Life of the Early Bloomers
Everyone really enjoyed my thread talking about the difficult odds receivers face when they fail to make the top 50 during their first two years. The previous study and this one leaves off players who changed positions such as Darren Waller who swapped to TE and Ty Montgomery becoming a RB. I realized I left off several other missing names that could have been on the earlier draft classes which just goes to show even more impressiveness for the players who overcome the delayed starts in their careers. With all the extra misses I realized I did leave off one more hit who went undrafted back in 2013: Adam Thielen.
That helped me propose my next question of how meaningful is it for a receiver to break into the top 50 their first two years. What do they go on to do in the NFL? Today’s study will focus on just those results and the results sure did take a while to collect and set up for it all. First I went through and found what players qualified with each year’s draft class. Again this study focused on 2010 through the unknown 2018 years.
2010 draft class: Dez Bryant, Brandon LaFell, Eric Decker, Mike Williams (TAM), Antonio Brown
2011 draft class:AJ Green, Julio Jones, Titus Young, Torrey Smith, Randall Cobb, Cecil Shorts
2012 draft class: Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Alshon Jeffrey, TY Hilton, Marvin Jones
2013 draft class: DeAndre Hopkins, Robert Woods, Terrance Williams, Keenan Allen, Kenny Stills
2014draft class: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Donte Moncrief, John Brown, Martavis Bryant
2015 draft class: Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker, Tyler Lockett, Jamison Crowder, Stefon Diggs
2016 draft class: Sterling Shepard, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill
2017 draft class: Corey Davis, Mike Williams, Zay Jones, Curtis Samuel, Juju Smith-Schuster, Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Dede Westbrook
2018 unknowns:DJ Moore, Calvin Ridley, Courtland Sutton, Christian Kirk, DJ Chark, Michael Gallup
2019 unknowns: Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown, DK Metcalf, Diontae Johnson, Terry McLaurin, Darius Slayton
I went through this sample list of forty-nine players and came across a few things to take away from it all.
First looking at players by draft round that made it into the study was 15 1sts, 13 2nds, 11 3rds, 5 4ths, 4 5ths, and 1 6th from 2010 to 2017. As mentioned before by many analysts out there, it is important to focus fantasy draft picks on receivers who get drafted within the first two days. It is much harder for late round guys to fight their way into a meaningful starting role. Of the late round guys who were worth it are guys like Antonio Brown, Stefon Diggs, and Tyreek Hill. Two of those guys were off-field risk and the other dealt with multiple missed times combined with a smaller college resume.
Secondly, I decided to focus on sorting through the list by percentage of games played with 10+ PPR points. The players in this section need to have a big enough sample size so I focused on players with at least 36 games in before the start of this season. That took out Titus Young and Justin Blackmon. Curtis Samuel (36), Dede Westbrook (38), and Cooper Kupp (39) are the only others below forty games so I feel their careers are still in flux. However I will keep them in my study. So I was down to thirty-seven players and what they have done.
For all the players who finished below 45%, let us see who has shown up. The following players were part of this group: (Chargers) Mike Williams, Zay Jones, Corey Davis, Brandon LaFell, Donte Moncrief, Terrance Williams, Michael Floyd, Torrey Smith, Kenny Stills, Curtis Samuel, Martavis Bryant, Cecil Shorts, and Jordan Matthews. Now we can go through and look at what their numbers showed.
Not a great looking group of guys as all have either never or only accomplished a top 24 season once in their careers so far. None of them even cracked thirty percent of the games reaching 15+ points either. Of course none of them made it into the WR1 territory either. Most of these guys started well but proved they were not capable of leading an offense. Their stats back that as each has had their teams put a different star receiver beside them who command a greater share of opportunity and production. None of the receivers could crack the top 24 in their first season with Jordan Matthews and Cecil Shorts hitting the mark in their second season more because of necessity of situation than talent. Of these guys Mike Williams, Corey Davis, and Curtis Samuel all still have some truthers. Unless someone goes down for extended time in front of each of their depth charts, then it is doubtful any of them can put up a top 24 season going forward.
Next up will be the group from 45-55% for 10+ PPR games. This includes Lockett, Kelvin Benjamin, Crowder, John Brown, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Dede Westbrook, Sterling Shepard, Chris Godwin, DeVante Parker, Randall Cobb, Marvin Jones. Of this group, only Dede and Godwin have played less than three seasons of games before this season. It was encouraging seeing that Godwin, Cobb, Shepard, and Robert Woods cracked above 30% of games with 15+ points. We do see some usefulness as Lockett, Woods, Godwin all cracked above 25% of their seasons in the top 24 (yes still early with Godwin). Those three guys also all landed in great situations with either pass volume or great QB play. Those circumstances are what helped float Marvin Jones and Randall Cobb as well. If the #1 guys miss extended time then those two last names will be involved again.
