By: Jonathan Margulis @jon_margulis
Updated: 8/8/2017

Takeaways From 2016 Wide Receivers

As draft day approaches everyone is scrambling to get as much research in as they can. Stat sheets begin to fly and many restart their season long podcast binge, just to try and get ahead of the game. However, as we ready ourselves, fantasy players make a mistake in their research. I will be the first to admit that I have done this. The mistake is that they look at overall stats, end of the season rankings and outcomes, and only the broad picture. Many will look at a wide receiver’s stat line of 80 receptions for 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns. They may even look a bit further and see that that player went ahead and averaged 19.7 fantasy points per game. However, how many of us have seen a players stats like that and said, “Yeah, those are great numbers! That guy will be my WR2!”? How many of us have failed to check out a guy’s week to week consistency?

Having made these exact rash judgements based on an incomplete understanding of the idea of WR consistency, I can tell you that it only hurts you in the draft. Not knowing the full picture is what gets you into trouble with picking players that are the prototypically called, “Boom/Bust”, and have their stats skewed by inconsistent fantasy scoring week to week.

Graph 1: Top 12 Wide Receivers going into 2017 and their finishes in 2016.

Below are two charts that illustrate the finishes of each of the top 36 ranked wide receivers according to Pro Football Focus and FantasyPros, going into the 2017 season. I took their finish each week of the 2016 and saw how many times they finished as a WR1, WR2 and WR3. The second chart shows you the top 36 receivers from 2016 and how they finished by the end of the season. The idea here is to communicate this approach of looking at overall finish and season long stats, may not paint the full picture of a WR’s consistency. From this research, I have come away with these nuggets of information.

Chart 1: 2017 Top 36 Rankings and Finishes from 2016

Chart 2: Top 36 Finishes from 2016

-Only 5 WRs being drafted as WR1 had 8 or more weeks finishing in the top 24 with 6 or more weeks in the top 12. This means that the cream of the crop are drafted high for a reason. Their consistency is beyond reproach. Their floor is high and the ceiling is astronomic.

-Jordy Nelson is the only wide receiver to finish with half the weeks (8) in the top 12 and 11 weeks in the top 24. He is currently being drafted in the second round.

-Both Doug Baldwin and Amari Cooper finished in the top 12 only ⅓ of the time. They spent most of their season outside the top 36.

-Only 6 receivers finished the season with 10 or more weeks in the top 36. They were, Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., T.Y. Hilton, Davante Adams, and Michael Crabtree.

-Only Jordy and Brown finished with more than 11.

-Michael Thomas, who was the number 2 receiver for New Orleans last season, had more games in the top 24 than Brandin Cooks, the number 1 receiver.

Graph 2: Wide Receivers 13-24 going into 2017 and their finishes in 2016.

-Michael Crabtree, who is being drafted as the WR23 currently, finished 11th last season, a WR1.

-Terrelle Pryor, who finished with 77 receptions and 1,007 yards last season, ended as a top 36 receiver only 7 times.

-Before his injury, A.J. Green spent as much time in the top 12 as he did outside the top 24. 3 times for both.

-Demaryius Thomas, who has not missed a game since 2011, put up 9 weeks inside the top 36 and 7 of those weeks in the top 24.

-Before week 6, Tyreek Hill did not crack the top 24 at all. Week 7 on, Hill had 6 top 24 finishes. 4 of those were in the top 12.

-Over those 10 weeks, Hill only had 43 receptions on 60 targets. He was targeted more than 6 times in a game twice (weeks 10 & 12). In weeks 15 & 16, during fantasy playoffs he finished as a WR9 and WR11 respectively without catching a single pass.

-New Orleans is the only team to have all 3 of its wide receivers to crack the top 36 overall for the season in 2016.

-Willie Snead finished with 7 weeks in the top 36, 4 of them as WR3.

-Adam Thielen, being drafted outside the top 36 receivers, had 6 weeks in the top 36. Stefon Diggs had 5.

-Thielen finished as WR 29. Diggs didn’t crack the top 36.

-Mike Evans who finished as the number 1 receiver for the entire season finished 9 times inside the top 36. All of them in the top 24. He spent almost as much time not even a WR3 as he did a WR1.

-Evans broke the top 5 receivers only 3 times over the course of the season. Weeks 7, 9, and 12.

-Julian Edelman had more finishes as a WR3, 7, than anyone else. He totaled 9 finishes in the top 36.

-Edelman still finished as a WR2 and the 22nd overall receiver for the season, even though he had only 1 WR1 finish and only 1WR2 finish.

Graph 3: Wide Receivers 25-36 going into 2017 and their finishes in 2016.

These are just some of the takeaways you can draw on as you enter your draft. Obviously this analysis is not all encompassing, nor is it meant to draw out every inkling of data and information about WRs. However, it begins a conversation and hopefully arouses you to get up and dive deeper into the consistency in WRs. Don’t only look at seasonal stats and finishes. Don’t only look at 2016. Look at how a receiver has done week to week over the past three to four seasons. These are the things we need to look at as we go into drafts. Unless you are drafting a dynasty league, there is no reason Jordy Nelson should be taken in the second round. However, his age and a recent injured season, have led to him being criminally undervalued. If you are looking at consistency, then there is no reason that Demaryius Thomas should be drafted in the end of the third round, like he currently is. It is things like this that allow you to look at receivers and see their consistency from a week to week standpoint.

The main thing from all of this is that you need to draw your own conclusions on these players. You are the only one that at the end of the season will have to justify why you took or didn’t take a player when you did.