Yesterday, I published the Banana Stand’s Contrarian Running Back Rankings, using the full body of statistical models available to give the most accurate projections and comps you’ll see anywhere. Today, we have the much-anticipated Wide Receiver rankings employing the Dominator Rating and Height-adjusted Speed Score.
For a quick refresher, the Dominator Rating is a combined market share metric. It represents the percentage of receiving yards and touchdowns a player had on his college team. A wealth of documentation suggests similar methods are more accurate than scouting reports or raw stats. The Height-adjusted Speed Score (HaSS) uses the same basic principles that created the Speed Score for running backs. The stat is set so that 100 represents an average mark for receivers invited to the Combine. Calvin Johnson’s 143 is the highest recorded mark. Anything over 120 is elite. (For a fuller explanation of the methodology, check out the 2012 article.)
The 2013 class lacks top end performers but is very deep. Savvy teams will land similar prospects in the fourth and fifth rounds as those available in the first. I’ve provided what I see as appropriate values and contrasted those with their likely draft spots this weekend. For most of the notable players, I’ve also given comps that endeavor to match a player with not only similar guys in terms of DR and HaSS but specific physical profiles.
These are reality rankings. RotoViz has the best 2013 rookie dynasty ranks on the web.
1. Charles Johnson – DR .50, HaSS 113
Jon Moore put me on to Johnson’s existence. Ranking Johnson No. 1 will be seen in most quarters as purely for shock effect, but in fact ranking him anywhere else would be to ignore the methodology. Johnson’s Height-adjusted Speed Score is at the same level of Cordarrelle Patterson, and he jumped better in both the vertical and broad categories. I always add .05 to Pro Day 40 times, but if you take Johnson’s 40 at face value, his HaSS jumps to 118 and puts him close to the superstar range. Moreover, his Dominator Rating impresses even with defenses relentlessly scheming to take him away. Johnson’s DR is right in line with previous small school stars like Vincent Jackson, Miles Austin, and Pierre Garcon who have emerged as forces in the NFL. Even if you adjust Johnson’s DR pretty dramatically because of concerns about his competition at Grand Valley State, he still comes out as the top prospect – basically Brian Quick with a lot better athleticism. The red flags with Johnson are more about his age than his DII status. Johnson began college way back in 2007 and bounced all over the place. Age does have an important impact in draft value, and if this is your reason for demoting Johnson, that’s understandable. Johnson’s projected selection in the draft covers an incredible range. He could be picked as early as the late second round by a team like the Patriots or he could come close to falling all the way out of the draft.
Comps: Miles Austin, Pierre Garcon
Value: 15-32 Projected: Late Second to Seventh
2. Stedman Bailey – DR .49, HaSS 86
Bailey tore the lid off the Big 12 last season and was utterly dominant scoring all over the field. His numbers absolutely dwarf those of more heralded teammate Tavon Austin. Here’s the thing I don’t get. The scouts are always talking about the tape and how it doesn’t lie, and yet Austin is a trendy first round pick with Bailey projected in the third. It’s impossible to watch West Virginia and not see how much better Bailey is than Austin. The diminutive speedster almost never catches a ball more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, but Bailey is dynamic at all depths. Unfortunately, Bailey lacks both size and speed. He profiles most similarly to guys like Greg Jennings and Antonio Brown. Matthew Freedman has demonstrated that second round receivers with Bailey’s production numbers frequently go on to be superstars. Don’t be surprised if he has the biggest rookie season.
Value: 30-60 Projected: 45-90
3. DeAndre Hopkins DR .40, HaSS 98
I continually go back and forth between Bailey and Hopkins for the No. 2 slot. Because of height and age, Hopkins is a better bet to emerge as a No. 1 wide receiver. The Clemson product destroyed SEC competition as a junior and absolutely dominated in the highest leverage situations. Unfortunately, like Bailey he lacks first round athleticism. At 6’1”, you just have to run faster than 4.57. On the optimistic side, he’s a slightly weaker version of Hakeem Nicks.
Value: 30-45 Projected: 20-30
4. DaRick Rogers DR .43, HaSS 108
If not for character issues, Rogers would probably be the top receiver on the board. His speed is solid for his size and his other athletic peripherals are elite. His Agility Score dwarfs that of other big receivers. Moreover, Rogers was far better at Tennessee in 2011 than Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter were in 2012. Rogers was not particularly good in 2012 at Tennessee Tech, but there may have been some reasons for that.
