Now that we took the journey for running backs let’s move to wide receiver. If you missed the running back article, click here! What we did was look back over the last 10 years (2011-2020) to see how many consistent fantasy contributors came out of each round of the NFL draft. We aren’t going to be talking about one hit wonders. Instead, we are highlighting the players who were able to sustain some level of fantasy success over their careers.

In this article we are reviewing the wide receiver position. The benchmark used was nine points per game in half point per reception (PPR) for their career. AND Before anyone moans and groans about the lower point total here is a list of wide receivers who average between 9-10 PPG in .5 PPR for their career.

 

Player PPG
Randall Cobb 9.8
Tyler Lockett 9.8
Sammy Watkins 9.7
Courtland Sutton 9.3
Tyler Boyd 9.3
Martavis Bryant 9.3
Marquise Brown 9.2
Laviska Shenault Jr. 9.2
Christian Kirk 9.1
Jamison Crowder 9

Some wide receivers hit the ground running like a Justin Jefferson, but for many others they don’t see a big leap in fantasy production until year three. The lower point total helps capture some of this for the analysis.

Below you will find a chart breaking out draft capital by round for wide receivers. The chart is broken out into four columns:

  1. Round Drafted – Identifies the round in the NFL draft that the wide receivers were drafted
  2. Total wide receivers drafted – This is the total number of wide receivers drafted in that round over the past 10 years
  3. Career 9 PPG in .5 PPR – This column represents how many wide receivers drafted in that round hit the benchmark of 9 PPG for their careers in .5 PPR
  4. % Hit Rate – The final column shows what percentage of the wide receivers drafted in that round hit that benchmark

Feel free to just review the chart only and take what you want from it. If you want some additional insight on how we feel about 2021 prospects based on this data, it will be included later in the article!

 

Round
Drafted
Total Wide
Receivers Drafted
Career
9 PPG in .5 PPR
% Hit Rate
1 38 16 42%
2 47 18 38%
3 41 8 20%
4 48 2 4%
5 43 3 7%
6 50 0 0%
7 49 0 0%
Total 316 47 15%
Total after Rd 3 190 5 2.60%

Wide Receiver Takeaways

What immediately caught our eye was the nearly identical hit rates of first and second round wide receivers at 42% and 38%. Where we start seeing some separation in hit rate is when you narrow down first round wide receivers to the top 10. The hit rate in this scenario jumps to 55% with six of 11 wide receivers having at least nine PPG for their careers.

This trend continues when you increase the benchmark to 12 points per game. Of the 17 wide receivers who have 12 PPG for their careers eight came from the first round, five in the second, two in the third and two day three picks (Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs). Those numbers might not jump out at you, but that means the hit rate for first round wide receivers to become elite is 8/38 (21%) vs. (5/47) 10.6% for second rounders. That number jumps slightly for receivers in the top 10 3/11 (27%).

2021 Rookie Wide Receivers

Player: Ja’Marr Chase

Team: Cincinnati Bengals

Round: 1 (Top 10)

Historical Hit Rate: 55%

The landing spot couldn’t be better for Chase as the Bengals have the 5th most vacated targets heading into 2021. This coupled with his established connection with Joe Burrow from their days at LSU should allow Chase to hit the ground running. Of the 11 wide receivers drafted in the top 10 only Julio Jones (13.6), Mike Evans (14.1) and A.J. Green (12.4) averaged 12 points per game in .5 PPR as a rookie. Each of these wide receivers finished between WR12-18.  Chase is already seeing his draft cost skyrocket now being drafted inside the top 50 as a top 20 WR. If this trend continues we could be drafting Chase at his ceiling before we know it.

Player: Jaylen Waddle

Team: Miami Dolphins

Round: 1 (Top 10)

Historical Hit Rate: 55%

Based on the historical success rate of top 10 wide receivers at least 1 of the 3 drafted in this draft class will be a bust for fantasy purposes. It’s hard to tell who that will be before we get camp reports, but Waddle clearly has the toughest path to targets. In year one he will have to compete with Will Fuller, Devante Parker and Mike Gesicki on a team that was 18th in pass attempts per game. However, Waddle is another rookie wide receiver that has experience with his new QB (Tua Tagovailoa) from their days at Alabama. Currently being drafted as the wide receiver 44 in the 8th round it could be best to look elsewhere because of the low pass volume and competition for targets.   

