What Statistics Matter Most for Wide Receiver Prospects?
Now that the Super Bowl is over, all eyes will be turning to what is, in my opinion, the greatest sporting event of the year: the NFL Draft. Lives will be made, careers will be started, and fanbases will either be excited or fearful for their team’s future.
It’s a huge weekend for fantasy gamers as well. Whether you play season-long, dynasty, best-ball, or daily, knowing who the best rookies are coming into the league can be extremely profitable. And to know who the best rookies will be, you should know what statistics matter most for those players.
I’ve done a bunch of regression-tree analysis on draft prospects. Using statistical software, we can see where key thresholds lie for relevant statistics, and what probabilities for success look like based on those thresholds.
I took a look at 464 WRs since the 2003 NFL Draft who appeared in an NFL game and over 50 different statistics. Here is how well they project the likelihood of a player being a hit, which I defined as a 200 point PPR season within the first three years of said player’s career. The overall sample hit rate was 10.6 percent.
Contained in the table below is:
Statistic: the data point in question
Threshold: The key splitting point of the data with direction. For example >=12 receiving touchdowns would mean receivers with at least 12 touchdowns gave us the sample of greatest success.
Probability of Success: The hit rate of the sample of players meeting the noted threshold, expressed as a decimal.
Percent of Sample: The percentage of the overall sample meeting the threshold. In some cases (like Market Share of Rush Attempts) there are so few players in-sample that there should be less confidence about the quality of the statistic or threshold.
Comments: Statistic explanation and/or formula if it is something you may not easily recognize.[table “2781” not found /]
It should not surprise you that we want wideouts who dominated their collegiate passing games. Half of all prospects with at least a 0.45 Adjusted Dominator went on to be hits.
Market Share of Receiving Yards is an incredibly powerful statistic. Both the final season and career thresholds find their way into the top seven statistics in terms of success probability.
Career Receiving Yards Per Team Pass Attempt was the second-most predictive production statistic, but takes on about double the sample of Market Share of Receiving Yards. It is certainly valuable.
What the scouts think about players should not be overlooked. Wideouts finding their way into the top six of NFL Draft Scout rankings succeed over 40 percent of the time.
Age is also very powerful. Players breakout out at an early age stand a good shot to be fantasy hits.
Rushing yards prove valuable, though most of the qualifying sample sizes are small.
The return game was a bit of a mixed bag. Final season kick returning seemed predictive of success, but none of the punt return or career marks told us “more is better”. Return data appears to be quite noisy since not every player takes part, but is clearly not a prerequisite for success.
In terms of player measurables, weight was the most powerful, but just the 24th best overall. Height (sorry Davis) was essentially worthless.
Stay tuned for stat breakdowns on the other major offensive positions for fantasy!
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Featured image credit goes to Keith Srakocic of the Associated Press