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Rookie Receivers Draft Capital Case Study | Fantasy Football

The Mundies: Something New

by Scott Rinear

“The Mundies” is a column series by Scott Rinear, awarding life and fantasy football. Now in its second year of publishing, this column presents an optimistic outlook on life and an analytical approach to the game. Read forward as Scott discusses the battle of change vs. comfortability and presents a draft capital case study on rookie receivers.

Hey, everybody.

I like being comfortable. Many of my columns for In-Between Media (IBT) and my behaviors during my younger life revolved heavily around this notion.

You hear the term “comfort bubble” a lot. I love my comfort bubbles. One of those bubbles is my home – a  place I know well where I do not have to interact with anyone in person (other than my family). This was a silver lining of the COVID-19 Pandemic for me. 

Our campsites when we go camping, my home office and hanging out and having fun on Twitter are all my comfort bubbles. It can be difficult to force myself to leave them. I do not suffer from agoraphobia. Rather, I am medicated for anxiety and have spent most of my life being very uncomfortable in social situations, sometimes even fearful. Medication and simply getting older have helped with this. But even now, if left to my own devices, I would not leave the house as much as I do.

I say that without really knowing if that’s true. It has been a long time since it was just me, and I was a different person back then. So maybe that’s crap. Maybe I’m just telling myself I would revert back to old behaviors if left up to me because that’s all I’ve ever known. I very much hope I’m never able to confirm. But that lack of motivation to branch out and try new things is still there, even if only residually.

Change, Comfort’s Arch-Nemesis

One concept that puts on its boxing gloves and jumps in the ring with my comfort is change. By nature, change is uncomfortable. Or maybe a better way to say it is that change is not comfortable. 

I said something along these lines in the very first “Mundies” column. My extreme motivation to be and stay comfortable was directly correlated to my avoiding change. A residual relic from an adolescent perspective on life, I thought it was possible to accomplish this. I have learned that my addiction’s likely 1.01 motivation was this impossible pipe dream; to be comfortable and feel good all the time, which, in the addict’s viewpoint, necessitates warding off any inkling of change. 

Sometimes I get lost in wondering how I could have been so far off in how I viewed reality or, more accurately, what was possible within it. But that’s the thing about an addict’s brain, especially that is being actively “fed.” To put it scientifically, my brain was messed up. The chemistry was out of whack. There are very few true inevitabilities, but change is one of them.

Change can be scary. Whether it’s change that’s happening to you or change you’re intentionally embarking on, it brings the unknown into your life. How will the change affect me? 

Changing careers or moving in a different direction brings the possibility of failure. Comfort bubbles provide the mirage of increased control over your life and the results. Change, branching out or trying new things strip that away. 

Spoiler alert, it was never really there. 

The only thing dwelling in my comfort bubbles provides in this context is a decrease in results because I’m not doing anything. It does not facilitate control over them. These are things I’ve learned over the years, and that learning process hasn’t been pretty at times.

 I’ve learned to not only accept change but even embrace it on a limited basis (progress, not perfection).

Something New

Once I let go and surrendered in the un-winnable battle against discomfort and change, there are so many new things I wasn’t even aware of.

I still need to be forced out of the house by my wife from time to time, but I’m more willing to try new things. And that willingness is crucial. It’s easy to say, “I am accepting this change,” but you have to be willing to take action. 

I’ll likely never be that outgoing guy who dreams of traveling the world and can’t get enough new adventures. Sometimes I envy those people and wish I could be like that. But I’m not, and I’m OK with my level of progress. 

I just need to keep putting the effort forth. And every once in a while, when I try something new, going through the standard bouts of anxiety and fear, it ends up being awesome.

Dynasty Fantasy Football

With a sharp redirect to fantasy football, I want to talk about my experience so far with the dynasty football format. I started playing fantasy football in 2006, and for the next 14 years, I played in two-three leagues per year, all redraft formats.

My first-ever dynasty startup draft was during the 2021 offseason, in the fantastic Moose Leagues charity leagues supporting mental health awareness. I was nervous and scared. 

