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Fantasy Football 2014: Wide Receiver Rankings, 2nd Year Breakouts, and Remember the Old Guys Late

Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson laugh at vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, hurting their approval rating on Fox News poll

Last week, we introduced quarterback rankings. This week, we will roll out the rankings at wide receiver, tight end, and running back. We’ll start with the largest category, the wide receivers.

As I stated in the previous post, I try to tie my rankings to overall projections. If I have two top ten wide receivers, a top 12 tight end, and a good fantasy running back with receptions, then the quarterback is going to be highly ranked because they are correlated (see Jay Cutler).

The team projected passing yards is divided between all the potential candidates. How? Well, past history and usage matters, age matters, and role matters. In 2013, based on the end of preseason depth charts and ADP info (where relevant), the following roles ended up with these percentages of team passing yards on average:

  • WR #1: 23%
  • WR #2: 16%
  • TE #1: 13%
  • WR #3: 11%
  • RB #1: 6%
  • WR #4: 6%
  • TE #2: 4%
  • RB #2: 3%
  • RB #3: 3%
  • OTHER (additional WR, RB, FB, or TE): 15%

Now those include all sorts of individual variations, teams with injuries, teams that use different distributions of passes to their backs or tight ends. (In a given week, the wide receiver who would be considered #1 on the depth chart for that week is close to 27 or 28% in the game). Further, the distribution isn’t the same across types of teams. Teams that weren’t particularly good at passing the year before, for example, are going to have more turnover and uncertainty. The split between WR1 and WR2 was only 20% vs. 19%.

Dez Bryant is pumped about his touchdown against Green Bay

 

So each team is an educated guess based on depth chart, and past usage when applicable. Let’s talk breakout or sleeper candidates. What do they look like?

First, there is no third year breakout rule you should use. I busted the third year myth previously. While there is no one year of experience that is THE YEAR when it comes to breakouts, it was year 2 that produced more. I used the Average Draft Position data since 2000, took all wide receivers drafted outside the top 36, and looked for everyone that had 130 or more fantasy points, non-PPR (51 total). Here is a summary by years of experience for the biggest late drafted booms:

wide receiver breakouts

Alshon Jeffrey unbelievable catch against Cowboys-a

It’s year 2 that has the most late round bloomers. “Breakout” is all players that had never previously had a 100 point season, and the year 2 guys also lead there. Year 4 is as frequent as Year 3 when it comes to breakouts. Pretty much all breakouts came by then, and with a few notable exceptions (Shaun McDonald, Julian Edelman, and Willie Jackson) all breakouts that emerged from low in the draft order were in the first four years in the league. It is kind of interesting just how few rookies there have been.

Don’t forget the old guys. Even though the lower end of the rankings are occupied by unproven guys, 10 times a veteran has emerged, almost all with a lengthy history of success. This year, guys like Anquan Boldin and Greg Jennings look to provide value. Boldin was 16th in WR points a year ago, but the return of Crabtree has his ADP plummeting in the mid-40’s. I still have him much higher, because while I split the pie, I also think it expands with more weapons for Kaepernick. I’m also not convinced that Boldin won’t be nearly as big a part of the offense as Crabtree based on his play last season.

Anquan Boldin

What about the type of offense? Interestingly, there is little correlation here, if you have a belief that you should take a chance on a guys from great passing offenses. The average rank, in total passing yards on a team level, from the prior season is 15.3. Of the 51 “booms”, 13 came from teams that were top 8 in passing yards the year before.

So the rankings, with 80 wide receivers listed, are below. As for tiers, I think the top 8 are in their own tier (and are pretty much in line with consensus, with the order just mixed). I would be targeting one of those 8. WR9 to WR14 make up the next tier, followed by WR15 to WR24. Then their is a large starter tier where you need to just play for value, from WR25 to WR40, where my projections are within 20 points of each other.

Oh, and final note: I didn’t put Josh Gordon on here. Whether it makes sense to draft him, and where, depends on your league size and ability to carry depth. The deeper your roster, the easier it is to draft him. While we await news, given his upside, he’s probably worth a pick at that point where you can reasonably replace the guy you would have otherwise taken. In deep leagues, that may be close to 40, in others, past 50.

  1. Calvin Johnson, DET
  2. Demaryius Thomas, DEN
  3. Brandon Marshall, CHI
  4. Julio Jones, ATL
  5. Dez Bryant, DAL
  6. A.J. Green, CIN
  7. Jordy Nelson, GB
  8. Alshon Jeffery, CHI
  9. Antonio Brown, PIT
  10. Vincent Jackson, TB
  11. Andre Johnson, HOU
  12. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
  13. Percy Harvin, SEA
  14. Randall Cobb, GB
  15. Victor Cruz, NYG
  16. Keenan Allen, SD
  17. Roddy White, ATL
  18. Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN
  19. Michael Floyd, ARI
  20. Torrey Smith, BAL
  21. Wes Welker, DEN
  22. Pierre Garcon, WAS
  23. Julian Edelman, NE
  24. DeSean Jackson, WAS
  25. Eric Decker, NYJ
  26. Michael Crabtree, SF
  27. Marques Colston, NO
  28. Anquan Boldin, SF
  29. Sammy Watkins, BUF
  30. Tavon Austin, STL
  31. Mike Wallace, MIA
  32. Reggie Wayne, IND
  33. Terrance Williams, DAL
  34. T.Y. Hilton, IND
  35. Brandin Cooks, NO
  36. Kendall Wright, TEN
  37. Dwayne Bowe, KC
  38. Jeremy Maclin, PHI
  39. Emmanuel Sanders, DEN
  40. Riley Cooper, PHI
  41. Golden Tate, DET
  42. Greg Jennings, MIN
  43. Kelvin Benjamin, CAR
  44. Steve Smith, BAL
  45. Brian Hartline, MIA
  46. Justin Hunter, TEN
  47. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
  48. James Jones, OAK
  49. Markus Wheaton, PIT
  50. Mike Evans, TB
  51. Miles Austin, CLE
  52. Rueben Randle, NYG
  53. Cecil Shorts, JAC
  54. Kenny Stills, NO
  55. Marqise Lee, JAC
  56. Rod Streater, OAK
  57. Danny Amendola, NE
  58. Hakeem Nicks, IND
  59. Doug Baldwin, SEA
  60. Brandon LaFell, NE
  61. Mohamed Sanu, CIN
  62. Jordan Matthews, PHI
  63. Malcom Floyd, SD
  64. Jarrett Boykin, GB
  65. Jerricho Cotchery, CAR
  66. Robert Woods, BUF
  67. Aaron Dobson, NE
  68. Kenny Britt, STL
  69. Jeremy Kerley, NYJ
  70. Harry Douglas, ATL
  71. Lance Moore, PIT
  72. Donnie Avery, KC
  73. Odell Beckham, NYG
  74. Rishard Mathews, MIA
  75. Mike Williams, BUF
  76. Brian Quick, STL
  77. Cole Beasley, DAL
  78. Marvin Jones, CIN+ (injured, foot, out for at least first 4 weeks)
  79. Nate Burleson, CLE
  80. Stevie Johnson, SF

 [images via usatodaysportsimages]

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