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The Dynasty Buy Low Report: Efficient Rookie Wide Receivers

Trading is one of the most enjoyable and difficult aspects of fantasy football. The Buy Low Report is here to help.

With season-long trade deadlines having past, I want to focus on dynasty buying opportunities heading into next year. If your season-long league is still allowing trades, see last week’s Buy Low Report for some last minute sell candidates and mid-November’s Buy Low Report for the best playoffs buys. Even if your dynasty league locks trading during the playoffs, owners still have the opportunity to plant the seeds of offers with potential trade partners, as trading is usually full-go again come Week 17.

Use the final few Buy Low Reports of this year as guides for players whose dynasty value is likely to rise in the off-season (and maybe into next year). Consider buying the suggested players as soon as possible not just because their production is likely to increase next season, but because their public dynasty value should rise before Week 1 of 2019, giving you the opportunity to flip your end of season buy for value at summer’s end.

Rookie Wide Receivers

Rookie wide receivers, in general, are great dynasty buys because they naturally increase in trade value heading into Year 2 and because many of them are likely to breakout or continue their strong rookie production into Year 2.

Fortunately, RotoViz has done extensive research to identify which factors are best at predicting future fantasy success for rookie receivers.

In Blair Andrews’ latest installment of The Wrong Read, one of the absolute best and most influential article series on RotoViz,1 Blair unveiled the predictive value of rookie year wide receiver efficiency.

Blair showed that rookie wide receivers who overperform their volume are likely to again overperform their volume in Year 2 and receive more opportunity in Year 2 than rookies who underperformed their volume. Conversely, rookie wide receivers who underperform are likely to underperform in Year 2.

This past summer, Blair also revealed that wide receivers are most likely to breakout in Year 2 but that rookie breakouts are more valuable long-term.

Leveraging this research and our knowledge of NFL draft capital’s impact on player performance, how college breakout age predicts NFL performance, and how rookie year age predicts NFL performance presents an opportunity to identify dynasty buy low candidates.

Using the RotoViz Screener, it is easy to identify which rookies have posted noteworthy efficiency through Week 12.

PLAYERreTRGSreEPreFPOEPAreFPOEPPR
Calvin Ridley66107.90.7549.6160.2
D.J. Moore4876.50.6230116.6
Tre'Quan Smith3356.90.826.283.1
Christian Kirk6089.60.3722112.8
Anthony Miller48800.3918.8100.7
Marquez Valdes-Scantling4470.50.187.878.3
Dante Pettis2136.70.234.841.5
Courtland Sutton5284.6-0.02-1.383.3
Equanimeous St. Brown2435.9-0.06-1.435
Keke Coutee4168.6-0.14-5.962.7
Michael Gallup4267.2-0.31-12.854.4
Antonio Callaway5999.9-0.22-13.187.5
D.J. Chark3047.6-0.54-16.231.4
James Washington2539.9-0.73-18.221.7

Six rookies standout from the rest. Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, Tre’Quan Smith, Christian Kirk, Anthony Miller, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are all above the threshold of positive fantasy points over expectation (FPOE) on a sample of over 50 expected points. This suggests they will continue to be efficient in ensuing seasons, which is a powerful indicator that they will continue to have a role on their team.

Let’s investigate how these efficient rookies stack-up in the other metrics we care about.

Player RotoViz College Breakout Age2 Draft Round Rookie Age NFL Breakout?
Calvin Ridley 21.0 1 23 Yes
D.J. Moore 19.7 1 21 No
Tre’Quan Smith 19.5 3 22 No
Christian Kirk 20.1 2 213 No
Anthony Miller 22.2 2 23 4 No
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 6 23 5 No

Calvin Ridley

Notably, Ridley is the only one of these six rookies who is on track to cross the rookie breakout threshold of 200+ PPR points. Ridley has poor age-related metrics, but a rookie year breakout trumps all and solidifies him as a valuable dynasty asset for years to come.

Two causes for concern are that, via the Weekly Explorer, Ridley’s opportunity has been inconsistent as of late and that his tremendous FPOE has been bolstered by his unsustainable 12 percent touchdown rate.

Ridley1

In terms of his unsustainable efficiency, his efficiency in its current form – a high touchdown rate – can be unsustainable but also predictive, as we know from Blair’s most recent Wrong Read installment. Ridley’s positive FPOE this year is a strong signal that he will continue to post positive FPOE one way or another.

The possibility of Ridley accruing an elite volume share is slim while Julio Jones is still playing. Despite spending a first round pick on Ridley, Atlanta has fed Jones the most air yards in the league6 and the third most targets per game in the league. It may not be until Jones retires that Ridley will have access to elite volume.

Nevertheless, Ridley’s first round pedigree and Year 1 breakout suggest his 15 percent target market share this year is his floor. Expect Ridley to slot in as a 20 percent target share player with positive efficiency in a strong offense next year. Make Ridley a dynasty trade target before his price rises this summer. To ease the buying process, cite his pedestrian volume and streaky box scores as knocks against him.

