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Something I’m always trying to do is improve and grow from my current understanding of, well, anything, but especially fantasy football. After I finished my piece about evaluating small sample sizes of college players I couldn’t help but feel I could dig deeper and narrow things down more efficiently. While I believe in the work I’ve done, it felt like there were stones left unturned.
[inlinead]As I was rumbling and stumbling through collegefootballreference.com’s play index, I started to notice a common theme with college yard per carry leaders…they weren’t running backs. While I found the inclusion of wide receivers initially annoying (and tried to knock them out of my queries), I began to focus on the names and became very impressed. Included in some of the groupings were Corrdarrelle Patterson, Randall Cobb, Wes Welker and Percy Harvin to name a few. I went on my merry way looking at running backs, but after I was done, I couldn’t help but be curious.
I went back and did so very nerdy stat work, which resulted in some eye-popping results. Before I reveal the players and results I found, I’ll share with you the criteria I used and why I chose it.
1. Individual season over career
Over three or four years, things can get complicated. Players transfer, get injured and team situations can change. A lot more has to go right over the course of a career, as opposed to one season. We’re looking for flash, not volume.
2. 25 or more rushing attempts
There was a lot of fat to trim in this area, as there were tons of players with between five and 15 carries for 100-130 yards. Any amount of carries fewer than 25 appeared to be too small of a sample size, and it showed in the quality of players.
3. Must average seven yards per carry or more
Again, we’re looking for players making explosive plays consistently. I debated moving it down to 6.5, but there was a clear downgrade in quality of players *cough* Devin Thomas *cough*
4. Must have 70 receptions or more
There were a lot of running backs in this list before I set this requirement. I’m looking for wide receivers, so it seemed logical to make this the only volume dependent criteria. This shows that even though they were dominant rushing the ball, it wasn’t their main use in the offense.
5. Must average 11 yards per reception or more
Logic says if the player is explosive rushing the ball, he should be equally explosive after the catch as well. Chances are if the player is rushing the ball 25+ times per year, he’s also likely being used on screens and pass plays closer to the line of scrimmage. If they can survive this criterion, I am confident in their ability after the catch.
I’ve shown my work, now let’s take a look at the players who made the cut (and some who barely missed).
Two players JUST missed the list, for various reasons:
- Brandin Cooks missed out in the yard per carry requirement for his 2013 season, coming in at 6.8, just .2 below the 7.0 threshold.
- Percy Harvin missed the reception requirement by 11 in 2007. The main reason for this was the amount of carries he received that year, 83 to be exact. The irony is that Harvin crushed the yard per carry portion (9.2), which is how I started looking into this.
If I wanted to be cute (and extremely biased), I could cut the yard per carry requirement to 6.8 and cut the reception requirement to 59, adding both Cooks and Harvin to this list. Luckily for you guys, my narcissism is currently distracted with other areas of my life.
A few things I noticed:
- All of these players are under 6’2”.
- All of these players were first or second round picks, except Wes Welker and Antonio Brown.
- Every player other than Sammy Watkins and Tavon Austin (one year of experience between the two) have had over 850 receiving yards in a season.
- Every player is still an active player in a starting role.
- Outside of Jeremy Maclin, none of these players had over 700 receiving yards in their rookie season.
These appear to be resoundingly positive results. This was the ENTIRE list, no terrible players swept under the rug, not one. I left the link to the results for a reason. Every player has become a successful wide receiver in the NFL. Every player is active and a fantasy relevant player. While this isn’t a list of elite players, when planning for developmental and rookie drafts, this is the type of stuff that could help immensely. I also find it interesting that most of these players took a few years to develop, this makes me a lot more optimistic about Austin in year two and Golden Tate in his new, high powered offense.
I’m very aware how easy it is to become biased by the numbers, so I highly suggest looking at these numbers yourself, playing around with the query results as I did, and drawing some of your own conclusions.
As always, enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments.