Great Young NFL Receivers Were Probably Also Great Young College Receivers
This is going to be a quick post as Shawn Siegele, Jon Moore, James Todd and I all work furiously to take all of the meat off of the WR Age bone. The concept of college WR breakout age that has been advanced thus far has relied on specifying an age for a receiver that he would have played an entire college season under. I’ve been doing some work to try to make that concept a little more granular by figuring the age that a player was on each game day that he played in college. The graph below is a result of that work.
What I’ve done is taken WRs over the past decade or so where I was able to get their date of birth from PFR, and match it to their college playing career. That gave me an age for the player for every game. So instead of saying that a player was 19 years old when the season started (and who know, they might have been a few days shy of 20), I can say that on the date that they recorded a .45 Dominator Rating versus Alabama, they were 19.9 years old. Then I mapped those ages to their first three year pro performance and split the receivers into 4 groups based on whether they produced a lot or a little. Roughly each of the groups in the graph below represents about 20 yards receiving per game in a player’s first three years. So the first group is under 20 yards receiving per game. The points are individual games where the x-axis is mapped to age and the y-axis is mapped to Dominator Rating for the game. Some additional thoughts below the graph.
- The big picture takeaway is that the best performing pro receivers (Group 4) were good in college almost immediately. The trend for that group is a 30% DR at 18.5 years old and then hits about 40% at 22 years old. For examples: Julio Jones overtopped a 30% DR during his season that he played on average at 19.7 years old. Hakeem Nicks had a DR that could have been rounded up to 30% during a season that he played on average at 18.8 years old. Keenan Allen overtopped 30% during a season that he played on average at 18.5 years old. I’ll try to get a separate post together that will show more DR and average ages.
- In addition to the fact that the best group were good early, they also left early. I don’t have any games played in that group for guys that were older than 22.5 in college.
- The Group 3 subset appears to start a little slower than the Group 4 subset, as the trend at 18 is roughly 25% DR, and they also stay in college a little longer. You can see data points extending into ages 23 and 24. But at age 22.5 (the last age we have recorded for the Group 4 WRs) the trend for the Group 3 players is under 40%. So the Group 4 players start faster and still end their college careers with a DR above the trend of the Group 3 players at the same age.
- That same thing happens as you continue down to the Group 1 and 2 WRs. They start slower (DRs under 20% at age 18) and are well under the DR trend of the Group 4 players at age 22.5.
- One additional exercise that we might be able to do with this information is to plot prospect games against what we know about the trends of current NFL receivers.
Here’s a graph which shows some select WRs and the DRs they posted in various games (and ages).
Maybe a simple way to think up these graphs is that upper left is a really good place for the trend to reside (young and dominant) and lower right starts to get more problematic.
I’m sure we’ll put out about 87 more age related posts between now and draft day. Ultimately we’ll need to start working things in the other direction so that we can tell you the approximate odds that a player with X Dominator Rating ever becomes a productive NFL receiver. More to come on that front.