D.J. Moore

Moore has come alive in Devin Funchess’ absence the last two weeks. With his 17 targets in Week 12 and Week 13, Moore produced 15 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. Given his prolific production, it is likely that Moore’s increased role will persist despite Funchess’ pending return.

The biggest knock on Moore heading into the year was his situation. Christian McCaffrey’s insane usage in the passing game is the biggest long-term threat to Moore’s ability to garner an elite workload, but Moore has shown that he can produce at an elite clip even if his target share is non-elite. Over the last five weeks, Moore is the WR13 despite owning just a 20 percent target share over that span.

Looking at the RotoViz Player Usage App, Moore has led Carolina wide receivers in target share the last three weeks.

Moore2

Expect this volume share to represent Moore’s floor come next season, as he is one of the best prospects in recent memory. Moore checks every age-related, NFL draft capital, and rookie efficiency box.

The only thing missing from Moore’s profile heading into Year 2 is a rookie year breakout. Unfortunately, Moore got off to a slow start and did not see meaningful involvement until mid-season. Nevertheless, Moore is outstanding by all other facets and is undoubtedly destined for a spike in production and dynasty value next year.

It is likely that Moore’s price will steadily rise as the season ends, so buy as soon as possible because it is unclear when and at what point his value will ever stop growing.

Tre’Quan Smith

Smith, courtesy of Drew Brees and New Orleans’ dynamite offense, has actually posted the best per attempt FPOE out of all rookie wide receivers this season. Smith’s efficiency and breakout age suggest he will be a mainstay of the New Orleans offense for years to come.

However, Smith is lacking in draft capital, and he failed to breakout this year. His path to a 20 percent plus target market share that would expand his role beyond that of an ancillary piece is also hard to see.

trequan1

Michael Thomas and New Orleans’ dynamic running back tandem have soaked up nearly 60 percent of the target pie this season. Given the elite status of that core of the New Orleans’ offense, there is little reason to expect that to change. Unlike Ridley and Moore, a 20 percent target share marks Smith’s upside, not his floor, going forward. Smith has slowly been overtaking Ben Watson as the third target in the offense, though, so it will be valuable to monitor how usage plays out in the final weeks.

Smith will be a valuable fantasy asset whose price will rise, but temper upside expectations when sending offers.

Christian Kirk

Kirk is my third ranked receiver of the 2018 class behind Moore and Ridley heading into next season. His price will rise dramatically this summer.

Larry Fitzgerald is on the edge of retirement. Kirk’s stock will skyrocket the moment Fitzgerald officially throws in the towel.

kirk1

Arizona spent second round draft capital on Kirk because they want him to be Josh Rosen’s No. 1 option moving forward. Given his breakout age, rookie age, and positive FPOE, Kirk is primed to capitalize on an expanded role.

Kirk’s true upside is still murky in an offense that might take another full season to come together, but he is bound to see a spike in opportunity nonetheless.

The clock is ticking on Fitzgerald’s retirement. Buy Kirk before time is up.

Anthony Miller

Miller’s age metrics were huge red flags for him coming into this season, but he seems to have defied the odds thus far by leading the Chicago receiving corps in FPOE. Expect him to continue to produce above expectation next year.

Miller’s volume situation is where things get interesting.

Observe the Chicago wide receiver splits since Week 6.

Player Target Share Air Yards Share aDOT WOPR PPR/game
Anthony Miller 0.16 0.24 15.1 0.41 11.1
Allen Robinson 0.17 0.24 14.3 0.42 12.5
Taylor Gabriel 0.17 0.24 14.4 0.42 8.9

Miller and Allen Robinson are the receivers to own in Chicago, not Taylor Gabriel, but differentiating between the two is a difficult task. It seems like a conscious change in the mindset of Matt Nagy’s spread offense would need to be made for Miller, or Robinson for that matter, to eclipse a 20 percent target share. Given Chicago’s offensive surge this season, it seems unlikely for such a change to occur. As such, Miller’s upside is likely capped.

Given the pessimism behind his metrics and his volume outlook, Miller is a buy and flip asset for me as it stands. Especially if Miller manages to outproduce Robinson from an efficiency standpoint in the final games of the season, expect the hype train to be full speed ahead for Miller this offseason, blind to his low volume upside.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Valdes-Scantling is teetering on the edge of positive efficiency. Given his unimpressive metrics and questionable rookie year efficiency, Valdes-Scantling is a prime buy now and sell when the “wide receiver attached to Aaron Rodgers” hype peaks next August.

Review

My dynasty ranking order for the six rookie wide receiver buy lows discussed above.

Rank Player
1 D.J. Moore
2 Calvin Ridley
3 Christian Kirk
4 Anthony Miller
5 Tre’Quan Smith
6 Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Expect a follow-up piece detailing the rookies who are just below even FPOE right now who might break the barrier by season’s end.

  1. Seriously, you get your RotoViz subscription moneys worth out of just this series. Read them. All of them.  (back)
  2. from Anthony’s article  (back)
  3. Kirk turned 22 November 18  (back)
  4. Miller turned 24 on October 9  (back)
  5. MVS turned 24 on October 10  (back)
  6. By a wide margin.  (back)

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