Value: 30-60 Projected: Third or Fourth Round
5. Keenan Allen DR .44, HaSS 86
Allen is something of a cipher. He put up more than 1300 yards as a sophomore in a bad offense and then came back and was capturing an even higher market share of the receiving offense when he strained his PCL. It’s easy to think he might have put up a 2,000-yard, 20-TD season in a spread offense with a decent quarterback. The Cal product doesn’t seem to offer the type of explosive athleticism you’d like from an NFL No. 1, and his yards per target numbers were mediocre. His Pro Day was so disastrous it would have made more sense just to forego the process. I echo Frank DuPont’s point that a 4.7 forty definitely does matter. On the other hand, there is precedent for receivers with excellent collegiate market shares and decent height to go on to NFL stardom even after depressing workouts. If he’s actually a 4.5 guy when healthy – and he gets healthy – Allen is the best receiver in this draft.
Value: 30-60 Projected: 30-60
6. Justin Hunter DR. 27, HaSS 106
Hunter falls below the receiving thresholds I’d want to see in using a high pick at the position, but his height, speed, and age all play to his favor. Arguably the best athlete at the position in 2012, Hunter showed the ability to bounce back from an ACL tear with a decent if mildly disappointing season. If you assume Hunter gains back even a small fraction of speed and puts a little weight on his frame as he develops, then Hunter is the one guy in this draft who could reasonably develop into a Top 10 NFL receiver. Interestingly, the biggest knock against Hunter from the scouts is his penchant for drops. Dropping key passes can be deflating for teammates and infuriating for fans and yet still be an overrated aspect of playing wide receiver. Terrell Owens, Dwayne Bowe, and Julio Jones are three high profile drop-prone stars. Focusing on drops obscures the fact that these guys get open at will (which is the most important part of being a pro receiver). For those who want to go against the market share numbers and make a high risk, high reward pick, Hunter is a better bet than Cordarrelle Patterson or Tavon Austin.
Value: 30-60 Projected: 20-40
7. Aaron Mellette DR .54 HaSS 106
Mellette posted the best Dominator Rating of the class, a number which stands out even once you’ve adjusted for Elon’s lower level of play. Even more prolific than Charles Johnson, his athleticism doesn’t quite measure up, although a 4.54 forty will definitely play at 6’3”, 217. The 2013 class seems to have a much better chance of producing a Marques Colston than a Julio Jones.
Comps: Marques Colston, Miles Austin, Pierre Garcon
Value: 45-60 Projected: Third to Sixth
8. Terrance Williams DR .40, HaSS 101
Williams is a difficult guy to get a read on. His 2012 season at Baylor was tremendous, but as a fifth-year senior he was literally a man among boys. His slow development and disappointing Combine push him well down the board. In many ways, Williams is Charles Johnson without speed. However, if you don’t adjust for his age, the comps I’ve noted below based on his physical profile and final season results are excellent.
Value: Third Round Projected: Third Round
9. Markus Wheaton DR .38, HaSS 92
If you’re looking for an underneath guy, Wheaton is probably your man. He notched a DR just below the elite level and sports a middling HaSS, but his vertical leap and Agility Score suggest a player with NFL athleticism. In a battle between Wheaton and Tavon Austin, the former Beaver is bigger and recorded a better Dominator Rating. Whereas Austin is a gimmick player and diminutive running back, Wheaton seems like a good bet to emerge as a solid underneath receiver. He does bear striking resemblance to a handful of recent players who are yet to break out.
Value: Third Round Projected: Late Second
10. Quinton Patton DR .38, HaSS 96
Patton may be the kind of receiver that comes around every draft, but that doesn’t mean he won’t end up as a very serviceable NFL player. Patton is a vanilla prospect with only decent size, speed, and collegiate production, but he has no red flags. His sub-11 Agility Score hints at the ability to make the kind of quick cuts that should lead to separation on intermediate routes. Sometimes being slightly above average on a wide variety of metrics creates an excellent overall player.
Value: Third Round Projected: Third Round
11. Marcus Davis DR .30 HaSS 112
Davis is a guy who looks a lot better when you use DR and HaSS than when you use more traditional metrics. Ryan Rouillard looks at how he profiles as a guy who could develop into a No. 1 wideout. I’m very tempted to rank Davis even higher than this.
Value: Third Round Projected: Late Round
12. Ryan Swope DR .26 (.35), HaSS 114
Swope is bigger and faster than most realize. He ran far better than Cordarrelle Patterson and ended up with an identical HaSS as a result. The junior year numbers I’ve noted in parentheses dwarf the one Patterson just turned in. Had he come out last year, Swope would be looking at a much better projection.
