As rookie drafts are heating up and players are fixing draft boards, it can become difficult to find wide receivers who set themselves apart in a tier or become targets in the later rounds. A common strategy is to look for rookies drafted by high scoring offenses because of the opportunity to score touchdowns. Analysts discuss targeting great offensive teams on the radio, in podcasts, and throughout various startup articles. However, does this strategy actually help you find good values?
To better understand this question, a more established definition of “prime landing spot” is needed. For this study, a prime landing spot for wide receivers is on a team with a top 10 passing offense the previous year. This cutoff includes the best passing offenses each year. The general idea is good offenses generate opportunities for players to produce via yards or touchdowns. Good passing offenses should highlight the better opportunities for wide receivers to produce.
The results from the prime landing spot group of players will be compared with players from mediocre landing spots (11-20 in passing offense) and bad landing spots (21-32). If analysts are correct in their assumption, then the prime landing spot group players should have a higher average fantasy production. The hope is rookies who were drafted in the first three rounds by high scoring offenses would be the ones to target in rookie drafts over players in similar ranges.
2022’s Rookies in High Scoring Offenses
In 2022 teams in the top ten of passing offenses drafted Christian Watson, Skyy Moore, and Jalen Tolbert with good draft capital. Watson and Moore went in the second round to the Packers (No.8 in passing yards last year) and the Chiefs (No.4). The Cowboys (No.2) drafted Tolbert in the third round. These players have seen significant rises in ADP, with Moore and Watson now in the top ten of rookie drafts.
The research is not about how we view the players. These players have many positives and negatives to their profiles regardless of landing spot. Watson was electric in his last year in college and put up absurd athletic testing scores at the combine. However, he did not produce against FCS competition until his final year at North Dakota State and is raw in terms of the nuances of the position.
Moore and Tolbert’s elite production is viewed as discounted as they played against subpar competition. Moore has one of the most impressive production profiles of any wide receiver in the class at Central Western Michigan, but he is viewed as untested. Tolbert put up monster numbers throughout his five years at South Alabama, but he is a redshirt senior who didn’t break out till he was 20.5.
The places where these players were drafted have greatly impacted the way owners have viewed and selected them in rookie drafts. Should it, though?
This graph shows the results of averaging the first three years of production per game for each wide receiver in a group. The probability of any wide receiver averaging a specific number of fantasy points per game is plotted to show what owners can expect out of each group. The probability was calculated assuming a normal distribution across potential fantasy points per game using past production as the basis.
|1-10 Passing Offense||11-20 Passing Offense||21-32 Passing Offense|
|Number of Players||36||39||55|
|Probability of WR2 Production||8.2%||13.6%||14.0%|
|Players above WR2 Production||17%||15%||18%|
|Probability > 10 PPG||28.9%||38.1%||37.8%|
|Players above 10 PPG||25%||41%||38%|
Since 2012 teams finishing in the top ten in passing offense the previous year have drafted 36 wide receivers with draft capital in the first three rounds. Of those 36 wide receivers, six (17-percent) averaged WR2 level production (13.8 PPG) or better during their first three years. If the threshold is moved to 10.0 PPG, nine (25-percent) wide receivers surpass that mark. The average for wide receivers in this group is 7.4 PPG.
The provided summation table shows the rookies who land in high scoring offenses perform worse than the mediocre and bad landing spot groups in almost every category. In fact, the mediocre and bad landing spot groups perform almost identically. The difference between the prime landing spot group and the others becomes even more apparent with a lower point threshold. There is an average of 9-percent higher probability that a wide receiver from the other groups will reach the 10.0 PPG threshold.
How does this apply
The only area the prime landing spot group is comparable to the other groups is actual WR2 production. Each group has approximately the same percentage of wide receivers that reach the WR2 production threshold. So, each group has approximately the same percentage of high performers, but the other groups have a more significant number of productive, yet less valuable wide receivers.
Going to the Packers does not make Christian Watson a better route runner or fix his issue with drops. Mecole Hardman was an explosive athlete when the Chiefs drafted him, but going to Kansas City did not help him become able to win against NFL corners. Ceedee Lamb was an elite prospect when the Cowboys took him in the first round. His talent is why he is averaging above the WR2 threshold. A prime landing spot does not change the holes in a wide receiver’s game.
In conclusion, landing spots for wide receivers do not play the role some analysts would have you believe. A prime landing spot is not enough reason to move a wide receiver up a tier in a rookie draft. The past ten years have shown us this. Evaluate each receiver based on his individual profile.
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