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What does an elite fantasy football wide receiver look like?
It’s a simple question with complicated answers. Odell Beckham has different measurables than Julio Jones who has different measurables than Antonio Brown. They beat their opponent in different ways. That said, when we take a broad view of elite fantasy football wide receivers, we start to see commonalities.
There are 33 different wideouts who have cracked the top-10 in PPR fantasy points per game over the last six seasons. For the purpose of this article, I’ll call them elites. Here’s a look at the measurable data with an eye on this year’s class.
Height and weight have a strong correlation with red-zone targets and therefore touchdowns, but the impact of TDs is weakened in DraftKings’ full-PPR and 100-yard bonus format. We can see it in last season’s results, as Doug Baldwin and Brandin Cooks both finished in the top-10 despite standing at just 5-foot-10. It’s surprisingly common as 12 of the 33 elites (36.3 percent) have been 5-foot-11 or under. So it would be a mistake to write off intriguing sub-six foot prospects such as Washington’s John Ross, Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor and Louisiana Tech’s Carlos Henderson.
In terms of weight, 100 percent of the 33 elites weighed at least 183 pounds. It gives us a clear minimum threshold. Baylor’s KD Cannon, a mere late-round flier, came in at 182 pounds. John Ross met the threshold at 188 pounds but has a concerning injury history which includes a torn ACL and labrum surgery.
When it comes to raw, straight-line speed we have a strong minimum threshold as 30-of-33 elites (90.9%) have run under 4.60. The only players to crack the top-10 in PPR without that speed are Keenan Allen (4.71), Allen Robinson (4.60) and Wes Welker (4.65). It’s bad news for Cooper Kupp, who ran a 4.62 in Indy. The next threshold is running under 4.55, which isn’t quite as important as only 72.7 percent of the elites did it.
From a broad perspective, forty times are overrated as these are a sampling of players who each ran slower than 4.50 at their Combine: Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Josh Gordon, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas, Allen Robinson, Brandon Marshall, Antonio Brown. So while John Ross’ outlier speed certainly projects to help him, Mike Williams’ 4.49 vs. Taywan Taylor’s 4.50 isn’t going to be a deciding factor in their NFL success.
A whopping 89.6 percent of the aforementioned 33 elites posted a vertical leap of at least 35 inches. The only ones who didn’t were Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, A.J. Green and Wes Welker. That’s very bad news for projected first-round pick Mike Williams of Clemson, who only posted a 32.5-inch vertical. Other prospects falling below the 35-inch threshold include Taywan Taylor (33.5 inches), Cooper Kupp (31) and Juju Smith-Schuster (32.5).
The minimum threshold for the broad jump is also clear. A strong 80.7 percent of the elites have recorded a broad of at least 129 inches. The only elites to leap under that threshold were Greg Jennings, Wes Welker, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins and Randall Cobb. So only Ohio State hybrid RB/WR Curtis Samuel falls under the minimum in this class. That said, Clemson’s Mike Williams’ 121-broad is very low and is a slight concern when coupled with his poor vertical (see above).
The average measurables of the elites are 6’1/208, 4.49 forty, 36-inch vertical, 123-inch broad jump. The only wideout in the 2017 class to meet that profile is Penn State’s Chris Godwin. Of course, using the average is interesting here but merely one data point as plenty of elites haven’t met that average. Equally important are the minimum thresholds discussed – note that last year Laquon Treadwell was below the minimum in forty (4.63), vertical (33 inches) and broad jump (117 inches). He went on to have zero impact as a rookie, catching one pass all season while being a healthy scratch seven times.
In terms of trends, the perfect WR would look something like this: At least 6-foot-0, at least 205 pounds, sub-4.50 speed, at least 35-inch vertical and at least 120-inch broad jump. The man in this class who meets all those parameters is the aforementioned Godwin. Corey Davis, might, but we don’t know his athletic results due to ankle surgery. Zay Jones is close, only missing by a few pounds (he checked in at 201). Here are the measurables of this year’s top-15 wideouts:
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is AdamLevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.