At this point, it’s clear that college production is more important than athleticism for wide receiver prospects. In The Wrong Read No. 60, Blair Andrews used a correlation matrix to show which stats are related to performance at the next level. Predictably, he found that production metrics like Dominator Rating (DR), breakout age, and yards per team attempt (YPTA) are most closely tied to NFL success. However, a few prolific college WRs fall in the draft every year without fail.
Stefon Diggs is probably the best example of a super productive college WR hitting in the pros despite falling to Day 3 of the NFL Draft. As a 19-year-old freshman at Maryland, Diggs recorded a 38% DR, and he followed it up with two more seasons above a 30% DR before leaving school early to enter the draft. Although he fell to the fifth round, he checked pretty much every box as a prospect. Today, we’ll look at a few guys who look like they could be the next late-round breakout WR based on their college production.
The most productive WR in the class has a fourth-round NFL Draft ADP on Grinding the Mocks.
Tyler Johnson recorded a 62% DR as a sophomore, 51% as a junior, and 40% in his final season. On the whole, he had a career DR of 44% — that’s the 10th-highest rating among all FBS WRs over the last 15 seasons.
Just to be clear, that means Johnson’s career DR is 10th-best out of the 2,491 WRs in the RotoViz Box Score Scout. That seems good.
His incredible production over the last two years is especially impressive considering he was competing for targets with potential 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman. His 19.3 breakout age is one of the best in recent memory, and it bodes well for his future considering that 46.2% of WRs with a breakout age of 20.0 or below posted a 200-point season in at least one of their first three years in the NFL. Granted, the 39 WRs included in that sample had an NFL Draft ADP of 38.1, so Johnson is going to be at a significant disadvantage compared to those guys based on draft capital.
Over his four-year career, Johnson averaged 2.64 YPTA (95th percentile among all WR prospects since 2001). As a senior, he averaged 3.82 (100th percentile). Put simply, he was a force to be reckoned with in college. Shawn Siegele’s recent article showed that the WR Prospect Lab places Johnson in the 87th percentile among WR prospects, best in this year’s class. The only real knock on his profile is that he didn’t declare early, but you’d still expect someone with his history of production to go on the first two days of the draft. The Wrong Read No. 53 highlighted the importance of declaring early, but at some point, you have to overlook one negative aspect of a player’s profile when the rest of it looks so strong.
All of this leads to the obvious question: Why isn’t Johnson projected to go higher?