The 2014 class is about it enter its fifth year. This marks a line of demarcation for dynasty. The three-year breakout rule has been a known rule of thumb for quite a while. In the meantime, several players from the class who were being drafted in the top 24 at one point have now fallen considerably.
Since 2006, just over 21 percent of all breakout seasons by wide receivers (defined as 800 or more receiving yards in a single season) have happened after their fourth career year.
The 2014 class has already outstripped every other class in terms of the raw number and percentage of players who have hit this benchmark. 33 percent of all wide receivers from the class – first round picks to UDFAs – have broken out. From Odell Beckham to Adam Thielen, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see this level of success from a single wide receiver class again. But does it have more to offer us still?
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Of players drafted since 2006, there have been 11 wide receivers who have broken out after their fourth year in the NFL.
Not all of these breakouts happened exactly in the fifth year, but four of them surpassed the next great yardage boundary and achieved a 1,000 yard season at some point. Two of them have done it multiple times; Emmanuel Sanders and Julian Edelman. All of them caught fantasy significant yardage after never having crested 800 yards in their first four years. It’s also noticeable that out of eight eligible draft classes, only two have failed to see a breakout happen in year five or beyond (2006 and 2011).
There might be other similarities to the players who have broken out, but a simple and clear observation is that they all accrued more than 250 yards in a single season in the first three years. Also, all of them had been on the field and playing in the NFL. Even Jermaine Kearse’ 31 yards in his first year indicate he got at least some playing time.
So, let’s cut to the chase. Here are all the receivers in the 2014 class who have not yet broken-out but have caught more than 150 yards in a single season, organized by total yards.
It’s probably too much to hope that 2014 has much more to offer us, and yet there are some good players on this list. Unfortunately, something funky happens the further into a career a player gets without a breakout. Namely that the boundaries on who might be a successful fantasy receiver fall.
Neither College Dominator (the percentage of a college team’s production the player accounted for) nor Draft Round does a great job of explaining the type of player to breakout after their fourth career year. But the trend suggests that the floors for both get lower.
The general trend is for lower college dominator ratings for breakout players after year four. Also, few early round picks (from rounds one and two) breakout after year five. More players with late or no draft capital break out after their fourth career year. Only 15 percent of all 800-plus yard seasons scored by receivers drafted in rounds one-three happen after year four. On the other hand, the number is 30 percent for the breakout level seasons of wide receivers drafted in the fourth round and later (including UDFAs).
Here’s another look at the leftover players from 2014 with their draft round listed and ranked by College Dominator rating.
There’s only so far you can take this kind of analysis before it starts getting silly. Not every breakout has to look exactly like every other breakout. In fact the history of breakouts demonstrates the exact opposite. In other words, Ryan Grant‘s similar College Dominator to Rishard Matthews does not destine him to thrive under Alex Smith. At best it gives us a list of players to watch out for, and stash if the opportunity seems available for them during this off-season.
While I can’t in good conscious inflict the horror that is waiting for Michael Campanaro’s breakout season on anyone else, I do want to highlight the others. All of them are currently at the end of their current contracts according to Overthecap.com and so their situations will need to be watched this off-season.
Donte Moncrief, IND
He has underperformed his potential in the NFL but 32.1% College Dominator is still more than enough to keep him relevant in his fifth year. A special athlete, he has struggled with some injuries outside of a few lone touchdown-dependent streaks when Andrew Luck was healthy. But for the first time since he entered the league, he is finally being drafted at a reasonable price compared to his NFL production. He dropped five rounds in January and is now going outside the top 115 players.
Cody Latimer, DEN
Latimer looked like a paper thin prospect coming out of college after under-performing his athleticism based on his College Dominator rating. But he has remained on the same team since entering the NFL – one of the few positive indicators I like to highlight for receivers with warts on their resume – even though switching teams isn’t necessarily a negative either. Latimer was drafted in the second round which could be why they felt it necessary to hold him. But with so little production, it could also indicate that they feel he has developed behind two of the more dominating receivers in the league.
Albert Wilson, KC
He is an uber college producer who ran a 4.43 40-time in his own right but could find his speed unnecessary with Tyreek Hill on the roster. With an exciting skill set and a background of college production, I’d be interested to see what he could do elsewhere. Or what Patrick Mahomes could do with two really fast receivers on either side. He is slightly undersized but has the athleticism and production background to thrive given more opportunity.
Ryan Grant, WAS
Grant is that football player who always seems to have a decent game now and then and spends the rest of his time stealing targets and yards from the receiver you actually want to break out. But so was Cole Beasley to an extent and he broke out after his fourth year. Grant is neither a production nor an athletic standout in the NFL. But he was very productive in college and does have a 92nd percentile Agility score. He could be a very sneaky WR3 for fantasy at least.
Thanks for checking this out. I hope it helps all of us find some fifth-year value in 2018. All the raw yardage statistics for this article are from Pro-football-reference.com. The tables, charts, and graphs, as well as any and all mistakes, are all my own.
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UDFA's matter | British ex-pat | Writer of things
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