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.
The Freak Score also helps us differentiate between the truly freakish players and more run-of-the-mill professional athletes. Most NFL players are incredible athletes by almost any standard but still don’t stand out within the group of professional players. The Freak Score is scaled 1 to 100, and the incomparable Calvin Johnson sets our scale at 100. Megatron ran a 4.35 at 6-foot-5, 237 pounds. By comparison, Julio Jones, the current freakiest NFL receiver, comes in at 84. Over the last two years, the highest score was Marquez Valdes-Scantling at a mere 76. No one has been near the true freak level in a while.
All that changed in 2019. We’ll look at the scores, explore the winners and losers, and then provide a little more documentation for those wanting to more fully understand the interaction between height, weight, speed, and NFL production.
- D.K. Metcalf (92) – Metcalf lit the fantasy world on fire with his 4.33 at over 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds. He backed that up with a 40.5-inch vertical, cementing the buzz that had him as the likely first receiver off the board. There’s little doubt he can stretch the field with more than 18.0 yards per reception in college, but his overall numbers left a lot to be desired as he played in the shadow of A.J. Brown. If you need any reminder of the potential perils with Metcalf, his Freak Score brings to mind Stephen Hill (90), one of the only other players to crest 90 in the metric.
- Jazz Ferguson (82) – The Northwestern St. product gained over 100 yards per game this season and scored 13 TDs, so he boasted impressive production numbers even before tearing off a 4.45 forty at over 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds. Like Metcalf, he confirmed his big-bodied athleticism with a 37-inch vertical and immediately becomes one of the draft’s most intriguing sleepers.
- Hakeem Butler (80) – Butler redshirted in 2015 and then played in the shadow of Allen Lazard for two seasons before breaking out in a big way in his final collegiate campaign. Even older receivers who declare with eligibility remaining easily outscore those who play for four seasons, giving Butler some hope on the production side. His physical metrics leave little room for complaint. A 4.48 forty at over 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds fits nicely with a 36-inch vertical, huge hands (10.75), and an immense wingspan (83.9).
- Parris Campbell (72) – Campbell is Ohio State’s diminutive, poor man’s version of Metcalf. After mustering little production over his first three seasons, Campbell at least crested the 1,000-yard barrier as a senior, albeit in a prolific offense and at only an 11.8 YPR clip. His lack of field-stretching prowess stands in stark contrast to his 4.31 forty and 40-inch vertical.
- N’Keal Harry (69) and A.J. Brown (68) – The two top prospects for many RotoViz writers, Harry and Brown entered the combine with questions about whether their physical games would translate to the NFL. While making those same plays in the NFL will undoubtedly be difficult, they did put concerns about athleticism to rest with solid times and impressive verticals (Harry 38.5, Brown 36.5). They now compare favorably as prospects to former RotoViz favorites like DeAndre Hopkins and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
- Miles Boykin (78), Jaylen Smith (69), and Emanuel Hall (64) were other notable winners.
- Kelvin Harmon (58) – While there’s nothing wrong with Harmon’s score in a vacuum, he was in the late-first, early-second round mix according to the first edition of the RotoViz Scouting Index, and a 4.6 forty with mediocre peripherals likely pushes him out of that conversation.
- Riley Ridley (43) – Ridley found himself in the top 10 of the first RSI and had some enthusiasts willing to excuse his poor college production. That buzz should slip to a whisper with a 4.58 forty and 30-inch vertical at a sub-200 pound weight.
- Lil’Jordan Humphrey (37) – The No. 9 WR prospect by initial RSI, Humphrey ran a 4.75 forty and fell to the edge of draft relevance.
WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT FREAK SCORE?
I always like to point readers to some of the foundational pieces for understanding the interplay between these metrics and NFL production. Testing the Bigger Is Better Hypothesis for NFL Production gives us a glimpse at the nuance.
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…1 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.
Our previous work with regression trees demonstrates 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. It’s worth noting that the population of NFL receivers is much heavier than that of college WRs.
If you’re approaching this from a reality perspective and want a final note on why you should care about Freak Score, it’s fairly obvious from a scoring perspective. Touchdowns win football games, and lost TDs are much more difficult to replace than lost yards.
- For receptions and catch rate, shorter is better. 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)