Identifying Player Groupings: Wide Receivers

The second part of this series will look at identifying player groupings for the wide receiver position. Using the same methodology from “Identifying Player Groupings: Running Backs,” I was able to sort players into the same three categories:

  • PPR Machines
  • Yard Monsters
  • Touchdown Dependents

 

PPR Machines

2016

Standard Rank PPR Rank Player Fantasy Points Targets Receptions FP from Rec.
17 11 Larry Fitzgerald 244.9 150 107 43.69%
16 13 Jarvis Landry 231.5 131 94 40.60%
22 15 Julian Edelman 230.3 158 98 42.55%
23 17 Golden Tate 223.1 135 91 40.79%
44 30 Stefon Diggs 193.3 111 84 43.46%
50 44 Jordan Matthews 171.4 117 73 42.59%

 

2015

Standard Rank PPR Rank Player Fantasy Points Targets Receptions FP from Rec.
11 11 Jarvis Landry 267.36 166 110 41.14%
34 24 Golden Tate 209.4 128 90 42.98%
44 40 Anquan Boldin 169.9 111 69 40.61%
47 41 Keenan Allen 161.5 89 67 41.49%
53 47 Danny Amendola 148.34 87 65 43.82%

 

The 12 players above were categorized as PPR Machines for their respective years. As was the case with PPR Machine running backs, these receivers gain more value in PPR leagues than standard leagues. The baseline to be a PPR Machine for receivers each year was 40% fantasy production from receptions. Over the last two years, only Jarvis Landry makes it onto both lists. His production is very consistent on a yearly basis, amassing close to or over 100 receptions a year and is a favorite target of QB Ryan Tannehill. Landry’s critics will talk about his lack of touchdowns, which caps his ceiling each year. While this is true, Landry’s steady flow of receptions gives him a high floor each week and actually makes him one of the most consistent receivers on a weekly basis (spoiler for a future article). The weeks Landry does find the endzone, it elevates his game to a WR1 playing from your WR2 slot due to his high floor.

Advice:

Though none of these players should be considered WR1, they are the exact type of players I look for in my WR2. You know exactly what kind of production you are getting from these players on a weekly basis and you feel comfortable with plugging them in your lineup. They will never break your team with a dud week and when they hit paydirt, they carry you to victory.

To highlight one player specifically, I believe Jordan Matthews is in for a solid season in 2017. Last year was a receiving disaster for the Eagles as a whole. With the free agent signings of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, the Eagles would be wise to move Matthews back into the slot where he is successful. With defenses targeting Jeffery and being cautious of Smith beating them deep, Matthews may become Wentz’s safety blanket from the slot on short to intermediate routes. Matthews’ best season to date was his sophomore year in 2015, in which he played the majority of his snaps from the slot with Riley Cooper playing on the outside. That year, he posted 85 receptions on 128 targets for 997 yards and 8 touchdowns. With Wentz gaining another year of experience and better weapons surrounding Matthews, look for him to return to his 2015 season as a mid to low-end WR2 that can be had for cheap by owners fearing Alshon is going to steal the show in Philadelphia.

 

Yard Monsters

2016

Rank Player Fantasy Points Yards FP from Yards
5 TY Hilton 273.8 1448 52.89%
6 Julio Jones 259.9 1409 54.21%
23 Pierre Garcon 201.1 1041 51.77%
34 AJ Green 186.4 964 51.72%
38 Desean Jackson 180.5 1005 55.68%
43 Marvin Jones 172.3 930 53.98%

 

2015

Rank Player Fantasy Points Yards FP from Yards
21 Amari Cooper 212.7 1,070 50.31%
22 TY Hilton 211.4 1,124 53.17%
23 Mike Evans 210.6 1,206 57.26%
29 Travis Benjamin 191.8 966 50.36%
34 Willie Snead 183.4 984 53.65%
42 Alshon Jeffery 158.7 807 50.85%
43 Terrance Williams 154 840 54.55%
46 Markus Wheaton 148.9 749 50.30%

 

Above are the 14 players from 2015 and 2016 that are categorized as Yard Monsters. These players accrued over 50% of their fantasy production from receiving yards. Because of this, being categorized as a Yard Monster typically means the touchdown production was not there, with the highest percentage of fantasy points from touchdowns being 20% from Markus Wheaton in 2015.