Value: Third Round Projected: Mid-to-Late Round
13. Cordarrelle Patterson DR .17 (.24*), HaSS 114
Matthew Freedman and I have enjoyed a spirited debate on the Patterson issue. Because he’s a very non-traditional prospect, there’s always the possibility that my analysis misses badly. Patterson is a risk/reward type of selection with obvious downside. Not exactly a character red flag, Patterson struggled with interviews at the Combine and is expected to require a lot of coaching to effectively transition to an NFL offense. He also struggled to put up good receiving numbers at Tennessee despite having Justin Hunter draw coverage. His reward, on the other hand, may be a little overhyped. A 114 HaSS is good, but it’s not elite. It doesn’t match Stephen Hill or Tommy Streeter from 2012. It’s right in the range of Devin Aromashodu, Jeff Webb, Will Franklin, Marcus Easley, Troy Williamson. The recurring theme with those players is clear: you still need to know how to play football. Patterson’s lateral explosiveness is supposedly otherworldly, but that’s little more than a footnote if it doesn’t lead to consistently getting open. Even if you include Patterson’s rushing yards in his Dominator Rating, you don’t get a draftable grade. There are a host of reasons why I don’t buy Patterson as Wes Welker, chief among them that possession receivers are almost uniformly short, slow, prolific in college, and undetectable by scouts. According to the RotoViz projections, Darrius Heyward-Bey represents a best case scenario.
Value: Third Round Projected: 15-30
14. Tavon Austin DR .30 (.36*) HaSS .89
Much like Kendall Wright last year, there will be those who see Austin’s ranking as simply contrarian for contrarian’s sake. And let me be clear, Austin will almost certainly end up with more value because the team which drafts him will be required to force feed him the ball. But I really don’t think Austin would have much more than late round value in an un-memed vacuum. Austin is the kind of player that Dominator Rating and HaSS throw up multiple red flags for. He’s so small that his speed is still relatively unimpressive (although scouts could argue that his hand time is more accurate than the electronic one). His closest comps are probably Dexter McCluster and Ted Ginn. Many are projecting him as something of an uber-Welker, but the biggest similarity between the two is their paltry number in yards per catch. As I did for Patterson, I performed a secondary calculation showing Austin’s DR with his rushing yards included (.36), but even given credit for that contribution he falls short of the market share numbers put up by Wheaton and Patton. I don’t doubt that the right team can generate significant value out of Austin – much as I expect McCluster will have a big impact now that Andy Reid is with the Chiefs – but he’s the kind of prospect who’s universally overrated.
Value: Fourth Round Projected: 10-20 Overall
15. Chad Bumphis DR .36 HaSS 85
Most scouts are rightly skeptical of the Mississippi State product’s athleticism, but he was an elite touchdown scorer in college.
16. Corey Fuller DR .30 HaSS 107 Update
I still don’t care for Fuller quite as much as Davis, but the other Virginia Tech WR is an underweight blazer with decent production in limited experience. He makes a decent selection to work opposite Megatron. More updates to come.
17. Marcus Harrison DR .24 HaSS 121
Ryan also has an excellent piece helping explain Harrison’s potential value.
18. Kenny Stills DR .29 HaSS 104
19. Josh Boyce DR .28 HaSS 106
20. Chris Harper DR .25, HaSS 106
21. Robert Woods DR .28, HaSS 96
Woods may be in my blindspot, but his Combine numbers were abysmal in every category. I haven’t yet done the type of analysis for WR Agility Scores that I have for RBs, but it’s only logical that lateral quickness is helpful. In my sample of receivers, 85 have posted Agility Scores of 11.45 or worse. Only Chad Johnson, Steve Smith (Utah), and Anquan Boldin are meaningful NFL receivers. (Woods ran an 11.62, which puts him in Mark Ingram territory.) In fact, if there’s an optimistic take on Woods it would be the Ochocinco comparison. Chad put together a zombie-like Combine performance that was even worse, and he turned out okay . . . you know, depending on your definition of that word. Woods also saw his receiving value collapse in his final collegiate campaign, a big red flag according to Jon Moore and Chad Parsons. Recently, Matt Barkley called out the coaches’ Marqise Lee-centric game plans in an attempt to rehabilitate both their values.
Value: Sixth Round Projected: Second Round
Notable but Unranked
Darrin Moore, Marquess Wilson, Denard Robinson, Cobi Hamilton, Brandon Kaufman
Ace Sanders, Marquise Goodwin