Dynasty GAAP Memo: Rookie Wide Receiver Volatility

Cody Mortensen

If you have read my work before, you know I write in the form of “accounting memos” and apply accounting and finance themes to dynasty fantasy football. For anyone who has not been exposed, the format is very standard. Each memo will start with the “purpose.” Next, it will supply background and then outline the applicable “guidance,” or accounting literature utilized. Last will be the analysis and conclusion. The goal is to state the issue and quickly address it. My write-ups will follow this same logic. To summarize, welcome to “Good at Analyzing Players” or “GAAP”, a play on “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles” (and yes, my wife did come up with it).

Purpose:

The purpose of this memo is to evaluate the rookie wide receiver class based on volatility.

Background:

To me, this class’s rookie wide receivers are the most interesting as it is extremely deep and there does not seem to be consensus beyond the big three of Marvin Harrison Jr, Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze. That means that this population can be extremely volatile from league to league.

As an accountant, I am not as experienced in the X’s and O’s component and have a hard time quantifying talent or film study from a data perspective. As such, this memo will explore the intersection of draft capital and opportunity to evaluate the dynasty volatility of the wide receivers in this class.

To begin this analysis, I want to introduce the concept of volatility. Volatility is defined as the liability to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse. For stocks, volatility is a double-edged sword. It means that the stock’s price could rapidly increase or decrease. Based upon this, investors often will evaluate a stock’s risk profile from a volatility perspective. This is quantified in a metric called a stock’s “Beta.”

Beta is a statistical measure of the volatility of a stock versus the overall market. The market is described as having a beta of 1. If a stock has a beta above 1, it is more volatile than the overall market.

Similar to investors picking stocks, dynasty managers should also consider an asset’s volatility before expending a rookie pick. In order to quantify a player’s “Beta”, I will consider two metrics:

  • NFL Draft Capital- Like the stock market, the NFL is a capitalistic market. Teams expend their draft capital to beat their league mates. Similar to dynasty managers, the earlier a player is selected the more likely that player is projected to succeed. This projection will lead that player to often get more opportunities early and potential second chances.

For this exercise, I utilized overall draft pick. For instance, Jermaine Burton was the 16th pick in the third round. However, in this dataset, his draft pick was 110th overall (or 110).

  • Vacated Opportunities- This metric is like vacated targets. Meaning, the number of targets given in the previous year to a player who is no longer on the roster. However, that calculation only accounts for departures and does not account for arrivals. “Vacated Opportunities” accounts for the key departures and offsets that with key arrivals via free agency. This means that these metrics can be negative.

For instance, the Chiefs did not lose a primary pass catcher after their Super Bowl. However, they added Marquise Hollywood Brown who earned > 100 targets in 2023. As such, their ‘vacated opportunities’ is negative.

The diagram below will summarize the metrics:

a screenshot of a computer screen description automatically generated

Ideally, you want players with a beta in the upper left portion of the graphic as they have opportunity and draft capital. In contrast, you want to avoid players from the lower right as these players did not get draft capital and lack ideal opportunity.

This memo will explore this concept and document various observations.

Resources:

  • Sleeper: Great interface for looking up historical statistics
  • DLF Dynasty Rankings: Best Dynasty Rankings in the Industry
  • DLF Average Draft Position (“ADP”) Data: Best resource to gauge current player value. Based upon real Dynasty Startups.

Analysis:

The scatter plot below has the metrics outlined above in an attempt to quantify a player’s volatility (or Beta).

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Based upon the graph above, I highlighted a few players that stood out to me.

Ladd McConkey, LAC and Keon Coleman, BUF

Based upon the graphic above, these players (along with Marvin Harrison Jr.) project as the least volatile (or most stable) players in this class. They both have great opportunities with elite passers in Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. When considering this in tandem with the scarcity on the WR depth chart after the departures of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Stefon Diggs, and Gabe Davis, the sky is the limit.

If I needed a day one flex option in my rookie drafts after Odunze, these players would be my targets. Long-term, I do believe there are players in the same tier that have higher upside (Xavier Worthy). However, I believe that by week 6 or 8, you could potentially flip McConkey or Coleman for Worthy+ and pick up value in the process.

Rome Odunze, CHI

I am calling out Odunze as he does not chart very well in this exercise. However, I want to remind everyone that this exercise does not account for talent. Of which, Odunze has loads of. Don’t get cute with the 1.03.

Additionally, I will be trying to buy Odunze mid-season in all my leagues. This is because I do think that DJ Moore and Keenan Allen hold him off at the beginning of the season.

Luke McCaffrey, WAS

Oddly enough, McCaffrey is walking into a good opportunity to pair with third round NFL draft capital. However, he is falling to the late thirds/early fourths in rookie drafts. Pair that with a slow drum beat already out of rookie camp and elite NFL bloodlines, I am on board.

There are more volatile players next to him in ADP.

Troy Franklin, DEN

Franklin fell to the fourth round after being projected by many to be a first or second round prospect. However, his combination of draft capital and opportunity with Denver puts Franklin as a more stable asset than one would expect. He continues to fall into the late second round next to more violate prospects like Malachi Corley and Javon Baker.

Jermaine Burton, CIN

Burton is right outside the “not volatile” section, which surprised me. If you project this with Tee Higgins moving on in 2025, it could be wheels up in his sophomore season. Another player that I anticipate acquiring in the early weeks of the 2024 season.

Conclusion:

This exercise attempts to quantify the volatility of the rookie wide receiver class and gleam some observations. However, I want to highlight that this is an imperfect exercise and does not account for a player’s athletic profile, talent, college production, and various other factors that could impact a rookie’s success in the NFL.

Prior to the 2023 season, I wrote about Skyy Moore through a similar lens. If you remember, the Chiefs selected Moore in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft and the Chiefs had 152 vacated targets. Sound familiar? What I learned through that process is that opportunity and draft capital are only a piece of the puzzle and we can’t overvalue these inputs into our evaluations or override others.

Instead, we need to aggregate various metrics in order to make the best possible decision for our dynasty teams. The intent is to be right more than we are wrong and exercises like these are a step in the right direction.

“It’s better to be approximately right than exactly wrong.”

cody mortensen