Being categorized as a Yard Monster one year may be beneficial for the following year. Since touchdown deficiency is usually the main cause of this category, any positive regression in that department would elevate any one of these players’ games to the next level. The perfect example of this is Mike Evans. In 2015, Evans was still an elite receiver in terms of yards, but only caught three touchdowns all year, which put him at WR23 on the year and onto my Yard Monster list. Fantasy owners who took advantage of Evans’ dip in value were very much rewarded in 2016, in which his yardage total only increased by a little over 100 yards, but his touchdowns increased from 3 to 12 and propelled him to the WR3. Bingo!

On the other hand, you may notice that some of these players can be grouped together even more, into what I call, speedsters. Speedsters are those players who are wildly inconsistent on a weekly basis and thrive on 70-yard touchdowns. Yes, these are your players that will put up 1/14/0 one week then 3/136/2 the next. Yes, I’m talking about these guys:

Rank Player Fantasy Points Yards FP from Yards
5 T.Y. Hilton 273.8 1448 52.89%
22 T.Y. Hilton 211.4 1,124 53.17%
29 Travis Benjamin 191.8 966 50.36%
38 Desean Jackson 180.5 1005 55.68%
43 Terrance Williams 154 840 54.55%
46 Markus Wheaton 148.9 749 50.30%

 

People may ask: “Addison, why are you classifying T.Y. Hilton as a speedster?” Well, I look at him as a speedster because every year he is a player with high yardage and low touchdowns. I look at his production percentages for each year since his rookie year in 2012; each year, his percentage of fantasy points from yards hovers around the 50% mark, with the lowest being his rookie year at 48%. Hilton is a nice dynasty asset and has done a remarkable job masking his true identity by being Andrew Luck’s favorite target, but we have to start viewing him for what he is, a speedster. Yes, Hilton was WR5 in 2016, but that is his ceiling in my opinion. It took being the league leader in receiving yards for him to break the top-5 in fantasy. When he drops back down to Earth next year, I see a mid-WR2. Sell at his current WR1 asking price.

Advice:

As I stated before, being categorized as a Yard Monster one year could be a sign of greater times ahead. If I had to predict the next Mike Evans from the 2016 group, it would be A.J. Green. Before Green’s injury in Week 11, he was on pace to beat T.Y. Hilton in yards and finish close to double-digit touchdowns. Through those first 10 weeks, Green was the WR4 on the year, only four points behind Mike Evans. In his six-year career, Green has never had less than 1000 yards (964 yards in 2016 due to injury) and has eclipsed 10 touchdowns in three seasons. What does this mean for A.J. Green? I expect another plus-1000-yard season and 10 touchdowns. This would easily put Green inside the top-5 for wide receivers and a great buy from any owner who would sell for ninety cents on the dollar.

 

Touchdown Dependents

2016

Rank Player Fantasy Points TD FP from TDs
2 Jordy Nelson 304.7 14 27.57%
9 Davante Adams 246.7 12 29.19%
21 Rishard Matthews 211.5 9 25.53%
36 Sterling Shepard 184.4 8 26.03%
39 Dez Bryant 180 8 26.67%
41 Anquan Boldin 173.4 8 27.68%
46 Kenny Stills 168.6 9 32.03%

 

2015

Rank Player Fantasy Points TD FP from TDs
6 Allen Robinson 304 14 27.63%
9 Doug Baldwin 268.9 14 31.24%
14 Eric Decker 252.7 12 28.49%
18 Allen Hurns 225.1 10 26.65%
33 Ted Ginn 183.9 10 32.63%

 

I would like to start off this section by saying I wish I would have done this last year. Looking at the 2015 list of Touchdown Dependent players, none other than Allen Robinson tops the list. Robinson is a perfect example of why being considered a Touchdown Dependent can be harmful to that player’s value the following year. Touchdowns are a wild card in fantasy football and can never accurately be predicted. The expectation for any player with a high number of touchdowns one year is to regress the following year to something more natural and sustainable. Looking at the names from 2015 going into 2016, Hurns was nowhere to be found, Ginn dropped a whole receiver tier, Decker got injured, Baldwin regressed in touchdowns but made up for it with more receptions and yards, and then ARob. While no one could have predicted Robinson’s season to go the way it did, it was within reason to expect major touchdown regression after 14 in 2015. Now we know.

