Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Why Breakout Age is the Skeleton Key
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This spring RotoViz will roll out a book tentatively entitled Fantasy Football Cheat Codes. It may seem like there’s too much football information out there these days to ever reprise the perpetual magic of up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-b-a … but we still live very much in a pre-Moneyball world as far as the NFL is concerned. It’s a bit of an upset that we find ourselves here nearly a decade after excellent sites like Football Outsiders and Advanced NFL Stats began proselytizing the masses, but an odd thing happened on the way to statistical nirvana. While the internet brought sabermetrics to the casual baseball fan, it brought “tape grinding” to the armchair quarterback. Inspiring a cottage industry of amateur draftniks, the NFL Draft quickly became an event. The cottage morphed into a sprawling metropolis. Regardless of your take on the scouts-versus-analysts debate, this is unequivocally a good thing. It’s a good thing because what’s good for football is good for anybody who loves football, and that’s all of us. It’s also a good thing because the emphasis on tape study appears to be fueling inefficiencies that would otherwise close. As a fantasy player, you can take advantage. Last week, I proposed three components to wide receiver evaluation that are something akin to discovering a football Holy Grail (let me emphasize that I didn’t stumble across any of these elements on my own but merely compiled some info and built on the truly innovative work of people like Jon Moore, Chad Parsons, and the Fantasy Douche). Earlier this week, I looked at the top members of the 2014 draft class* and offered some very preliminary analysis suggesting the class was going to be improperly valued barring a huge turnaround in sentiment. I also proposed a conjecture: If age at draft time matters, then age at breakout probably matters too. For this article, I decided to look at this issue using the same 136-player sample from the holy grail column. I scoured the hits and misses to find out how old each player was when they “broke out.” Regular RotoViz readers are probably familiar with the Dominator Rating, our term for a player’s market share of his team’s receiving offense. In order to qualify as a “breakout,” my criterion was that the receiver needed a 0.30 Dominator Rating (average of market share touchdowns and market share yards). The results were just as striking as those in the original column, and I believe answer the question fairly definitively. In other words, a skeleton key.