Dynasty Archetypes: Wide Receiver

Kevin White

As a dynasty manager, imagine having the ability to accurately predict the future performance of a player, based on the past…

In this new series I’ll be exploring Dynasty Archetypes: a method of predicting future player fantasy production, based upon grouping players with similar traits, usage and output. By understanding a player projection or expected journey based on the results of similar player types, it is easier to calculate the range of outcomes of the asset and facilitate the optimal team build.

In the previous article, I outlined the different archetypes at running back, with the focus now shifting to wide receiver – a position to build lasting foundations of a dynasty juggernaut. The wide receiver archetypes used in this article are simple, with the key driver focusing on the percentage of offensive snaps taken from the slot wide receiver position within the offense (slot rate). The parameters for the wide receiver archetypes are: 0-20% for ‘outside’, 20-40% for ‘balanced’ and 40%+ for ‘slot’ wide receiver archetype.

Wide Receiver Archetypes

Slot

The shift to the most common ‘11 personnel’ offensive grouping (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) has led to the increased importance of the slot wide receiver. Primarily a passing formation, the slot archetype benefits greatly in a number of ways: minimal shadowing from the traditional lockdown outside cornerbacks, playing off the line of scrimmage avoiding press coverage and often facing off against an opposing team’s third cornerback or mix of zone from linebacker and safety.

In terms of fantasy, the slot receiver archetype can be a high-end producer. The vast majority of dynasty leagues use points per reception (PPR) scoring, making this high-volume and consistent archetype appealing for fantasy players. Looking at the results below, three of the top four producing wide receivers in fantasy points per game last year are from the slot archetype.

The common perception is the volume slot role provides a safe floor with limited upside, however this view is incorrect, where an excellent ceiling is available through this archetype. Where you can find the blend of excellent talent and positive team philosophy on slot usage, such as CeeDee Lamb or Amon-Ra St. Brown, this equates to a cornerstone dynasty asset with an excellent floor and ceiling combination. The archetype negates above-average athleticism requirements of other archetypes although the requirement to generally field three wide receivers can be prohibitive in certain game scripts.

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The results of wide receiver fantasy points per game rank in 2023 show the ‘slot’ archetype to provide an edge at the position when used effectively (Credit: Player Profiler).

Balanced

The most popular archetype which makes up over half of the top 15 FPPG archetypes from 2023 – the balanced archetype offers the perfect mix of outside wide receiver and slot receiver alignments. Where a true slot archetype has limited snap % due to offensive formation, the balanced archetype will traditionally have an increased number of plays per game.

The balanced archetype wide receiver comes in a variety of different shapes and sizes. One major benefit of this archetype is the ability to be moved across the formation to take advantage of plus coverage in the opposing defense. With various alignments, the balanced receiver can avoid lockdown coverage from an elite cornerback. There is also a more fluid ability to move into another archetype as this can go two routes, either to slot or outside.

The archetype provides a mix of explosive plays achieved mainly through outside, deep routes and the volume fantasy stats through easier PPR scoring over the middle and nearer the line of scrimmage. The balance against a range of game scripts ensures less volatility on a weekly basis. This archetype also has fewer fluctuations on a yearly basis with a change in scheme or coaching staff – making it a predictable, safe asset in dynasty.

Outside

Despite the outside wide receiver archetype being utilized on the field for every down and with no game script concerns, this is still considered the riskiest and most volatile archetype. Traditionally outside wide receiver play involves passing outside the numbers and deep down the field. While there is upside in explosive deep plays, the archetype can be considered a lower volume role and inconsistent week to week. Factor in the complexity of the passing tree for the archetype, which leads to a greater reliance on quality quarterback play and positive team situation – a huge driver in the performance of the outside wide receiver and potential volatility each year.

