selected in this draft.
Jamari Staples, Louisville, 22.3
Staples attended UAB for two seasons and transferred to Louisville when their program shut down.
Staples missed the first four games of the 2015 season, but outperformed teammate James Quick when on the field. Despite the Heisman campaign of Lamar Jackson, both players saw their market shares deteriorate with the emergence of Cole Hikutini and Jaylen Smith.
Gabe Marks, Washington State, 22.4
Marks was the No. 39 WR recruit according to Scout. He redshirted in between his sophomore and junior seasons.
Marks was expected to put up big numbers in 2016 after cresting 1,000 yards and scoring 15 times the previous year. He found the end zone 13 more times as a senior but struggled from a yardage perspective in Mike Leach’s Air Raid. Marks currently finds himself in a battle to hear his name called on draft day.
Jehu Chesson, Michigan, 23.0
Chesson redshirted as a freshman and entered 2016 as the higher-profile of Michigan’s two redshirt senior WRs.
Chesson has dropped to the edge of draft relevancy with a disappointing senior campaign that left him in dire straits from both a career and final season market share perspective.
Travin Dural, LSU, 23.1
Dural was the No. 41 WR in the 2012 class according to 247 Sports. He redshirted as a freshman after suffering a knee injury in fall practice.
Dural’s career trajectory is bizarre and more than a little disturbing, although it’s in line with draft prospects who seem to hover the sixth-round area. With solid size and potentially blistering speed,2 Dural posted a tremendous Dominator Rating as a redshirt sophomore. Unfortunately, his performance collapsed over the next two seasons, both in terms of raw numbers and market share. LSU’s prehistoric passing game explains the former but not the latter.
Zach Pascal, Old Dominion, 22.0
I took a closer look at Pascal during our Bowl Preview series. The Old Dominion star finished with consecutive seasons at or above a combined market share of 30 percent. The coaches made every effort to get the ball in his hands over those seasons, giving him 38 carries and 32 kick returns. He’s a strong sleeper if he shows NFL athleticism at the combine.
Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois, 23.2
Golladay played his first two seasons at North Dakota before sitting out 2014 as he transferred to Northern Illinois.
Golladay emerged with a strong sophomore season, perhaps precipitating his transfer. He then exploded at Northern Illinois, logging two consecutive seasons with a Dominator Rating above 0.40. Barring a disastrous combine, he’s one of the top sleepers in the 2017 class.
Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse, 23.1
Etta-Tawo was headliner in my look at 3 Sleeper WRs for the 2017 Draft.
Etta-Tawo was the only power-conference receiver to record a better market share than Biletnikoff winner Dede Westbrook. When you consider that both players were one-year wonders, and Etta-Tawo is only 11 days older, it’s difficult to square the large difference in perception.
Amara Darboh, Michigan, 22.8
Darboh saw limited action at WR as a freshman, spending most of his time on special teams. A foot injury led to his 2013 redshirt.
Returning from his redshirt in 2014, Darboh authored three solid, if unspectacular, campaigns. His final season bears passing resemblance to that of Michael Thomas, and he’s projected in the same range of the reality draft by numerous media scouts.
It’s perhaps worth noting that both Darboh and Chesson played with and are marginally older than Devin Funchess.
Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington, 23.5
It would be almost impossible to have a more decorated college career than Kupp. He started by winning the Jerry Rice award as the nation’s top FCS freshman in 2013. He followed that by winning the Walter Payton award as the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision. His stats are beyond gaudy, with more than 6,400 receiving yards and 73 TDs.
Kupp is an interesting prospect because he will likely be the oldest WR drafted, his competition will be questioned, and his numbers do pale slightly when placed in the context of a prolific offense that often played 15-game seasons. His career numbers still land him in lofty company, but they come in well below those of Corey Davis.
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma, 23.1
Westbrook is listed with the redshirt seniors because he took a year off between his freshman and sophomore seasons at Blinn Community College (where he was an All-American as a 20-year-old).
It’s easy to see why Westbrook was a finalist for the Heisman trophy and won the Biletnikoff award as the nation’s top receiver. With 1,524 yards, 17 TDs, and a field-tilting 19.1 yards per catch, he parlayed his raw stats into a combined market share that almost reached 40 percent.
Already older than many of this year’s draft-worthy WRs in 2015, his junior season is discouraging. Receivers who blow up with big senior seasons tend to underperform their draft status by wide margins. Westbrook is another in a long list of Oklahoma players with character red flags, but he’s also taken steps to address and overcome those issues.
The Redshirt Seniors