What if I was terrible at it? What if I made an embarrassing pick because I didn’t know what I was doing? Redraft is my comfort bubble, and the same silly anti-motivation surfaced. What if people think I’m not smart? 

I did what I could in a relatively short amount of time, reading up about strategy, looking at dynasty rankings and talking to some of my new-found friends who had more experience. I received some great advice that eased my stress. I was likely going to make some mistakes. There would likely be picks that more experienced leaguemates would question. But, most importantly, who cares? 

So, I started that first draft and just trusted my instincts. I should also mention that not only was this my first dynasty experience, but it was also my first time ever using the superflex format, which is becoming almost the more mainstream way to play dynasty fantasy football. I was pick 1.05, and after four straight QBs, I took Jonathan Taylor. I watched three straight QBs go after my pick and channeled Job from “Arrested Development.” 

“I may have made a huge mistake.”

Then came that “naked at school dream” moment of embarrassment. I saw all these trades happening with people’s picks (something new), so I wanted in. An offer materialized for my second-round pick (2.08). I trade back from 2.08 to 2.12 and receive a 2022 first-round rookie pick. Even I knew that was a smash accept, so I did. Very quickly. Without looking closely at the offer. It was actually just a straight-up trade. My 2.08 for their 2022 pick. 

This version of the trade was a massive mistake. Luckily, I let everyone know I had misread the offer, and everyone was cool with reversing it. This type of thing throws my anxiety and self-consciousness into overdrive. But I dusted myself off and continued the draft. I went CeeDee Lamb and A.J. Brown in rounds two and three, then used three straight picks to secure 2021 rookie picks. Those picks turned into Justin Fields, Kyle Pitts and Travis Etienne. Landing a few veteran QBs after that, I was in business. 

My point with that recap reiterates the advice I had gotten. I made a few mistakes, had some very understanding leaguemates and still drafted a good team. Even if I hadn’t, that would have been OK.

That’s one of the beauties of dynasty fantasy football leagues. It opens up an almost endless set of routes you can take as a manager. If you are new to dynasty or thinking about making the leap, I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy fantasy football year-round.

There is a long list of good people who won’t think twice about helping you out (myself included). There are some distinct differences you will have to learn, but it’s not as daunting as it seems. I still play redraft (and always will), but adding dynasty leagues has greatly enhanced my fantasy football experience.

And now’s the part where I brag. In 2021, I joined three new dynasty leagues. I lost in the championship game in two of them (including the one described above). In 2022 I was in four dynasty leagues and brought home two trophies (including the one described above).

Something new has become one of my favorite things.

And now, The Mundie Awards.

The Mundie Awards

Draft Capital (Continued)

In my last column, I pivoted in the awards section. I looked at draft capital for RBs and how RBs have performed in fantasy football historically from each round of the NFL Draft. In this column, I want to provide the same for WRs. I arranged these data sets in the same manner as RBs.

So, rather than diving into an individual player, I will look at historical draft capital trends for WRs. As with any analytical data based on past sample sizes, none of this is absolute. Players like Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs (both round No. 5 picks) do happen. This is about probability and adding reality to our expectations for the incoming WR rookie class.

Rookie Receivers Draft Capital Case Study: Parameters

I set this up by simply compiling all the WRs drafted going back to 2012, grouped by which round they were drafted in (rounds No. 1-7). For each drafted WR, I looked at their Points Per Reception (PPR) fantasy points per game in their NFL rookie season (important for redraft formats), along with their second and third years in the league (useful for dynasty formats).

With any study like this, you need a threshold. You need something to compare to. What is considered “good” or “successful” or oftentimes called a “hit”? Since we are talking points per game, the thresholds are also points per game. I calculated a historical average of points per game for the WR1, WR2, WR3, etc., through the WR50 from 2012-2022 (PPR, minimum eight games played). I then defined the “hit rate” as finishing as a top-24 WR based on the historical average.

If you are interested in this study’s raw data, it is free on my Patreon. To summarize here, the historical thresholds are the following:

  • Top-24 WR points per game: Over or equal to 13.6 points per game
  • Top-12 WR points per game: Over or equal to 16.0 points per game

So now we have all of our pieces. We have the list of drafted WRs, their round and their PPR points per game in their first three seasons. We can then determine how many WRs drafted in each round have gone on to “hit” (over 11.8 points per game) in their rookie season or any of their first three seasons.