With superstar outside deep threats such as DeSean Jackson, it’s easy to see the common myth that the archetype provides a ceiling like no other. This is strictly not true. Firstly, the majority of elite cornerback play is from the outside alignment, meaning the majority of outside matchups are tougher than inside matchups for the wide receiver. Also, looking at the top scorers from each week of 2023: 22.2% outside, 33.3% slot and 44.5% from the balanced archetype. The outside archetype does give ceiling, but no more than any other archetype and with greater volatility. The range of outcomes is huge, which is a risk in team building, but can also be attractive at a lower cost when looking for ceiling plays in your lineups.

2024 Rookie Application

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The 2024 rookie class has a mix of all three archetypes, with a stand-out slot performer primed to dominate like his veteran peers (Credit: Pro Football Focus).

The first thing to note is the archetype in college is predictive of the route for the pro game, however there can be substantial shifts based on scheme and personnel. Take Justin Jefferson for instance, a 68.7% slot usage in college to 23.6% in 2023. With that in mind, I’m not quite ready to crown Malik Nabers the next slot king, however he is the player who stands out the most to me from the above data. Interestingly, in 2023 the Giants were eighth in 11 personnel usage and 71.2% pass rate from this formation, as per Sumer Sports. Assuming this is consistent, Nabers could soon be on a similar trajectory to the high-end slot producers that dominated fantasy last year. The other slot archetypes all have unique flaws – Ricky Pearsall is buried in a loaded offense using 11 personnel at the third lowest rate, Malachi Corley a raw project and never a threat to the talented Garrett Wilson and Roman Wilson is a poor fit with offensive coordinator Arthur Smith – who’s Falcons were easily last in 11 personnel usage last year.

Another notable player is consensus rookie WR1 Marvin Harrison Jr, who was part of the outside archetype at Ohio State. If he continues on this spectrum with the Arizona Cardinals his week-to-week volatility will be high, making him a risky bet to provide value at his top-five wide receiver cost as per the latest dynasty ADP. It’s conceivable he makes the shift to the more appealing balanced archetype, however still worth highlighting and another reason I believe he and Nabers should be in the same tier. Both Brian Thomas Jr and Adonai Mitchell are part of the outside archetype, which mirrors their boom-bust output in college. Finally, Keon Coleman is another intriguing profile in the archetype, however could be in line to shift to a more balanced usage, which will be excellent in negating deep speed concerns at the next level.

Overall

The market perception of wide receiver archetypes is that the slot role is limited, with lower ceiling capabilities, influenced by the likes of Jarvis Landry and other compilers lacking true explosiveness. The information within this article debunks the theory, where the opposite is true – the slot archetype provides a strong floor and ceiling combination when identifying an asset with the required slot rate and in a facilitative environment. Nabers is the next slot archetype on a trajectory towards a high-end WR1 dynasty asset, with a superb floor-ceiling weekly outcome.

The outside wide receiver archetype is a worrying classification for the highly-touted Harrison Jr, capping his true league-changing upside and adding questions surrounding volatility on a weekIy and yearly basis, especially at his current cost. Thomas Jr and Mitchell are interesting propositions – their college archetype reflects their volatility, providing more comfort meeting expectations, as opposed to being a safer archetype and performing inconsistently.

When it comes to team building, the key focus is finding slot archetypes which are the focal point of an NFL offense, for the ideal blend of upside and risk aversion. The balanced archetype will make up a large portion of dynasty rosters as the most common grouping and a valuable commodity as the most situation-proof asset. Including a sprinkle of the outside archetype is worthwhile as there is weekly winning upside, albeit on a volatile basis.

The dynasty archetypes I’ve used in this article are guidelines, where you can tweak and create your own, base it on other specific metrics, body type etc. The idea is to highlight that grouping players can help you predict future players with similar characteristics, allowing you to formulate a strategy to acquire a perfect blend of archetypes, setting you up to win in your dynasty leagues. Overall, the 2024 wide receiver class offers a range of archetypes to supplement existing dynasty wide receiver rooms and provide an opportunity for dynasty managers to chase ceiling and floor outcomes of their choice.

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