Wide Receiver Regression: Yards-Per-Reception

In the world of fantasy football metrics, regression trends are one of the closest things to predicting the future out there. This article looks at the trends of pass catchers ...

| 4 years ago

In the world of fantasy football metrics, regression trends are one of the closest things to predicting the future out there. This article looks at the trends of pass catchers with a high yards-per-reception and what happens the following season.

Wide Receiver Regression: Yards-Per-Reception

Last off-season, I tracked many different regression trends for metrics. Most did not make it into article form on this site, but the reams of excel pages of data were there. This off-season, PFF Fantasy readers will get many more glimpses into the regression closet. In this first installment, I look at receivers (and tight ends) with a high yards-per-reception (YPR) average. Specifically, those with 40+ receptions and a 15.0 or higher YPR. The regression trends of those players were strong prior to the 2011 class and their regression in 2012 was another vote of confidence in the power of regression and trend analysis for this metric.

Prior to this installment, there were 58 pass catchers since 2006 that qualified for this study. Of those, 48 or 83% saw a decline in their next season’s YPR. With the inclusion of last year’s data, that strength only grew. The 2011 class included 20 receivers and 18 of them (90%) saw a decrease in their 2012 YPR by an average of 2.5 yards. Here is the complete list:


Year Player YPR Y+1 YPR YPR +/-
2011 Malcom Floyd 19.9 14.5 -5.4
2011 Victor Cruz 18.7 12.7 -6.0
2011 Jordy Nelson 18.6 15.2 -3.4
2011 Vincent Jackson 18.4 19.2 0.8
2011 Julio Jones 17.8 15.2 -2.6
2011 Steve L. Smith 17.6 16.1 -1.5
2011 Larry Fitzgerald 17.6 11.2 -6.4
2011 Calvin Johnson 17.6 16.1 -1.5
2011 Torrey Smith 16.8 17.9 1.1
2011 Mike Wallace 16.6 13.1 -3.5
2011 DeSean Jackson 16.6 15.4 -1.2
2011 A.J. Green 16.3 13.9 -2.4
2011 Antonio Brown 16.1 11.9 -4.2
2011 Hakeem Nicks 15.7 13.1 -2.6
2011 Anquan Boldin 15.6 14.2 -1.4
2011 Doug Baldwin 15.5 12.6 -2.9
2011 Robert Meachem 15.5 14.8 -0.7
2011 Jared Cook 15.5 11.9 -3.6
2011 Darrius Heyward-Bey 15.2 14.8 -0.4
2011 Brandon Marshall 15.0 12.8 -2.2


The good thing about the regression-busters on this list (Torrey Smith and Vincent Jackson) is they were two of the biggest deep threat weapons in the NFL. Of that list, they would be two of the players one would target as more likely to buck the trend. One of the players with the highest likelihood to fall because of their historical YPR was Larry Fitzgerald. He benefited from many big plays in 2011 and this season was no so kind to the Arizona receiver. In fact, he saw the largest fall of the entire group.

Adding that group to the prior seasons produces the following trends:


YPR Total Regress Rate Avg
18+ 13 11 85% 3.8
17+ 22 19 86% 3.3
15+ 78 66 85% 2.2


Overall, these players are seeing a reduction 85% of the time and the higher the YPR, the larger the fall the following season. Now, the important part: What players are likely to be affected in 2013. Here is the list of receivers that qualified from 2012 that have the odds stacked against them from repeating their gaudy YPR metrics:


Year Player YPR
2012 Vincent Jackson 19.2
2012 Torrey Smith 17.9
2012 Cecil Shorts 17.8
2012 T.Y. Hilton 17.2
2012 Chris Givens 16.6
2012 Nate Washington 16.2
2012 Josh Gordon 16.1
2012 Calvin Johnson 16.1
2012 Steve L. Smith 16.1
2012 Lance Moore 16.0
2012 Mike A. Williams 15.8
2012 Golden Tate 15.5
2012 Brandon Lafell 15.4
2012 DeSean Jackson 15.4
2012 Demaryius Thomas 15.3
2012 Jordy Nelson 15.2
2012 Julio Jones 15.2
2012 Sidney Rice 15.0
2012 Dez Bryant 15.0


So 2013 has 19 receivers with a 15.0+ YPR that are on the hot list. Based on the recent history of this metric, only 2-3 of them will come close to matching their efforts. Some of the names that standout are:

After having a high of 12.1 YPR over the previous four seasons, Lance Moore shot up to 16.0 in 2012. That is a huge leap for an established receiver in the same system over that span of time. That screams regression to me and a YPR of 11.0 seems more likely than 15.0 or higher in 2013. Buyers beware for owners expecting more than 1,000 yards on under 70 catches again next season.

Golden Tate also does not have a long history of big plays down the field. His YAC/Rec of 7.2 is at regression level in its own right. That makes up for the fact that his YPR saw a big jump in 2012 despite just a 10.9 aDOT. Russell Wilson’s knack for the big play down the field is a reason for optimism, but the metrics just do not add up outside of that fact. Tate is another prime candidate to regress in 2013.

Ask Chad Parsons for dynasty league advice on Twitter: @PFF_ChadParsons

Find more of our Dynasty Content here.


  • Msg

    How would the data fit if you accounted for new QBs and/or offensive playcallers?

    • http://twitter.com/PFF_ChadParsons Chad Parsons

      Msg – shifts in offensive philosophy and use for the specified player are always considerations as that changes. Those would be used to weigh this set of regression tendencies as the likelihood each player can repeat their high YPR from the previous season.

  • Captainhuggyface

    Great stuff as always, Chad.  What I find missing from these types of articles is a list of “recommended buys” based on the metric.  In this case, a list of WRs whose YPR may have dipped in 2012 and may be due for an increase in 2013?

    • http://twitter.com/PFF_ChadParsons Chad Parsons

      WRs with a low YPR have not shown a high enough chance to regress upward to include in this study. My view on that is WRs with a high YPR usually have some broken coverages/plays/long TDs that are unlikely to sustain themselves over a longer term, while those with low YPRs are probably used in a short-range way in the offense or physically-limited to pigeon-hole them into that use in the NFL.

  • CaptainHuggyFace

    There seems to be some discrepancies between the Y+1 numbers in the first table and the 2012 numbers in the last table (e.g., Torrey Smith and DeSean Jackson).

    • http://twitter.com/PFF_ChadParsons Chad Parsons

      Those were excel errors from my sheet that I copied them from. They have been corrected. Thanks for the catch.