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Does Landing Spot Matter? Reviewing the Astronauts' Landing Spot Grade



"Volume is king! Follow the volume, the rest is fluff," we say. Volume and situational assessment are the core of re-draft analysis, but when it comes to rookie prospecting, we fail to connect this sentiment back to Landing Spot. For many, "Landing Spot" is an abstract concept that never solidifies into a tangible tool. It usually involves getting excited about Aaron Rodgers' next number 2 receiver and laughing at players who get stuck on the Browns or the Lions. Jalen Reagor bad, AJ Brown good, Landing Spot must not matter. Where most see an ambiguous marginal benefit that ultimately confuses the prospect evaluation, I saw opportunity. The thing that you think is arbitrary, is in fact, a great tool for assessing the other thing that you claim to care about the most.


As I always say, "Measure what is measurable, and make measurable that which is not so."


There is immense value in simply putting a number to something. Subjective ideas exist in the abstract world and they float around confusing people until somebody says, "No. Let's test this." That's science.


Before we breakdown the science of the Astronauts' Landing Spot Grade, let's take a philosophy detour.

 

The value of rookie Landing Spot garners discussion every offseason because:


1) It is complex. Beyond the entanglement of coaching, scheme, and teammate talent, real humans with different personalities are motivated by different things. Measuring all that information may seem daunting.


2) Landing Spot value is relative to talent:

The peak of Landing Spot value is not at the margins, but in the middle. A great player elevates his teammates. He's so great, he actually improves the conditions of the Landing Spot. A good player benefits from a good situation, but a bad situation will not harm him - he will create opportunity for himself (AJ Brown). On the other hand, the bad player is so bad that it doesn't matter what kind of opportunity is available to him. He is not talented enough to take advantage of his situation (Jalen Reagor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside). But the middle of the talent spectrum - players drafted in rounds 2-4, that is where Landing Spot matters most. If these players landed on a depth chart where they had to compete with high-volume vets, we'd expect them to carve out a tertiary role, rather than steal a job. But when these players get the opportunity, they become productive fantasy assets.


Consider #RunningBacksDon'tMatter. It's not that running backs literally do not matter (the player replacing the running back was usually a running back *until 2021). It's that rushing success is connected to the gameplay of no less than 5 other teammates and there is enough talent in the NFL to replace the productivity of expensive, big-name runners. For the sake of our Landing Spot illustration: if a player hits an adequate talent threshold, he can take advantage of the opportunity afforded to him alongside the strength of the rest of the team/scheme.

 

This "Opportunity" does not have to exist in ambiguity. Neither does the entanglement of coaching, scheme, or teammate talent. What may sound daunting or tedious to some, a rocket scientist is happy to measure. So over the past few years I've been building and testing a Landing Spot model for rookies. Turns out, it's so objectively great that if you're not using one, you're just a flat-earther. We can continue to live in the abstract confusion or we can measure, record, objectify, and improve.


Our Landing Spot Grade evaluates three components of a prospect's first NFL team:

  • Opportunity (75%) - measures competition along the depth chart & available volume

  • Teammates (20%) - measures the quality of directly relevant teammates using past success and volume statistics

  • Scheme (5%) - measures franchise stability and schematic fit

This simple structure gives us an anchor for assessing the value of rookie Landing Spot. Here are the top Landing Spot Grades for Rookie Wide Receivers 2019-2021:


The correlative strength of our Landing Spot Grade is incredibly strong for a raw score. There is no talent assessment, no draft capital involved, just straight-up Opportunity evaluation. And it does exactly what we want. This data tells us two things:


1) NFL teams draft players to fill positions of need AND give those players fantasy relevant volume


2) We are good at evaluating that dynamic


The hypothesis is confirmed - measuring and scoring rookie Landing Spots has real, objective fantasy value.


For perspective, the Landing Spot Grade outperforms some of the most popular college production stats. In fact, College Dominator Rating has had a negative correlation to fantasy success over the last 3 seasons. That means the more you "dominated in college" the less you produced in the NFL. If college productivity wasn't the most popular method for generating rookie models this wouldn't be all that surprising. Evaluating NFL opportunity is homogenous to NFL productivity. College productivity is heterogeneous. I make this point, not to say that college stats are bad, but to illustrate the folly of wholly relying on heterogeneous information. You don't take your college stats with you to the NFL. College productivity modeling can be a very useful tool. FFA produces high-quality college productivity models. But the Landing Spot Grade is the bridge to the NFL. It connects your talent evaluation of collegiate athletes to their NFL productivity. Acknowledging the ecosystem that the player will be living in for the next 4 years is undoubtedly useful, a hidden advantage that demands implementation.

College Dominator Rating (a measure of Wide Receiver Market Share) has produced an RSQ value of 0.04 over the past three years in relation to fantasy points. In other words, it's been useless.


Using the Landing Spot Grade


The raw value pops. Practically integrating it is easy and it will fit into any model. The Landing Spot Grade is an organizing layer that helps sort your talent evaluation. The simple combination of Draft Capital and Landing Spot produces major value that competes with any College Production model.


Draft Pick Alone:

Draft + Landing Spot:

Integrate with the FFA Film Grades and you've got a legit model.

Film Grade + Draft Cap + Landing Spot:

Models are fun, but putting the score into practice is even more exciting. Remember the Middle where Landing Spot matters most? That's also where all of the juiciest dynasty values are found. To ignore the Landing Spot of the 2nd-4th round NFL picks is to ignore the players that win your leagues.

Three of the four best examples of opportunity eaters also happened to be faded by the analytics community for poor college production profiles. The Landing Spot Grade is your edge.

  • 2019 - Terry McLaurin Film Grade: 81.3 Landing Spot Grade: 88.0 ADP: WR14 Class Rank (JPG Model): WR5

  • 2019 - Diontae Johnson Film Grade: 80.1 Landing Spot Grade: 98.0 ADP: WR12 Class Rank (JPG Model): WR6

  • 2020 - Michael Pittman Jr. Film Grade: 77.8 Landing Spot Grade: 92.0 ADP: WR11 Class Rank (JPG Model): WR10

  • 2021 - Amon-Ra St. Brown Film Grade: 78.0 Landing Spot Grade: 100.0 ADP: WR10 Class Rank (JPG Model): WR9

Amon-Ra St. Brown was one of our best rookie values last season. While Draft Capital models flashed warning signs based on his status as a 4th round pick, smart fantasy players recognized the obvious opportunity in Detroit and ranked him ahead of several players who were drafted before him in the NFL (Dyami Brown, Tutu Atwell, Nico Collins, etc.). He ended up outperforming that draft capital in a big way with 13.4 PPG, 8.4 points over the expected fantasy output for an average WR taken with 112th overall NFL selection. With the highest Landing Spot Grade in the class, Amon-Ra was a screaming buy for the Astronauts.



Nine of the ten best rookie WRs in fantasy scored very well in the Landing Spot Grade, with the exception of Jaylen Waddle who was graded before the Will Fuller injury debacle.


Nine of the ten best Overperforming WRs had very high Landing Spot Grades.


Additionally, the SIX best Overperformers in the 2021 class all had Landing Spot Grades above 80. Volume is indeed king. Want to win your dynasty league? Don't just "Follow the Volume," Project the Volume.

Landing Spot matters.
Include it in your process.

The FFA Rookie Guide features a Landing Spot Slider to help you organize your ranks with the things that you prioritize. You can also download our entire dataset and throw our data into your own personal models. The revolution is here, and the Astronauts are the leaders in innovation.


Make sure to grab our 2022 Rookie Guide when it launches the first week of April, the Landing Spot Grades will be available the week after the draft.




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