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Sleepers and Busts: 2018 Wide Receiver Freak Scores

Freak Score is our scaled metric that uses height, weight, and speed to project the TD-scoring potential for NFL prospects. Unlike many other measures for an NFL prospect’s size/athleticism profile, the Freak Score gives us a measure that directly relates to an important element of fantasy scoring. If you aren’t adjusting for the importance of height, then you’re missing the critical element.

It also helps deal with the inevitable “freak athlete” fatigue that starts to set in a few weeks from the draft when double-digit players are seemingly in the 99th percentile of everything. It’s true that most NFL players are freakish athletes by almost any standard, but most don’t stand out as athletes within the group of professional players. The Freak Score helps illustrate that point. The incomparable Calvin Johnson sets our scale at 100.1 By comparison, Julio Jones, the current freakiest NFL receiver, comes in at 84. Last year the highest score was turned by Robert Davis with a 73.

After presenting the 2018 scores, I explore winners and losers at the position and then delve deeper into the interactions between height, weight, and speed as it relates to WR scoring.

You can use the Freak Score Calculator to explore results for your favorite prospect and find the historically similar players.

2018 Combine Results

PlayerHtWt40Freak
Marquez Valdes-Scantling772054.3776
D.J. Chark751994.3472
Allen Lazard772274.5572
Equanimeous St. Brown772144.4871
Jester Weah752104.4369
Javon Wims762154.5364
D.J. Moore722104.4264
Jaleel Scott772154.5663
Courtland Sutton752184.5463
Deon Cain742024.4362
Byron Pringle742054.4661
Robert Foster741964.4160
Tre'Quan Smith732104.4959
Marcell Ateman762204.6258
Chris Lacy752054.5158
Jordan Lasley732104.558
Auden Tate772254.6857
Simmie Cobbs762204.6456
Antonio Callaway711974.4154
Dylan Cantrell752124.5954
Korey Robertson742104.5653
Michael Gallup732054.5153
Trey Quinn722124.5551
James Washington712134.5451
Calvin Ridley721894.4349
Ka'Raun White731994.5248
Jake Wieneke762134.6748
Christian Kirk702004.4748
J'Mon Moore752044.647
David Grayson741874.5144
Cedrick Wilson751884.5543
Keke Coutee711804.4342
Steven Mitchell701954.5635
Quadree Henderson681904.534
Richie James691784.4831
Ray-Ray McCloud701804.5329
Tavares Martin731854.810

2018 Pro Day Results

PlayerHtWt40Freak
Anthony Miller712014.4850
Daesean Hamilton722034.5249
Deontay Burnett721864.719
Cam Phillips721994.8710

Deontay Burnett and Cam Phillips were not 100 percent when they ran.

Winners

Marquez Valdez-Scantling – The redshirt senior led all receivers when he turned in a 4.37 at 6 feet 5. After minimal production while splitting his first three seasons between North Carolina State and South Florida, Valdez-Scantling emerged with a 53-879-6 line in his final season. He’s still projected as a seventh-round flier, but I’m rooting for him after reading about his aid to the homeless on Christmas.

D.J. CharkThe combine’s big winner at WR, Chark hopes sub-4.35 speed and a 40-inch vertical will cause evaluators to forgive production that remains paltry even within the context of a lackluster LSU passing offense. He scored six TDs in three seasons but did average 21.9 yards per catch as a senior.

Allen Lazard – After reports that he looked sluggish at the Senior Bowl, Lazard opened eyes with a 4.55 forty and 38-inch vertical at 227 pounds. He’s not Mike Evans,2 but playing at Iowa State obscured an impressive college resume with three consecutive years sporting a Dominator Rating above .30. Unless he falls out of the first three rounds – a less likely result after the strong combine – Lazard should be atop your 2018 sleepers list.3

Equanimeous St. Brown – Entering 2017 as a potential first-round draft pick and breakout star, St. Brown instead took the white dwarf route, disappearing in Notre Dame’s moribund passing offense and raising questions about the NFL viability of the tall-but-thin prospect. His stock has stabilized after running a sub-4.5 and led to an upset over Anthony Miller in our WR Tournament.

D.J. Moore – The RotoViz favorite showed good size at 210 pounds and then sprinted to a 4.42, confirming the athleticism evident in his 39.5-inch vertical. He’s climbing in the RotoViz Scouting Index and recently reached No. 1 in Anthony Amico’s WR Prospect Model.

Losers

Calvin Ridley – As an older prospect with impressive college production but an underwhelming height/weight profile, it would have been nice to see Ridley run a fast forty in Indianapolis. His 4.43 was fine but shouldn’t lock him in as the top WR when paired with a 31-inch vertical that raises more questions about his explosiveness. Despite these concerns, he remains the top WR in the RotoViz Scouting Index with a large edge over Christian Kirk in both RSI score (97-80) and average rank (1.6-4.6).

Christian Kirk – As a fan of Kirk, I was hoping to see a 4.35 forty for the sub-6-foot prospect with elite kick return skills. Instead he posted solid numbers – 4.47 forty, 35.5-inch vertical. Those results should keep him in the second round of the reality draft4 but won’t counterbalance production numbers that tailed off after an impressive debut performance in 2015.

James WashingtonA favorite of devy owners and dynasty experts, Washington plummets in the rankings of some reality pundits. The Biletnikoff winner’s athletic marks don’t pop for the 5-foot-11, 213-pound senior (4.54 forty, 34.5-inch vert, 7.11 agility). He now finds himself in a four- or five-way battle to be the second WR off the board and could conceivably fall into the third or fourth round.

Other Losers: Auden Tate, Simmie Cobbs Jr.

WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT FREAK SCORE?

For more information on the relationship between height, weight, and NFL results, I recommend Jim Kloet’s excellent 2015 study showing the relationship of height and weight to NFL performance.

Heavier WRs were more productive than lighter WRs, even after controlling for a number of other important factors. This is in line with the bigger is better hypothesis, and supports the work done here by Fantasy Douche and others showing that WR weight predicts performance even after controlling for draft position…

Second, height was a significant predictor of receptions, catch rate, and touchdown rate, and a marginally significant predictor of yards per reception…5 For yards per reception and touchdown rate, taller is better. As the average height of WRs in our sample increased, so did the yards per catch, and the rate at which receptions were converted into touchdowns.

Kevin Cole’s regression tree study shows that weight is the most important combine metric for WRs, with a threshold around 208 pounds and another at 218. In this analysis, speed also features as a positive for both big and small receivers. Finally, it’s worth remembering that the population of NFL receivers is much heavier than that of college WRs.

Read More: Want to know which RBs are the most explosive? Dave Caban provides tested athleticism with the 2018 RB Speed Scores and then goes a step beyond, looking at on-field athleticism with the percentage of RB Breakaway Runs.

  1. The aptly named Megatron once finished only 36 yards short of 2,000 and scored 12 or more TDs on four occasions.  (back)
  2. Evans’ similar metrics give him a 76 Freak, and his peripherals – 37-inch vertical, 7.08 three-cone – were almost identical to Lazard at 38 and 7.11  (back)
  3. In the 3 vs. 14 matchup of our WR Tournament, I voted for Lazard over James Washington. The two share similar market share production, but Lazard has a large edge in Freak Score, not to mention a 3.5-inch edge in vertical.  (back)
  4. Numerous mocks now have him in Round 1. He’d be a great fit for Arizona.  (back)
  5. For receptions and catch rate, shorter is better. More specifically, as the average height of WRs in our sample increased, the number of receptions decreased, as did the proportion of targets that were caught.  (back)

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