Rookie Receivers Draft Capital Case Study: Data

Since 2012, there have been 327 WRs drafted. The following is the sample size of WRs drafted per round:

  • Round No. 1: 46
  • Round No. 2: 54
  • Round No. 3: 43
  • Round No. 4: 50
  • Round No. 5: 42
  • Round No. 6: 49
  • Round No. 7: 43

For each round, we’ll look at the percentage of WRs with a top-24 (over 13.6 points per game) output in their rookie year, the percentage of WRs with at least one top-24 season within their first three years, and the percentage of WRs with multiple top-24 seasons within their first three years.

Top 24 points per game (over 13.6) in their rookie season:

  • Round No. 1 WRs: 17.4 percent
  • Round No. 2 WRs: 5.6 percent
  • Round No. 3 WRs: 3.7 percent
  • Round No. 4 WRs: 2.0 percent
  • Round No. 5 WRs: 0.0 percent
  • Round No. 6 WRs: 0.0 percent
  • Round No. 7 WRs: 0.0 percent

Top 24 points per game (over 13.6) at least once in their first three seasons:

  • Round No. 1 WRs: 54.3 percent
  • Round No. 2 WRs: 23.8 percent
  • Round No. 3 WRs: 24.2 percent
  • Round No. 4 WRs: 4.8 percent
  • Round No. 5 WRs: 7.8 percent
  • Round No. 6 WRs: 0.0 percent
  • No. Round 7 WRs: 0.0 percent

Top 24 points per game (over 13.6) multiple times in their first three seasons:

  • Round No. 1 WRs: 28.6 percent
  • Round No. 2 WRs: 16.7 percent
  • Round No. 3 WRs: 15.2 percent
  • Round No. 4 WRs: 2.4 percent
  • Round No. 5 WRs: 5.3 percent
  • Round No. 6 WRs: 0.0 percent
  • Round No. 7 WRs: 0.0 percent

Rookie Receivers Draft Capital Case Study: Takeaways

You can see right away these percentages are much lower than with RBs. This is due to the NFL’s WR player pool being much larger, meaning more competition.

Garret Wilson

Garrett Wilson finished 2022 as the PPR WR31 on a points-per-game basis.

An early-round RB was drafted there to be used. And even though RB competition has been increasing as the “bell cow” RB approaches extinction, it’s still far less volume competition than amongst a team’s WRs.

However, there is one blatant similarity between the RBs and WRs in this date range: The significant drop off in hit rates after day two of the NFL Draft (moving from round three to Round four-seven). And the 0.0 percent hit rate across the board for round six and seven is telling.

Now, Antonio Brown was a sixth-rounder, but falls just before this date range. Regardless, WRs drafted in the last two rounds are not a good bet for fantasy relevance in either redraft or dynasty formats. For dynasty, three day-three WRs who I think could buck the first-three-years trend are Kayshon Boutte (sixth-round pick by the Patriots), A.T. Perry (sixth-round pick by the Saints) and Tyler Scott (fourth-round pick by the Bears).

Looking only at rookie seasons (for redraft purposes), only 13 of the 327 WRs drafted between 2012-2022 (from any round) have finished above the top-24 threshold in their rookie season. Here is the round-by-round breakdown with the individual WRs listed:

Round No. 1: Eight WRs

Round No. 2: Two WRs

Round No. 3: Two WRs

Round No. 4: One WR

Rounds No. 5-7: Zero WRs

If you lower the threshold to just reaching double digits (10.0 points per game), the hit rates increase, but the trends of day-one WR vs. day-two WRs and day-two WRs vs. day-three WRs remain similar.

Thank you so much for reading my case study on rookie running backs! As I have moved toward more analytics-based fantasy football content, my goal is to provide that content in a manner that is as easy to digest as possible.

Advanced analytics are very useful, and I think they can be explained simply and logically. Please feel free to reach out to me to explain more about the analytical concepts I present in these columns. My Direct Messages (DMs) are always open.

And as always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.

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