Andrew Woodruff / @ff_awwoodruff33
If a receiver enters the NFL struggling to even crack the positional top PPR 50 WRs in their first two seasons, what is the chances they have at least one top 24 season afterwards? For this study, I went to the 2010 class and worked through the 2018 class to see.
2010 class had 16 WRs who qualified for this study. Of them, thirteen receivers (below) failed to ever grasp the top 24 afterwards. However we saw three WRs who did prove they are worthy talents.
The three breakouts were Demaryius Thomas, Golden Tate, and Emmanuel Sanders.
Demaryius Thomas finished the first season 59th with ten games and 51st with eleven games. We see the reason Thomas does not break into the category is missed games. He goes on to then have six full seasons of outstanding work as he finished 6th, 1st, 2nd, 11th, and 16th twice.
Golden Tate finished 69th in 11 games his rookie season and 61st with a full schedule in his rookie season. After swapping teams to Detroit, Tate put up four straight top 24 seasons. It seemed the scheme change to a better pass attack allowed Tate to truly display his skills.
Emmanuel Sanders finished 53rd in 11 games as a rookie and 71st with 11 games as a sophomore. After swapping from Steelers to Broncos, Sanders had a great step-up in QBs. With that, Sanders put up four more top 24 seasons before swapping teams to 49ers & now 49ers.
2011 saw all receivers who failed to crack the top 50 in their first two seasons to then ever become relevant afterwards. In total all fifteen receivers failed to become anything.
2012 proved even worse. 22 WRs met the qualification and all of them failed to reach the top 24.
Rinse and repeat on the story for 2013 class. Several players in this group may still be remembered as hoping they would take that next step. Unfortunately none of the 17 WRs had even one season as a WR2 or better.
2014 almost had the exact same story but one guy did break the mold out of the sixteen candidates. However we will start with the fails listed below before talking about the one success story Davante Adams.
Davante Adams does breakout after being buried on the depth chart his first two seasons. In his rookie year he finished 74th and then finished 67th in 13 games the following year. Since then he has made four straight appearances in the top 24 as the #1 target with a great QB.
2015 had another large class of WRs make the study qualification with 23 more. Of them most fail with only two brief successes. The two successes ended up as Nelson Agholor and Devin Funchess.
Nelson Agholor came into a nice role in year 3 with a 22nd finish. However it may be a little misleading as he only had 62 catches with 768 yards. What helped push him into the range is having 8 TDs. That was his only year of volume so he never hit it again.
Devin Funchess was a project at WR before finishing as Cam's go-to WR in year 3. He got 111 targets for 63 catches with 840 yards. Similar story to having 8 TDs lift him into the needed range. Never again has Funchess proven effective because of scheme changes or injury.
With the 2016 class still young there are a current large number of people who have not become a hit yet. However the odds show most if any will. There were 28 misses and 1 hit so far. The list below includes some people's hope in Will Fuller among others.
The one hit so far is Tyler Boyd. He learned under a great receiver in AJ Green which let him start benefitting against easier coverages. Once he hit his third season, he has proven he can handle the workload as he has back to back years. He has a good chance to do it again too.
2017 returned the trend of no production in three years so far with 23 misses. There seem to be some holding out hope for a late 4th year breakout, but most have accepted and moved on already. The hopeful handful seem to be John Ross, Josh Reynolds, Trent Taylor, & Isaiah Ford.
That leaves me to the unknowns of 2018. There is several in this list of players who could maybe break through the barrier with some correct situational luck, but the odds are stacked against it. Be wary of guys like James Washington, Pettis, MVS, ESB, Auden Tate, and Anthony Miller.
7 WRs of an approximate 154 sample broke into the top 24 after not even reaching the top 50 in their first two years of NFL experience. Two of them only did it with high TD rates for a single season. Unless you believe the talent & a full season, I would sell the hype.