Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fantasy Football 2015: Rookie Wide Receiver Case Studies

In fantasy sports, the best indication of future success is past performance. The top guys drafted in fantasy football this season will be the guys that were the highest scorers last year. The superstars of fantasy are guys that have produced consistently at a high level for several years.  

But how do we project the top rookies heading into the 2015 season? One guy may have more talent but the less talented player that is in a better situation often ends up producing better stats. 

For instance, lets take last years crop of very talented rookie wide receivers. Sammy Watkins was the most talented player of the group coming out of college. The Bills traded up to the #4 pick to take Watkins. Four other wide receivers were drafted in the 1st round (Mike Evans #7, Odell Beckham #12, Brandin Cooks #20 and Kevin Benjamin #28). Seven others were drafted in the 2nd round. 

Watkins ended up with a solid season and posted a stat line 65 receptions, 982 yards and 6 touchdowns. That ranked him as the #27 WR in PPR and the #25 WR in standard scoring. This was good, but he was the #5 rookie WR, ranking behind 1st round picks (Beckham, Evans, Benjamin) and the #42 overall pick Jordan Matthews. If you prorate the stats of Cooks who missed six games due to injury, Watkins would rank as the #6 rookie WR and the worst of all the 1st round picks.  

Which begs the question why was the most talented college player the 6th most productive rookie WR? The answer is very simple. Watkins was the victim of poor QB play and an inconsistent low scoring offense. Watkins' Bills were 26th in total offense thanks to poor QB play by two below average signal callers in EJ Manual and Kyle Orton. Mike Evans was also the victim of poor QB play with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon and played in an offense that was 30th in total offense. Evans had only 3 more catches than Watkins and finished with only 69 more yards. But Evans was saved by the 12 TDs he scored last year. Evans stat line of 68/1051/12 game him 245.1 points in PPR scoring making him the #13 WR. 

Odell Beckam was an absolute monster at the end of the year and was the fantasy MVP in the fantasy post season. He helped many people win leagues. Beckham was also fortunate to play with a veteran Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and played in the #10 offense in football. Brandin Cooks played on the #1 offense in football and also played with an elite QB in Drew Brees. Kelvin Benjamin played in a average offense but was helped by playing with a solid young QB in Cam Newton. Benjamin and Beckham also were helped by becoming the #1 WR options on their teams. Beckham used the Victor Cruz injury to get his opportunity while Benjamin stepped up for the departed Steve Smith Sr. 

The point is that different factors contribute to fantasy success of fantasy failure.  

For me the best way of determining rookie and unproven players expectations is through case studies. 

Here are several case studies and comparisons of this year's rookie wide receivers: 

#4 pick 
2014 College Stats: 
124 receptions
1727 receiving yards
16 total TD

Case Study #1: Jaremy Maclin (2009 Philadelphia)

16 games prorated: 
60 receptions
825 yards
4 TDs
166.5 points in PRR scoring/106.5 standard scoring 

Case Study #2: Sammy Watkins (2014 Buffalo)

65 receptions
982 yards
8 TDs
190 points in PRR scoring/135.5 standard scoring

My Projection: 
70 receptions
1040 yards
5 TDs

204.0 points in PPR/134.0 standard 

#20 pick
2014 College Stats: 
104 receptions
1313 receiving yards
14 total TD

Case Study #1: TY Hilton (2012 Indianapolis)

50 receptions
861 yards
7 TDs
166.5 points in PRR scoring/106.5 standard scoring 

My Projection: 
61 receptions
880 yards
6 TDs
185/5 points in PPR/124.0 standard 

#14 pick
2014 College Stats: 
43 receptions
855 receiving yards
5 total TD
NOTE: only played in 7 games due to an injury
2013 Stats:
55 receptions
885 receiving yards
12 total TD

Case Study: Hakeem Nicks (2009 New York Giants)

14 games 
47 receptions
790 yards
6 TDs
162.0 points in PRR scoring/115.0 standard scoring  

My Projection: 
52 receptions
739 yards
5 TDs

155.9 points in PPR/102.9 standard 

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