Eight fantasy wide receivers who look like 2016 breakouts

The guys who perform at the top of the position share some characteristics. Tyler Loechner looks for others like them.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Bill Haber, File)

(AP Photo/Bill Haber, File)

Eight fantasy wide receivers who look like 2016 breakouts

For as long as anyone can remember, running backs dominated the first round of fantasy drafts. But as the NFL continues its pass-happy trend, pass-catchers are becoming more and more important in fantasy leagues.

In fact, early 2016 ADP data reveal that pass-catchers make up seven of the first 12 players currently going in fantasy drafts. Six of those seven players are wide receivers, and the other is tight end Rob Gronkowski.

By comparison, in 2015, four wideouts were drafted in the first round of fantasy leagues. Three were taken in the first round in 2014, and only one wideout was taken in the first round in both 2013 and 2012. In other words, fantasy players are banking on wideouts like never before.

But what exactly makes a WR1 a WR1? And how can you use that knowledge to spot a potential WR1 before he becomes one of the obvious choices — like Antonio Brown or Julio Jones? (For an alternative to this approach, dodging WR1 options altogether, check out Mike Tagliere’s piece on the possibility of a zero-WR strategy.)

The data

We combed through our unique stats from the past nine NFL seasons to quantify what separates a WR1 from the rest of the pack. We examined all season-long WR1s — defined as wideouts who finished the season among the top 12 scorers at the position — in eight key categories, including average depth of target (aDOT), yards per reception (YPR), yard per target (YPT), run after catch (RAC), points per snap (PPS), points per opportunity (PPO), touchdowns per target (TD %), and catch percentage (C %).

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Tyler Loechner is a lead writer at PFF Fantasy. He has played fantasy football since 1999 and has been a part of the PFF Fantasy staff since 2010. Tyler was also previously a fantasy football featured columnist at Bleacher Report.

  • Matt

    Interesting stats and insight into WRs. Would love to see the ADPs of the players for re-draft and dynasty fantasy football leagues included in the chart. It would be interesting to see any players who are not on the list but ADP values place them within this group. I would think a receiver like Mike Evans would be the highest ADP for dynasty not included in this group. Do you have any variance that would answer for sophomore slumps like Evans?

    • Tyler Loechner

      Thanks for reading! Good job bringing Evans up — he is the only player being drafted as a tail-end WR1 right now that isn’t on the list. He caught only about 50% of his targets and his touchdown rate was a terrible 2.1%. Ultimately, he finished as No. 26 among wideouts last year — not even a WR2. But fantasy players are essentially banking on two things by drafting him as a WR1 this year: A higher TD rate and his high target volume.

      • AJ

        His rookie year production is what people are banking on. If his drops and TD % go back to where they were as a rookie and he has the passes thrown his way the same amount this year he’s a good WR1. I know because as a rookie and a WR2 he was great

  • Zach

    I think it would be really interesting to parlay each players stat chart into an overall new metric based on the total area of the chart. Take the “web” like chart above and calculate the area of the shape formed to give an overall “score” for the player.

    • Tyler Loechner

      Thanks for reading! That’s a neat idea. I’ll definitely explore that!

  • Jimmy Schwarz

    Mike Wallace is going to have a 1000+ yard season in the AFC North with the Ravens.