With the draft a couple of days away, it’s a good time to unveil the official Banana Stand 2012 Wide Receiver Draft Rankings. I’m an extreme skeptic of eyeball evaluations for a variety of reasons I won’t go into, but here’s the crux of the matter: Everything you can see on tape is expressed in the stats … if you have the right stats. We probably aren’t there yet in football, but we’re closing in. (Well, not everything. Work ethic and character matter a lot. Unfortunately, they’re often no less inscrutable.)
Here’s a brief description of the stats used here:
If you’ve read the Fantasy Douche’s excellent book, Game Plan, you know he’s got a lot of intriguing ideas for improving NFL decision-making through the use of statistical analysis. One of my favorites is the suggestion that market share of collegiate yards and TDs is a better barometer of future performance than raw yardage and TD numbers. For the time being, I’m referring to this as the Dominator Rating, not only because players who excel in this metric have been dominant players in college but because they dominated the looks on their own teams.
In terms of predicting NFL success, any number over .50 – which roughly corresponds to having caught 50% of your team’s yards and TDs – projects as an NFL superstar or Top 10 overall pick value. .45-.50 is excellent (roughly Top 15 pick value), .40-.45 very good (Top 20 pick), .35-.40 (late first, early second), .30-35 (second round to third round), below .30 (middle round pick). Of course, DR in isolation only provides part of the picture. Almost equally important is the receiver’s physical profile.
Height-Adjusted Speed Score
When Bill Barnwell developed the Speed Score for RBs, the same metric didn’t seem to work for WRs. The reason it doesn’t work is because height plays a big role at the receiving position. Almost every legitimate No. 1 WR at the NFL level is 6’1” or taller. My Height-adjusted Speed Score (HaSS) attempts to fix the problem. HaSS is scaled in the same way as Barnwell’s original Speed Score, with 100 being a solid draftable score, anything over 110 being excellent, and anything over 120 suggesting complete physical dominance. In case you’re wondering, since 1999 the No. 1 HaSS is by Calvin Johnson (143). No. 3 is Vincent Jackson (131). No. 5 is Julio Jones (127), and No. 6 will show up in these rankings.
Bill Connelly at Football Study Hall has provided target data for college WRs back to 2005. This is a huge contribution to the statistical evaluation of collegiate WRs. While I hope to do more with it in the future, I’ve included these numbers in the current rankings mostly for illustrative purposes.
This is the combination of the short shuttle and 3-Cone times. My research for PFF shows this strongly correlates to passing down abilities in running backs. Early study suggests this is a less important metric for receivers, but some successful slot receivers have had extraordinary times in this area. I’ve noted it here for a couple of big, supposedly plodding receivers who may possess deceptive lateral explosion.
Unfortunately, we don’t have access to my two favorite PFF stats for NFL players – yards per route and average depth of target – but some NFL teams might and hopefully industrious individuals out there will provide that information in the coming years.
One final note: I doubt the WRs in this class are as far apart as traditional scouting methods suggest. More important than the rankings are the projected value numbers I give with each blurb.
1. Justin Blackmon
Blackmon probably isn’t Calvin Johnson or Randy Moss, but plenty of ‘possession’ receivers are successful No. 1s at the NFL level, especially if they are TD scorers. Although Blackmon’s production plummeted in his final season, he still recorded a .37 in Dominator Rating. In 2010, his .48 was at the elite level. He recorded a whopping 12 yards per target that season. Blackmon’s Height-adjusted Speed Score of 100* is not particularly good, which gives him more of a young Anquan Boldin-type comparison. (Fantasy owners should remember that Boldin exploded as a rookie on a bad team that was still a year away from selecting Larry Fitzgerald.)
Projected Value: 7-15 Overall Projected Selection: 5-10 Overall