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.
|Statistic||Threshold||Probability of Success||Percent of Sample||Comments|
|Adjusted Dominator - Final Season||>=0.45||0.5||6.5%||0.8*market share of receiving yards + 0.2*market share of receiving touchdowns|
|Market Share of Receiving Yards - Final Season||>= 0.44||0.48||6.7%||receiving yards/team receiving yards|
|NFL Draft Scout Rank||<7||0.42||16.8%|
|Receiving Yards Per Team Pass Attempt - Career||>=2.5||0.4||13.0%||receiving yards/team pass attempts|
|Adjusted Dominator - Career||>=0.34||0.39||12.2%|
|Market Share of Rush Attempts - Final Season||>= 0.085||0.38||2.8%||rush attempts/team rush attempts|
|Receiving Touchdowns Per Team Pass Attempt - Career||>=0.021||0.38||15.0%||receiving touchdowns/team pass attempts|
|Adjusted Age||<20||0.37||15.7%||0.85*Breakout Age + 0.15*Final Age. If a player has not broken out (30% average of team receiving yards and touchdowns), just final age is used.|
|Dominator - Career||>=0.35||0.37||13.5%||Average of market share of receiving yards and market share of receiving touchdowns|
|Rushing Attempts - Final Season||>=32||0.36||3.0%|
|Market Share of Rush Yards - Final Season||>=0.16||0.36||2.4%||rush yards/team rush yards|
|Market Share of Receiving Yards - Career||>=0.31||0.33||17.9%|
|Market Share of Scrimmage Yards - Career||>=0.2||0.33||16.4%||(receiving + rushing yards)/(team receiving + rushing yards)|
|Receiving Touchdowns - Final Season||>=12||0.32||14.0%|
|Receiving Touchdowns Per Game - Final Season||>=0.92||0.32||15.3%|
|Market Share of Rush Attempts - Career||>=0.093||0.3||2.2%|
|Receiving Touchdowns Per Game - Career||>=0.59||0.28||24.1%|
|Market Share of Scrimmage Touchdowns - Career||>=0.17||0.28||27.2%||(receiving + rushing touchdowns)/(team receiving + rushing touchdowns)|
|Receiving Yards Per Team Pass Attempt - Final Season||>=2.7||0.28||28.0%|
|Receiving Touchdowns Per Team Pass Attempt - Final Season||>=0.024||0.28||25.4%|
|Receiving Yards Per Game - Career||>=71||0.26||25.2%|
|Kick Return Yards - Final Season||>=844||0.25||2.6%|
|Market Share of Receiving Touchdowns - Final Season||>=0.41||0.25||23.7%||receiving touchdowns/team receiving touchdowns|
|Market Share of Receiving Touchdowns - Career||>=0.28||0.24||36.4%|
|Kick Returns - Final Season||>=29||0.24||4.5%|
|Receiving Yards - Final Season||>=1011||0.22||33.8%|
|Market Share of Scrimmage Yards - Final Season||>=0.19||0.22||40.7%|
|Receiving Touchdowns - Career||>=19||0.21||35.8%|
|Receptions Per Game - Career||>=4.4||0.21||33.0%|
|Receiving Yards Per Game - Final Season||>=76||0.21||41.8%|
|Dominator - Final Season||>=0.28||0.19||54.1%|
|Rushing Touchdowns - Career||>=6||0.18||3.7%|
|Rushing Attempts - Career||>=50||0.18||8.4%|
|Receptions - Final Season||>=64||0.18||26.3%|
|Rushing Yards - Final Season||>=32||0.17||30.2%|
|Receptions Per Game - Final Season||>=4.5||0.17||53.0%|
|Market Share of Scrimmage Touchdowns - Final Season||>=0.14||0.17||57.8%|
|Receiving Yards - Career||>=1654||0.16||64.0%|
|Speed Score||>=101||0.16||49.1%||(Weight*200)/(Forty Time)^4|
|Yards Per Reception - Final Season||>=15||0.16||40.5%|
|Rushing Touchdowns - Final Season||>=2||0.15||7.1%|
|Freak Score||>=54||0.15||52.8%||239.74 + (Height*2.14) + (Weight*0.63) - (Forty*104.52)|
|Yards Per Reception - Career||>=14||0.15||59.3%|
|Receptions - Career||>=101||0.14||70.0%|
|Height Adjusted Speed Score||>=92||0.14||70.5%||Speed Score*(Height/73.5)^1.5|
|Market Share of Rushing Yards - Career||>=0.0015||0.13||68.5%|
|Rushing Yards - Career||>=5||0.12||71.3%|
|Kick Returns - Career||<3||0.12||52.6%|
|Kick Return Yards - Career||<92||0.12||56.9%|
|Punt Return Yards - Career||<83||0.12||67.9%|
|Forty Yard Dash Time||<4.5||0.12||78.9%|
|Kick Return Touchdowns - Career||<4||0.11||98.5%|
|Punt Returns - Career||<64||0.11||94.2%|
|Punt Return Touchdowns - Career||<1||0.11||78.0%|
|Kick Return Touchdowns - Final Season||<1||0.11||94.4%|
|Punt Returns - Final Season||<13||0.11||80.8%|
|Punt Return Yards - Final Season||<271||0.11||91.2%|
|Punt Return Touchdowns - Final Season||<2||0.11||94.6%|
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