Looking at that same group, these are players who also made very little little impact over their first two seasons. Kelvin Benjamin was boosted by sheer volume and touchdowns in his first year before an injury derailed it the next. Cobb and Godwin made big year 2 leaps before continuing to show their worth going forward. Lockett and Shepard actually took steps back in their second seasons as Lockett struggled with touchdowns and Shepard lost five games.You will want to hope for growth each year from players in this range instead of late breakouts like Tyler Lockett or DeVante Parker.
Up next is the range of 55-70%; this group brings in some really fun names as Golladay (42), Juju (41), and Kupp (39) are the youngsters of this section. The rest of the group has Amari Cooper, TY Hilton, (tampa) Mike Williams, Stefon Diggs, Brandin Cooks, Eric Decker, Alshon Jeffrey, Dez Bryant, AJ Green, Allen Robinson. These percentages are so encouraging as Amari was the lowest percent wise for 15+ point games with 37.7% and the numbers shot up to where nine others were above 40%. AJ Green and Kupp were the highest of this group with almost 50% for both of their respective careers.
Of this grouping, it was nice seeing that six of them already ended up in the top thirty as rookies. The ones who did not were Golladay, Diggs, Cooks, Decker, Jeffrey, Dez, and Allen Robinson. All of them outside of Kupp (who lost eight games to injury) and Tampa’s Mike Williams (11 TDs to 3 TDs) went way up in finish over their second seasons. EVERY SINGLE ONE outside of Eric Decker and Diggs showed enough positive growth to push them inside the top 20 of receivers in their second season. Even saw four of them break into the backend of the WR1 territory. This grouping has multiple years of top 24 and at least one season of top 12. Most of these guys even put up multiple WR1 seasons.
The last grouping is our known studs with one perennially underrated receiver. There is Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Tyreek Hill, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas. All of these are known men of large game samples with the lowest being Tyreek Hill’s 59 games. Their games average from Mike Evans having the lowest percentage of 10+ games at 71.1% to the highest three all over eighty percent with Odell (81.3%), Julio (82.4%), and Michael Thomas (84.1%). Of the nine players, only three of them (Keenan, Tyreek, Landry) failed to be above half of the games with 15+ points. Two of them are target hogs which consistently keep them involved while Tyreek is a bigger boom-or-bust type guy with Mahomes. Each of the players putting up the massive level of games they did in each of the PPR per game categories showed their dominance over large samples. That makes it no surprise then that they spend most seasons in the top 24 and even in the top 12 too.
Most of these guys made their presence felt immediately as six already finished as a WR2 or better from year 1. By their second year, everyone who stayed healthy garnered more attention and continued to all stay WR2 status or better. And as mentioned these are studs as Mike Evans and Keenan Allen were the only two to have less than half their seasons as a WR1.
One last thing I want to look at is players who averaged over 25% of their games with 20+ points so far. This list is Dez, Amari, Hopkins, Juju, Diggs, AJ Green, Keenan, Evans, Tyreek, Odell, Antonio, Julio, and Thomas. Only Amari and Diggs have failed to have two seasons in the top 12. That could change as they along with Juju are still not at the point of reaching their primes so they could still be ascending in their talents. The rest are all in their primes so we should be safe to assume they keep their level going for a little while.
Now we can turn this data over to see how it relates to the 2018 and 2019 classes.
Below 45%: Chark, Gallup, Diontae
55-70%: Ridley, Kirk, Deebo, AJ Brown, Metcalf, McLaurin, Slayton
Above 70%: none
Now obviously all of these guys are still young into their careers so these sample sizes are small. So for now I would not panic about the first group as Chark was hurt most of his rookie year, Gallup is in an offense getting more explosive, and Diontae played with NFL scrubs for QBs. Sutton is in an interesting range as his offense has so many unknown variables that could drastically alter his career. The final tier is so exciting to see as each of these guys fall into a great range of useful players with strong signs of being able to put up multiple seasons as a WR2 and at least one season of WR1. Some of these receivers already have numbers closer to the more explosive percentages for 15+ and 20+ point games, but we can see a realistic chance that the others like DK Metcalf, Slayton, and Kirk will improve.
While this study is young and will be revised in the future, the odds look good for receivers who can reach the top 50 in one of their first two seasons. While there are some who do not make much of it like the lowest grouping or those with other issues, this helps give a realistic guideline for what we may expect. Some guys are already helping to support this study such as Calvin Ridley and DK Metcalf, but it may be worth looking into some of these other receivers for the right price as their futures could be in favor for you.