Player: Devonta Smith

Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Round: 1 (Top 10)

Historical Hit Rate: 55%

Devonta Smith coming off his Heisman trophy season at Alabama has been criticized for his “lack of size”; however, that didn’t stop the Eagles from drafting him at 10th overall. Smith should immediately step in as the primary weapon for Jalen Hurts (who Smith played with in College) as none of the returning players from last year topped 80 targets. Currently the Eagles only have 81 available targets from 2020, but if Zach Ertz is not on the roster week 1 that would open up an additional 72 looks vaulting the available targets in Philadelphia to 153. That would be more than enough pass volume to allow Smith to return value at his wide receiver 35 price tag.

 

The Other First Rounders (Picks 11-32) and Second Round Wide Receivers

 

Player Team Round Pick
Kadarius Toney NYG 1 20
Rashod Bateman BAL 1 27
Elijah Moore NYJ 2 34
Rondale Moore ARI 2 49
D’Wayne Eskridge SEA 2 56
Tutu Atwell LAR 2 57
Terrance Marshall Jr. CAR 2 59

 

When breaking down the hit rate for the wide receiver position players in the back of the first and second round have nearly identical hit rates at 37% and 38% respectively. This means of the group above no more than three will most likely become a true fantasy asset throughout their careers. Heading into 2021 many of these wide receivers will struggle to find top 24 value right away, but the path to targets could be right around the corner in 2022. Below are notable pass catchers on those teams that will be free agents after this season.

 

Team 2022 Free Agent
ARI A.J. Green
Christian Kirk
BAL Sammy Watkins
Mark Andrews
CAR Robby Anderson
LAR DeSean Jackson
NYG
NYJ
SEA Gerald Everett
Will Dissly

 

The Third Rounders

The drop off after round two wide receivers is steep but based on the data at least one of the five wide receivers drafted in round three (Nico Collins, Amari Rodgers, Dyami Brown, Josh Palmer and Anthony Schwartz) will become a consistent fantasy contributor at some point in their careers. The early favorite would be Amari Rodgers who could become the wide receiver two in the Packers offense as soon as this year.

The Best of the Rest aka (Day 3 picks)

Since zero 6th and 7th round wide receivers have emerged as consistent fantasy assets over the past decade, we can pretty much throw them out. Meanwhile only eight wide receivers were taken in rounds four and five combined in 2021 so the likelihood of a wide receiver emerging based on a 5% hit rate in those rounds is less than 50/50. Amon-Ra St. Brown seems to be the early front runner as he has the inside track to the slot role in Detroit.

Sources: Razzball.com, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Football Outsiders and FFToday.com

  1. Foxman says:
    (link)

    Bobby
    Gotta wonder if the shifting philosophy and overall QB talent in the NFL can sustain a larger success rate at the WR position moving forward.
    I think Chase is an absolute lock to be a stud, so the stats would say that only one of the other WR’s chosen in the 1st rd are going to be huge contributors for fantasy. 40% success rate.
    I think it comes down to Smith and Waddle at this point.
    Bateman is in a run first offense, with a run first QB who prefers a TE when he does pass.
    Toney is in a crowded WR corp with a mediocre QB
    So who is your favorite of Smith and Waddle?
    And keep up the great work

    • Bobby LaMarco

      Bobby LaMarco says:
      (link)

      When you narrow down the numbers to the top 10 it actually jumps to 55% hit rate, but still it is likely that either Waddle or Smith is a flop. If I had my choice today I would take Smith over Waddle to make it most because of the things I outlined in the article. Overall most rookies are no better than a coin flip, but I agree Chase seems to be locked in. I appreciate the feedback.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *