• Kev White

Dynasty Football: Successful College Metrics - Wide Receivers

In the third installment of this four-part series, ‘Dynasty Football: Successful College Metrics’, I’ll be looking at various metrics from Player Profiler, to understand which athletic and production metrics matter the most for future fantasy production. I’ll be correlating the data against the top dynasty players at each position, as per the dynasty rankings at Fantasy Pros (as at 26/12/2019). I’ll be highlighting which metrics are the most common / important – in terms of predicting future success in the dynasty fantasy football arena.


Through understanding which metrics are most common / important in the highest ranked dynasty players, this will provide you with a major advantage in two main areas of your dynasty league:


1) Improved & more accurate player evaluation ahead of dynasty rookie drafts

2) Identifying ideal buy-low / sell-high candidates for your dynasty team


In part three of this series I’ll be evaluating the WR position…


The WR Data

For the athletic & production metrics, I have considered 50% and above as a ‘successful’ score in each individual category. With regards to draft pick, I have used round 1 as the cut-off point as an extra variable for WR success.


To work out the overall ranking of importance & commonality, I have awarded one point for each metric at or above 50%, with a separate score for top 20 and top 40 to combine and split the data – giving deeper context. I have then combined these scores and ranked accordingly. To give a different perspective on the data, I have also worked out how many of the ‘key’ (green) metrics each player hits above 50% in the right hand column. The players highlighted in red have achieved less than 50% hit rate on the key metrics – in a sense could be considered an outlier from the data.


The Most Common/Successful Metrics



#1 – Breakout Age (89.47% in Top 20, 89.47% in Top 40) and #2 – College Dominator (90% in Top 20, 85% in Top 40)

I’m grouping these two metrics together as they are closely linked. Essentially, the College Dominator rating is the % of receiving production from the WR prospect, in relation to the overall offensive production. Breakout Age is the age in which the player becomes the lead dog for their respective team. The breakout age for a Wide Receiver is defined by their age at the beginning of the college football season when they first posted a Dominator Rating at or above 20%. If you have a WR that has proven success from a young age and become the focal point of an offense – this correlates towards elite dynasty value and production. It makes sense right – if you can produce from a young age and become a huge part of the offense, it shows an ability to learn, develop & adapt as a player, therefore making it an easier transition from the college game to the pros.


#3 – Speed Score (85% in Top 20, 84.62% in Top 40)

I spoke about this in the RB article, essentially a player’s 40 yard time, whilst assigning a premium to fast times run by bigger Wide Receivers. This ties in nicely with the prototypical alpha receiver in the NFL, the focal point of the offense, the players that have the great size-speed combo and dominate in the NFL. The speed score indicates that the player is running fast for their size - which obviously makes them more of a threat after the catch.


#4 – Catch Radius (83.33% in Top 20, 73.53% in Top 40)

The fourth key metric for predicting WR success is Catch Radius – essentially an athletic metric that encompasses speed, agility and size. Catch Radius links into the ‘wingspan’ of a Wide Receiver, the ability to stretch out and make for a larger target in the pass game. This is a vital metric for Wide Receivers, as it helps in the sense of poor QB accuracy – providing a better chance of catching these poor throws. Also, this is a great metric for predicting red-zone catch probability & an indicator towards scoring touchdowns.


#5 – SPARQ-x (80% in Top 20, 73.33% in Top 40)

The final key metric for the WR position is SPARQ-x. This metric and acronym stands for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness, basically the combination of all athletic metrics. This metric makes sense for a position like WR, more often than not you have to win a one on one matchup & whilst this can be achieved with game intelligence and leverage – it becomes a lot easier if you are more athletic than your opponent.


Interpretation


To summarise, the five most successful college production and athletic metrics in predicting dynasty success for a WR in the NFL are Breakout Age, College Dominator, Speed Score, Catch Radius and SPARQ-x. These are the key metrics that should be considered the most important metrics in player evaluation of the WR position. Whilst the 40 Yard time has some correlation to dynasty WR success, it should be noted that it is not super important in predicting future success at the position. Ideally you don’t want a WR running a 4.70 time in the 40 Yard dash, however less weight should be put on this metric. The same can be said about the Agility score – ideally you want a fluid athlete that has solid agility to help with route-running, but we’ve also seen great dynasty assets like DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Evans succeed through being great in contested catches, with lower than average agility.


In terms of metrics that have little to no correlation in this study, Burst Score is considered one. The ability to stop-start could be considered key for a position that doesn’t generally factor many routes of pure straight line motion, however like above, there are so many ways a WR can win on the field through body control, intelligence and precise route running. Another metric with no relevance is Arm Length – WRs can be schemed open if struggling to beat press man coverage. College YPC (yards per catch) can be skewed depending on scheme and lastly being an early draft round pick has little to no correlation – with the caveat similar to running backs that you have a lot greater chance to succeed if you are selected in the top 3 rounds of the NFL draft. Like RB and to a more extreme version, successful WRs come in all shapes and sizes – it’s really important to understand how they will be used on their respective teams. If you have a small, fast guy he’s unlikely to be a red-zone threat, likewise a slow, savvy route-runner isn’t going to offer those boom plays for your fantasy team – instead be reliable and help the floor of your fantasy team.


It should be noted that as per any study, there are outliers in the data and there always will be outliers in player evaluation.


For the WR position, the four players I consider the outliers are Calvin Ridley, T.Y Hilton, Tyler Boyd and Jarvis Landry. Although there are some great players on the list above – it should be noted that all four of these players were very close to achieving 3/5 metrics, which would have resulted in them not being considered ‘outliers’ of the data. Ridley has landed in a great situation with the Falcons, on a high-powered offense tied to elite WR Julio Jones. I don’t see Ridley as a focal point for the offense after Julio has gone, he’s a great ‘Robin’ but I’d be tempted to move him at the right price before his ‘Batman’ days begin in Atlanta – although his value could increase further if Hooper leaves in free agency. Hilton barely missed out of 3/5 key metrics on the Speed Score, I think his career has been buoyed by being Andrew Luck’s go-to-guy but credit where it’s due, he’s had a successful NFL career. Tyler Boyd has achieved back to back 1000 yard seasons, which should not be overlooked, however there are a lot of young pieces on this team that should continue to grow (Mixon, Ross, Tate etc). I’m intrigued to see how Boyd fares moving forward – he’s been better than advertised in the NFL so far, but in an optimal volume situation (key injuries to Green & Ross the last 2 seasons). Landry was a volume monster early on in his career at the Dolphins, he’s now done it for the Browns – a total of 5 years on the bounce where he’s been a top 20 WR, an outlier but fair play to the production.


Whilst the data and results from the production and athletic metrics will point you in the right direction for improved player evaluation and dynasty success, it’s really important to understand there are other factors to be considered in the overall process. Personally I love looking at athletic testing and college production metrics as the data is factual and accurate, unlike the subjective nature of film study or your perception of a landing spot, opportunity or volume. In order to be optimal at player evaluation, I believe you need to be taking other factors into consideration within your own player evaluation – such as landing spot, offensive scheme, volume / opportunity and film study of the college prospects.


Application


From the evaluation of the data, we’ve looked at the five most successful college player metrics for the WR position – but what do we do with this information? If a player is hitting on 5/5 of these minimum thresholds above 50%, he will have a greater chance of dynasty fantasy success than someone hitting 0/5 of these thresholds. Outliers will always exist but no model or process will ever be 100% accurate.


The information on the key metrics should form part of your dynasty rookie evaluation prior to rookie drafts. It’s up to you as to what weighting you want to put on these metrics, but be sure to use the information alongside the other factors mentioned above. The above data will allow you to highlight potential stars at the position, whilst also helping you formulate your dynasty rookie rankings – spotting the value picks at the different positions, setting up your draft tiers and helping you exploit the sweet spot of a draft (such as trading for the pick at the end of a tier).



Also, through identifying key metrics, it will highlight potential buy-low players in dynasty. You should be considering other factors as well, with QB & opportunity / volume key to the WR position. Two players I like as trade targets based on successful college metrics are N’Keal Harry and John Ross. A polarizing debate for the 2020 offseason – Harry is a buy for me, based on his college metrics and production – hitting 5/5 on the key metrics. He had injuries of his own to deal with in his rookie season and the Patriots offense is known to be complex / take a while to pick up. Owners will want to jump ship on Harry, he is well worth it as a player to target for a mid-2nd round pick of 2020 dynasty drafts. It’s a gamble based on the quality of rookie WRs in this draft, however I’m confident he makes significant strides in year two and can be a value addition at his current cost. Ross performed well at the start of 2019 – with breakout games against the Seahawks and 49ers. He did suffer a foot injury in week 4 and was only able to total 8 starts all season. Based on his season, he was on pace for 112 targets – a great amount for a perceived ‘deep threat’ WR. He likely gets a QB upgrade in Joe Burrow and the whole offense should prosper in the second season under Zac Taylor. Ross has the draft capital, the talent and the opportunity – if he can maintain his health I firmly believe he becomes a weekly FLEX option in your lineup.


Hope you enjoyed the article & use the analysis provided in your dynasty player evaluation process. You can find all 4 articles of the ‘Dynasty Football: Successful College Metrics’ series right here:


Successful College Metrics – QB

Successful College Metrics – RB

Successful College Metrics – TE

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