Introduction of the Study
This article is an analytical analysis of dynasty rookie WR draft picks, comparing average draft position (ADP) with success rate. It is the 3rd part of a four part series, which includes How To Add A QB1 To Your FF Dynasty Team and How To Add An RB1 To Your FF Dynasty Team.
I do these analyses for myself to manage my own dynasty football team. I was surprised by what I have found so far in both studies. The QB analysis destroyed my long-held belief, that top QBs have the longest NFL longevity of the fantasy football relevant positions. I was shocked to see that generally they peak in year two and decline after that. I also discovered that there seems to a successful band by ADP of QB picks in the 2.07 to 3.03 range. And I found that RBs have a very pronounced drop off after year six.
I didn't find anything quite so surprising with respect to WRs. So, let's dive in.
Historical ADP Information
Based on historical ADP information, this is where receivers backs were drafted over the last nine years:
A notable WR that had an ADP greater than 36 is Tyreek Hill. Some top WRs that slipped to the 3rd round of dynasty drafts are Jarvis Landry, Stefon Diggs and Chris Godwin. The steals of the decade have to be Stefon Diggs and Davante Adams (ADP 2.06, 18th overall).
Success Rate vs Years of Experience
The next step in my analysis is to see how these players panned-out since being drafted. In my analysis of QBs, on only evaluated the top-12 QBs, assigning them a value of 1 for ranking top-6, and 0.5 for ranking 7th to 12th. With RBs, since we must start two RBs in my league, I valued the top 24 RBs, assigning them 1 for ranking in the top-6, 0.75 for ranking 7th-12th, 0.50 for ranking 13th to 18th, and 0.25 for ranking 19th to 24th.
For WRs, since we must start three in our PPR league, I valued the top 36, assigning them values accordingly:
- Ranking 1-6: 1.0
- Ranking 7-12: 0.75
- Ranking 13-18: 0.50
- Ranking 19-24: 0.375
- Ranking 25-30: 0.25
- Ranking 31-36: 0.125
Then I took the integral of their results and got this chart:
The valuable information pops out in the last row. It shows the success rate versus years of experience. Next I put this information into graphical form:
It didn't surprise me to see that WRs have what seems to be a 3-year learning curve. On average they perform best three years in, and then settle out after that. What did surprise me is that they tend to stay fairly flat all the way out to nine years.
Only two rookie WRs made it into the top 36 last year, Chris Olave and Drake London, and they were both WR3s. The chart above should be an encouragement to Olave and London owners, because it seems likely that their best years are ahead of them. I drafted Jameson Williams with the 1.05 pick. Other than his first catch as a rookie, it has all been downhill from there. I follow the news on him, and I understanding he is focusing on not dropping the ball. (That's encouraging!) The chart above is also encouraging for me. Will Williams become interesting in the back half of the 2023 season? Will his peak come in four years instead of three since he essentially missed a whole season due to injury and his six-game suspension. As an owner of Williams, I have him on hold. I would not trade him for a 1.05 pick now, but would want more. Based on the chart above, he is more valuable now than a year ago. If you drafted a WR high last year and he is a starter this year, I would not lose hope if he didn't perform well last year.
If you have an older WR as part of your corps, the chart above indicates you don't have to try to sell him because he hit 29 years old. I have read elsewhere that statically WRs are good until about 31 years. Our study doesn't have enough WRs or go back far enough to independently draw the same conclusion, but I think the lesson learned here is don't sell a top WR at a discount just because of his age.
I believe I have a good mix of WRs on my roster: Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill, Zay Jones, Darnell Mooney, Josh Reynolds, Deebo Samuel, Jameson Williams. I am not afraid to make trades if the opportunity comes along, but I like my WR corps and am not looking to trade any away. It would be great if I hit on another top WR this year's in the draft, but I am not desperate. Or maybe I can pick up an undervalued 2nd year or 3rd wide receiver. The hype and excitement goes down pretty quickly on a WR that doesn't make the top 36 in year one, but they might actually be worth more than where they were picked the previous year in their 2nd and 3rd year, so I might look for a bargain with my 2nd and 3rd round picks.
Let's finish breaking down draft value versus ADP.
This is a break down of success rate by round:
- 1st: 17.9%
- 2nd 10.9%
- 3rd 8.5%
With the QBs we found a 2nd band of success in the 2.07 to 3.03 range, and this is the reason for the color bands in the charts above - to break down the analysis into every 9 picks rather than each round. We did not see this trend with RBs. Here is what we find for WRs:
- 1-9: 19.6%
- 10-18: 11.5%
- 19-27: 8.2%
- 28-36: 9.9%
This is a very interesting result and not what I expected. It says that from the 10th overall pick to the end of the 3rd round, WR success rate is about the same. A bottom-9 pick is about half as successful as a top-9 pick. In other words, you are just as likely to find a top WR with two bottom-9 picks as with a single top-9 pick (think Jarvis Landry, Stefon Diggs, Chris Godwin, Terry McLaurin, Kenny Golladay - not that all these will be in the NFL Hall of Fame, but they have been starting players for multiple years for fantasy at some point over their career.)
Thinking about this further, if one of my draft priorities were WR but I needed my top 1st round pick for another priority, I would consider seeing if I could trade a 2nd round pick down for two 3rd round picks. Based on the historical data, this would double my chances of getting a WR1.
Wide receiver is not a priority for my team this year. Using my strategy for building an arsenal of picks (see How to Win Your Dynasty League), I have the following picks right now: 1.07, 1.08, 1.09, 2.03, 2.05, 2.12 and 3.04. My greatest need is an RB1, then QB1 to back up Jalen Hurts, then a TE1 to go with Evan Engram. The 2.12 and 3.04 fall in the sweet spot for finding an unexpected quarterback that might rise up during pre-season, e.g. another Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes or Jared Goff - all of whom have had a rookie ADP in the 2.07 to 3.03 range.
So if wide receiver where my priority in this year's draft, I might use my 1.07, 1.08 and 1.09 and/or trade my 2.03 and 2.05 forward to 2024, but ask for a 3rd round pick this year, which I would use for WR. If no QBs start to come to the top during pre-season, I might trade my 2.12 for two 3rd round picks. I could put a lot of draft power behind adding a WR1 to my roster, or I could try to trade for undervalued 2nd and 3rd year WRs.
Finally, there is always a chance you can snag the next Tyreek Hill from the waiver wire. You increase your odds of being that lucky guy or gal in your league if you stay active on the waiver wire each week, but it isn't something you can depend on as a way to find an WR1.
If you found this article helpful, here are some other articles I have written that you might also find helpful: