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Opportunity Scores: The Top Landing Spots for Rookie Wide Receivers

A couple years ago, I attempted to create a numbers-based formula for determining which teams are the best landing spots for rookie wide receivers. In fantasy and real football, performance is largely a function of opportunity, whether created through talent, draft position or a lack of roster competition.

The foundation of my formula is the relationship between quarterback and receiver ADP. A higher-drafted QB, presumably, will throw for more yards and touchdowns than one drafted lower. Receivers are the ones catching the ball and accumulating those yards, touchdowns and fantasy points. By analyzing the relationship between our wisdom-of-crowds assessments of a team’s QB and receivers, we can see which part of the equation is undervalued versus the other.

First, let’s look at that historical relationship between quarterback and receiver ADPs. You can see a strong relationship and trendline through the middle of the data.

qb_rec_adp

There are a few adjustments that make this formula work:

  • The receiver value calculation is the inverse of ADP: the last pick in a 20-round, 12-team draft (240), minus ADP. You then add up all the values for WRs and tight ends1 to come up with the combined score.
  • The receiving stats accumulated by running backs in an offense are accounted for by discounting the receiver value calculation by the percentage of receiving fantasy points to running backs.
  • QB rushing production is also accounted for by discounting the receiver value calculation by the percentage of QB fantasy points from rushing, not throwing.

If you assume that QBs are generally more fairly valued than receivers according to ADP,2 a team below the relationship trendline has receivers that are undervalued and should be a great landing spot for a rookie wide receiver.

Below are the team differentials, which we called opportunity scores, for 2016 going into the NFL draft.

rook_wr_os_2016_pre_draft_2The Giants and Vikings used early draft capital – a second and first round pick, respectively – on wide receivers in last year’s draft, though Sterling Shepard failed to live up to lofty expectations and Laquon Treadwell just failed. The Rams spent tons of draft capital in order to trade up and pick Jared Goff first overall. The team eventually drafted Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas, a couple later-round receivers who were favored by RotoViz. Neither contributed much in 2016, though Kenny Britt did perform well.

Now we can apply the same formula for 2017. Luckily, we have the most accurate, up-to-date assessments of current drafters opinions through the RotoViz Best Ball ADP App. Using ADP from the app, here is a current landscape of quarterback/receiver relationships. 

qb_rec_adp_2017_0402

Lots of teams are near the trendline, but there are a handful of outliers to investigate.

Let’s translate the differentials between data points and the trendline into a more digestible format

recevier_OS_2017_0402

* The Los Angeles Rams abbreviation has been changed from “RAM” to “LAR”, as now there is little chance that the Raiders will move there and mess things up.

The Rams continue to lead the pack in rookie receiver opportunity, but he question marks are mostly focused on whether Goff can step out of the shadow of one of the least efficient rookie seasons in history. The Rams are without a first-round pick in 2017 from last year’s trade-up, but do have one selection in rounds 2-7. After letting Kenny Britt go in free agency to the Browns and picking up Robert Woods in his place, the Rams might look to plug the many non-receiver holes on their roster. This could augur good things for Woods, or perhaps one of last year’s rookie will step forward.

The Ravens have lost Steve Smith to retirement but still have Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Neither inspires much confidence among MFL10 drafters, with respective ADPs of WR58 and WR56. Something has to give: either the Ravens will draft a receiver who will be in great position to thrive, or the ADPs of those on already on the roster will rise significantly.

The Titans were linked to multiple wide receivers in free agency and were also mentioned in trade talks for Brandin Cooks. Nothing ended up materializing, which leaves lots of potential volume for a rookie wideout, or the chance for Rishard Matthews or Tajae Sharpe to take a step forward in their second season with the team. Marcus Mariota was one of the best quarterback prospects ever, and has proven to be a success so far in the pros. The Titans have picks five and 18 in the first round, with draft prognosticators often mocking either a top WR or tight end for one of those selections. If the Titans do select a wideout in the first, the combination of draft capital spent and opportunity should make him the best bet to provide fantasy value right away.

  1. Only weighted half as much as WRs in the formula.  (back)
  2. A logical conclusion since there is only one projection and quarterback performance is more consistent.  (back)

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