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Visualizing WR Market Share And Age: The Elite Prospects

Over the last several years, Jon Moore has done a tremendous job advancing our understanding of the intersection of age and market share of receiving production. Today, I’ve enlisted Jim Kloet to help present these visualizations for the 2017 class. In this post, we’re focusing on Tier One receiver prospects as reflected in the RotoViz Scouting Index (RSI). – Shawn Siegele

How important is market share and age?

From 2006 to 2014, second- and third-round hits1 at WR averaged a 37 percent market share of receiving yards (msYD) in their final college seasons, 29 percent msYD for their careers, and a breakout age of 20.3.2 First-round misses averaged a 32 percent final msYD, 25 percent career msYD, and a 21.4 breakout age.

It’s not that exceptions don’t exist, it’s that chasing them will leave you with a losing approach over time. 

Ages And Market Share Receiving Yards By Player

PlayerRSIBirthdayAge (At NFL Draft)Career msYD
Mike Williams1984-Oct-199422 years, 6 months21.3%
Corey Davis19611-Jan-199522 years, 3 months39.8%
John Ross18627-Nov-199422 years, 5 months21.3%
Cooper Kupp15915-Jun-199323 years, 10 months35.0%
JuJu Smith-Schuster15222-Nov-199620 years, 5 months27.7%
Zay Jones14230-Mar-199522 years, 0 months26.8%
Isaiah Ford1379-Feb-199621 years, 2 months31.7%
Dede Westbrook12421-Nov-199323 years, 5 months28.0%

Jim explains why he will be rounding down the player ages to the next full year in his High Level View of the 2017 Class

Visualizing Market Share Receiving Yards By Age

tier1

I’d first draw your attention to the dashed line representing the mean msYD for the players identified as the top-40 prospects for 2017. You can see that prospects averaged approximately 15 percent msYD at 18 and approximately 30 percent at 23. This is the same general pattern that Moore found previously when he looked at future NFL fantasy WR1s.3

The Tier One prospects generally started at 18 or 19 and had at least two years of msYD at least one standard deviation above the average for WRs in this draft class at the same age.

Corey Davis (196 RSI Score) consistently recorded msYD around 40 percent, starting as a true freshman at age 18. Each of his seasons is well above the levels of his two first-round competitors in Mike Williams and John Ross. He was far more productive at each age level. Davis is now the favorite to be the first WR selected in the reality draft, and he’s moved to No. 1 on many fantasy rookie boards.

Similar to Davis, Cooper Kupp (159 RSI Score) was also fairly consistent in his annual performance, but he’s a couple of years older and had an average msYD closer to 36 percent. His poor combine led to a Freak Score of 43 and encourages questions about his NFL viability. It’s worth noting his performance relative to age contrasted with that of Isaiah Ford.

Zay Jones (142 RSI Score) turned in the top msYD season in this tier, accounting for 43 percent of East Carolina’s receiving yards last year at age 21. After posting a much stronger Freak Score (60) than expected, he looks like a fringe first-rounder in dynasty rookie drafts.

Both Mike Williams (198 RSI Score) and John Ross (186) started their college careers as 19 year olds with less than 10 percent msYD. They both approximately tripled their performances as 20 year olds, and they finished their college careers around 30 percent. Williams has received a lot of credit for his 1,361-yard season, but in the context of that offense and 15 games played, his performance was no better than that of an average 2017 prospect.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (152 RSI Score) and Isaiah Ford (137) also followed patterns similar to one another, starting their careers as 18 year olds with 20 to 25 percent msYD in their respective offenses, ballooning to nearly 40 percent as 19 year olds, before dropping back to the 20 to 25 percent level in their age-20 seasons. Smith-Schuster and Ford fail to reach the lofty final-season numbers achieved by elite prospects, but their breakout ages and career market share numbers speak to sleeper status.

Dede Westbrook (124 RSI Score) made the cut into the top tier based on career average receiving yards. (His RSI score was the same as Chris Godwin, but Westbrook averaged 1,133 receiving yards across his two college seasons, whereas Godwin’s average was 807 yards per season in his three years.) The Oklahoma prospect was so explosive in 2017 that he won the Biletnikoff award and finished fourth in the Heisman. His chart is a good visual reminder of the advantage possessed by older prospects and why expectations for them should be different.

Coming up: We look at trendy prospects like Godwin, Carlos Henderson, Taywan Taylor, and K.D. Cannon in Tier 2.

If you’re looking for QB projections, RotoDoc’s groundbreaking QB model explains why Mitchell Trubisky looks like a star and Deshaun Watson a player to avoid. On the RB front, Kevin Cole provides his logistic regression model and demonstrates why D’Onta Foreman is undervalued. Meanwhile, Phil Watkins has you covered at TE, naming the 3 Elite Sleepers and 4 Stars That Make 2017 The Best TE Class in Years.

We have a wealth of research on the WR position, if you’re looking for the freakiest of the freaks at the ultra-athletic WR position, take a peak at the 2017 WR Freak Scores. You can take a class-by-class stroll through the career trajectories of 2017 prospects starting with the true juniors, or peruse the final age and production numbers with Moore’s Phenom Index

  1. Defined as a player who scored 200 PPR points in one of his first three NFL seasons, roughly WR2 status.  (back)
  2. Defined as the first year a player reached a 30 percent combined yardage and TD market share. Jon Moore uses 20 percent msYD in his definition of breakout age and has found that 19-year-old college breakouts hit the NFL WR2 tier at twice the rate and a year earlier than later breakouts.  (back)
  3. In that group, 18 year olds averaged 20 percent msYD and 23 year olds averaged 40 percent.  (back)

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