Originally published on May 2, Corey Davis, Chris Godwin, and Rookie Derangement Syndrome is part of our Memorial Day weekend look at the best of RotoViz.
One of my favorite RotoViz pieces was written by Coleman Kelly on Rookie Derangement Syndrome. The term was coined by College Football Metrics writer R.C. Fischer regarding rookies being overvalued and second-year players being undervalued. The phenomenon typically takes place after the NFL draft each year.
In most seasons, the shiny new rookies represent a trap. The odds of rookie picks hitting are much lower than it seems. This is especially relevant this season due to running back fever. Historically, early-round RBs have been disappointments as rookies. This provides an opportunity to sell rookies at a profit in dynasty while pivoting to players closing in on a breakout. It also provides numerous ADP values in redraft.
Entering the second season is the best time to buy any player in any format. Year 2 is the season where WRs show the greatest increase in points.
Examples of Second-Year Breakouts
Here are the best examples of second-year breakouts in recent years. The ages listed refer to the age of each wide receiver as a rookie.
Most seasons there is a second-year wide receiver who makes a significant leap in production. Ranging from high draft picks to undrafted players and low-scoring to respectable rookie seasons, there are many different types of prospects included here.
With the loud hype of the NFL draft and incoming rookies, this is the part of the year when owners can acquire underachieving prospects. Don’t let one poor or injury-plagued season lead you to shut the door on a young player.1
Ages of Rookies
The table explains the breakdown of the ages of the breakouts above.
While none of the included players were 24, the rookie ages are almost equally split between each age (21-23). What is notable is the average difference in scoring between each age. 21-year-old rookies provide the biggest change in scoring and the most upside. 23-year-olds have seen a smaller uptick in production.
The youngest rookies not only see the biggest jump in Year 2, they also go on to have the highest percentage of WR2 seasons.
We’ll break down the potential breakout candidates from among the 2017 rookies by age group.
Although none of the 19 second-year breakouts above included a 24-year-old, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. A big part of breaking out is the situational opportunity. If an ordinary prospect receives a large market share in the passing game, he’s likely to have value.
Cooper Kupp (25 this season) will have a difficult time increasing his production with the addition of Brandin Cooks. While he had an impressive rookie year, Kupp is likely to have a smaller market share this season.
Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole enter a wide-open situation with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns leaving the Jaguars. The depth chart got crowded again with the free agent acquisition of Donte Moncrief and the draft selection of D.J. Chark, along with the signing of surprise UDFA Allen Lazard. But the incumbent breakout candidates have only Marqise Lee as an established competitor for targets. While Westbrook was drafted higher, Cole was the more efficient and impressive receiver last season. I’d draft whoever is cheaper but I prefer Cole.
Kenny Golladay was extremely impressive last year averaging the second-most yards per target out of the rookie WR cohort (behind phenom JuJu Smith-Schuster).
The issue for Golladay is he saw just 4.4 targets per game. He’s likely to see more targets but will have a hard time being reliable behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. If one of the two were to get injured, Golladay would become a valuable player.
After a disastrous rookie year that saw him go the entire season without catching a single pass, John Ross is hard to trust. The outlook for similar players is bleak. Perhaps he’ll improve after training with T.J. Houshmandzadeh this offseason, but I wouldn’t pay too much to acquire Ross.
Mike Williams is also in a difficult situation after underperforming as a rookie. Williams will compete with Tyrell Williams for targets behind Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry. At the moment, he appears unlikely to pass Tyrell Williams on the depth chart.
Trent Taylor is moderately interesting because of the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo.
Taylor is behind both Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garçon, and the 49ers drafted Dante Pettis at No. 44 overall. The upside comes if Taylor can become Garoppolo’s Wes Welker, a trusted slot receiver who catches a lot of short passes, making him a valuable PPR asset.
The most interesting of the potential breakouts is Corey Davis. Davis was a very good prospect.
While Davis’ competition wasn’t the best, he holds his own with some very good wide receivers. As a prospect, Davis has few flaws which led to him being selected No. 5 overall.
As a rookie, Davis averaged just 6.5 fantasy points per game, but that average jumped to 15.4 in two playoff games, where Davis scored his first two touchdowns.
Although Davis has a more expensive price tag than the rest, his college production and draft position give him a higher range of outcomes. With new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur in town, the Titans offense should improve this season and Davis is their WR1.
Taywan Taylor is another Titans option. Taylor was efficient in limited opportunities last season, and with Eric Decker gone, he should see an increased role. If an injury or two take place, Taylor could see the targets necessary for a breakout.
Zay Jones finished fourth among rookies with 74 targets, and the Bills haven’t meaningfully added to the position. Unfortunately, his extreme inefficiency and a very poor QB depth chart combine to limit his breakout chances.
When given the opportunity, Chris Godwin shined. A prospect with good size and speed, Godwin was extremely productive in college and often compared to Roddy White.
In the two games that DeSean Jackson missed, Godwin averaged 18.5 PPR fantasy points per game. He was also Jameis Winston’s most efficient target.
The Bucs are realizing they need to utilize him.
Licht says Chris Godwin has earned the right for a bigger role in 2018. Says he represents what they want in a #Bucs player. Smart, hard working and unselfish.
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) February 28, 2018
If given the opportunity, Godwin looks ready to break out.
Smith-Schuster doesn’t need an introduction after finishing sixth all-time in receiving yards for a 21-year-old. Smith-Schuster performed impressively last season when Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown missed time. With Bryant traded, he looks very likely to improve on his rookie campaign.
- While the third-year breakout effect for WRs is a myth, there are receivers — like Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson — who only break out in their third season. (back)