If you glance outside for any of the states in the northern half of the country it definitely looks like it is football season. Unfortunately, it is April which means we have a bit of a wait. However, the NFL Draft is a much-needed oasis that isn’t too far away. To help us prepare, it is time for my annual analysis of the wide receiver draft class.
As hard as it is to believe, this is now my sixth year writing for DLF, which makes this the sixth version of this article to come out. There are and always will be some misses, but I’m pretty happy with where the metric has gone over the years.
The original inspiration for this article was to try to quantify the NFL combine as a whole instead of just individual drills. I also wanted to compare incoming rookies to the receivers who are actually succeeding in the NFL right now. How much better is a 4.35 second time in the 40-yard dash than a 4.42 second time and does it matter? If a receiver runs a 4.57 time in the 40-yard dash but lights up the 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle drills, does it matter? I was curious, so I dove into the numbers to see what I could find out.
The process has changed over the years, but the goal has always remained the same: Try to find players who have what it takes from an athletic ability standpoint to be successful at the next level. Before I go any further, let me caution all of you. This is not meant to be a one-stop shop in terms of prospect evaluation. The easiest way to look at it is if you view this metric as a measurement of a player’s ceiling. There are far too many unquantifiable characteristics to use this as your only predictive measurement tool.
After all, there isn’t any number associated with route running ability, work ethic, character, football IQ, or any number of important skills a top receiver needs to possess. So it is possible that a bust will profile very highly in this metric. That simply means they have the physical tools to be very successful, but they might lack the mental and emotional tools.
The interesting part is when you look at it from the other direction. There are very few receivers who turn out to be highly successful (defined as an every week fantasy starter) if they have a low score by this metric. In fact, almost every highly successful receiver has scored at least a -2 on this metric. There have been a few smaller receivers, like Wes Welker and T.Y. Hilton, who have been below that, but that is largely because size is a part of the equation. If history is any indicator, anyone under a -4 has almost no chance to be a consistent producer. On the flip side, most of the great young receivers, like Odell Beckham and Mike Evans, have had positive scores.
I would suggest using this metric as a way to break ties in the earlier rounds and to help sort out your tiers. As for the later rounds, I personally use it as a way to figure out which players seem to have the best chance of being a meaningful player on my fantasy roster. After all, once we get to the third round of rookie drafts about 90 percent of them are going to flop. Why not go after someone with the best upside on the chance that they do hit? Still trust your judgment and your other resources, but hopefully, you find this metric as a valuable piece of the puzzle.
On that note, let me explain a bit about what I’ve done.
Find Jacob on Twitter at @feldmanjacob