Looking at the 2016 list, there are a few names to consider. I believe the player most likely to have the biggest regression in touchdowns is Rishard Matthews, who came into 2016 averaging only two touchdowns per season. The Law of Averages would suggest his 2016 touchdown total was too high above the average and that number should drop. On the flip side, Matthews is a staple of the Titans offense and is currently the WR1 on the depth chart. While the Titans looking to add another piece to their receiving corps, I would expect Matthews to remain as a prominent threat in the passing game as one of Mariota’s favorite targets. With that said, I see Matthews finishing with around five touchdowns next season as a high WR3.

Another candidate for major touchdown regression is Kenny Stills. In 2016, he posted nine touchdowns despite his previous career average of 3.67. I expect that number to decrease a fair amount, similar to Matthews. Again, an argument for Stills would be that he is with the Dolphins again and can be viewed as potentially the number two target in Miami, depending on how they view Parker. He is a big play threat and gets a decent number of targets in the redzone. However, I expect Adam Gase to utilize Julius Thomas heavily in the redzone, which may take away from Stills’ looks inside the 20.

Advice:

The two names on the 2016 list I am least concerned about are Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant. They are both touchdown machines are a heavily targeted inside the redzone. There may be more regression on Jordy’s side than Bryant’s, but nothing too significant I believe.

Davante Adams seems to be a polarizing receiver in the dynasty community. Adams truthers will tell you he is the heir apparent in when Jordy retires in the coming year or two. Adams skeptics will say he is not a true number one receiver and is the second coming of James Jones. Though I can see both sides, I tend to believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. Adams is a big target for Aaron Rodgers, especially in the redzone. We all know Rodgers loves to throw the ball a ton in games and Green Bay does not shy away from the passing game inside the 20 either. There is plenty of love to be shared in Green Bay. In fact, looking back at the past few years, we see that Rodgers is more than capable of sustaining two or more receivers. In 2014, Jordy caught 13 touchdowns and finished as the WR3. That same year, Randall Cobb had his career year with nearly 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns, finishing as the WR8. Why should we not expect the same from Adams in 2017? In each year since Adams entered the league, he has improved in every area – receptions, yards, touchdowns. He epitomized the “third-year breakout” receiver and has not hit his ceiling. While I do not expect Adams to finish inside the top-10 for receivers next year, I do foresee a high WR2 with WR1 upside given his high touchdown ceiling.

Sterling Shepard is also an intriguing player after a nice rookie campaign. He has been dropped on the depth chart to WR3 with the signing of Brandon Marshall, but that is a temporary bump in the road. I actually believe this to be the perfect opportunity to buy Shepard at a low price from owners believing Marshall is going to cut into his share of targets. With Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr. on the outside, Shepard will be playing a lot of snaps from the slot, which is where he is most dangerous. Similar to Jordan Matthews, Shepard will be able to take advantage of weaker corners or coverage linebackers and be able to work the short to intermediate routes. I also expect him to be targeted in the redzone, with defenses wary of OBJ and Marshall as redzone threats, it could leave the doors open for Shepard to sneak some touchdowns from the slot. Though I do not expect another eight-touchdown campaign, I do believe Shepard has a WR3 floor with WR2 upside.

 

Conclusion

Using this type of analysis, we can sort certain players into three main categories: PPR Machine, Yard Monsters, and Touchdown Dependents. This can be helpful in predicting a player’s outlook and performance for the following year. Had this been done last year, we could have been able to predict a down year for Allen Robinson, or perhaps a career year from Mike Evans. Seeing how this type of analysis can be used, we can make inferences on some of these players for 2017, like A.J. Green or Kenny Stills, or we can be more confident in the predicting the production we will receive from players like Jarvis Landry. All in all, I believe this type of analysis can be very important and help to paint a bigger picture on players we all own and love.

If my work has helped your research or if you simply enjoyed reading it, please consider donating. Thank you.

 

 

You can follow me on Twitter: @AmazeHayes_DFF

 

ahayes

Penn State college student and Steelers fan. Been playing fantasy football since 2009 and dynasty football since 2016. Numbers don't lie, people do. Co-Host of the Super Flexible Podcast. @Amazehayes_DFF on Twitter.

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