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Do Rookie WRs Generate Volume Year One?

Rookie WRs from the 2020 draft class have spoiled fantasy football fanatics. Just last year Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb proved the ability for a rookie wide receiver to accumulate volume in year one. Thinking about it; Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. also received volume in their rookie seasons. However, these wide receivers were first-round draft picks. Does draft capital influence rookie wide receiver volume?

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson celebrates after a 71-yard touchdown during the third quarter of an NFL football games against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020 in Minneapolis. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

 

Introduction

Since 2011 there have been 22 wide receiver rookies who have over 100 targets in their rookie season. This is not an easy accomplishment. A rookie wide receiver has surpassed 100 targets in only 9% of seasons dating back to 2011. In fact, only 19.2% of rookie wide receivers have had 80 or more targets in their first season. The sample size dating back to 2011 is 238 wide receivers. Here are the wide receivers broke down by targets:

What does this mean if you are not a numbers person?

  • It is rare for a rookie wide receiver to receive volume in year one
  • Only 22/238 wide receivers have surpassed 100 targets over the last 10 seasons
    • 167/238 have received less than 60 targets

Did I convert you to a numbers person? Let’s look at round-by-round data.

Rookie WRs & Draft Capital

Eighty targets or more is a threshold a wide receiver should hit to be fantasy relevant. This statement does not guarantee fantasy relevance. Dating back to 2011, here are the 238 wide receivers broken down between NFL draft capital:

Facts from the data:

  • 49% of first-round wide receivers will have 80+ targets
  • 35% of second-round wide receivers will have 80+ targets
  • 100% of 6th and 7th round wide receivers had below 50 targets

Important takeaways from the data:

  • First-round wide receivers will typically see volume their rookie year
    • Higher chance of hitting 80+ targets
  • Second-round wide receivers will typically see volume their rookie year
  • Rounds 3-5 have variable data showing it is possible for a rookie selected within these rounds to see opportunity
  • Rounds 6 and 7 had zero relevance in their respective teams’ offense

Discussion

It was noted the sample size is 238 wide receivers. A limitation of the study is injuries were not factored in. The raw data after the termination of rookie season was examined. Allen Robinson had 81 targets in his first season. Robinson played in ten games, 8.1 targets per game. Extrapolating the data would result in 129.6 targets in a full season. Injuries happen but 8.1 targets per game for a rookie does not normally happen. The aforementioned rookie wide receivers Jefferson (7.8) and Lamb (6.9) had fewer average targets per game. Another limitation is wide receivers are drafted to play a role in the offense or contribute on special teams. Not every wide receiver will be drafted to a situation ready to contribute. This is confirmed when analyzing the previous rookie wide receiver chart, their NFL draft capital, and targets received.

The importance of the data shows first and second-round wide receivers have the potential to see immediate volume in an offense. It essentially comes down to being on the field to literally receive the volume. Another factor affecting production in fantasy football is touchdowns. In 2020, Darnell Mooney had 98 targets but finished as the WR50 in points per reception leagues. Chase Claypool had nine more targets and finished as the WR23. Mooney had four touchdowns while Claypool had 11 touchdowns.

Here are the total 238 wide receivers and their rookie wide receiver production:

If you do not care to truly look, just know green = good and red = bad (yellow is meh) — round one to seven for the columns. 

Relying on the data is not sufficient enough to determine success. An individual player must carry the intangibles and measurables needed for success in the NFL. The teams must have an immediate opportunity to receive the volume and/or a limited depth chart for the wide receiver to compete.

Do your homework. Just remember draft capital is half the battle for a rookie wide receiver and year one volume.

Rookie WRs Volume

Here is a list of wide receivers outside of the first two rounds I am intrigued by for year one and their draft capital:

  • Dyami Brown (3rd)
  • Nico Collins (3rd)
  • Jacob Harris (4th)
    • Should be noted he is working with the tight ends, but drafted as a wide receiver
  • Cornell Powell (5th)
  • Dazz Newsome (6th)

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