The 2017 Phenom Index for Rookie Wide Receivers

The NFL Combine gets under way later this week, which means we’re officially in the thick of prospect season. As such, I’ve been invited back to write another edition of the Phenom Index, which has been posted at RotoViz every year since 2014.

What is the Phenom Index?

In the same way that #TeamRotoViz uses various metrics that contextualize a player’s performance,1 the Phenom Index is my way of incorporating a player’s age into their evaluation. Why is this important? Consider that among the 2017 wide receiver class, the youngest prospect is 20.1 and the oldest is 25.3. Don’t you think five years — or even two years — is worth accounting for? Case in point, Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp is two months OLDER than 2014 draftees Mike Evans and Allen Robinson. Yes, really. To be clear, being an older prospect doesn’t mean you can’t be good, it just means the expectations are different; Keyshawn Johnson and Marvin Harrison are great examples of this. Also, for everyone thinking “yea, but these guys are only going to be in the league for a few years. Who cares how old they are?” The point here has nothing to do with career longevity. The matter at hand is figuring out how talented a player actually is. A 20 year old dominating defensive backs who are 21 or 22 is much more impressive than a 23 or 24 year old doing the same. The Phenom Index is calculated by looking at player’s age and their final season market share of receiving yards and bolting them together using z-scores. Typically, I like to think about this as a filter for finding young, talented players who could emerge to be among the game’s best within three seasons. There’s no magic threshold for being an NFL success, but the average Phenom score of the top 12 fantasy receivers in the NFL last year was 1.98. Two years ago the average was 2.47. It’s incredibly rare for a player to have a score below zero and turn into a premier fantasy option. Here is a look at how the Phenom Index related to 2016’s top fantasy receivers, with the 2015 stats in parenthesis.
  • Lowest PI score in cohort of top 12 receivers: 0.27 Michael Thomas2 (0.31 – Doug Baldwin)
  • Median PI score in cohort of top 12 receivers: 1.95 (2.20)
  • Average PI score in cohort of top 12 receivers: 1.98 (2.47)
  • Highest PI score in cohort of top 12 receivers: 3.98 – Amari Cooper (4.44 – Allen Robinson)

Phenom Index scores for 2017 wide receiver prospects

I’ve sorted the table to display the top 20 scores for the 2017 class, but there are nearly 130 total scores included below for you to explore. Also, because combine invites seem to matter, I’ve indicated that. If you want to check out historical scores, there were nearly 800 published in the 2015 edition of this article and 130+ in the 2016 edition. 3
  1. i.e. market share, which adjusts for quality of offense  (back)
  2. Michael Thomas’ birth year has been a point of contention for many people for a long time — Mike himself even responded to me then quickly deleted it — but this number is based on the birth year provided by NFL.com and this score reflects a different number than what appears in last year’s article since I mistakenly updated it to reflect his false 1994 birth year.  (back)
  3. with every passing year, a player’s score is liable to change ever so slightly. This is because I update the averages and standard deviations used to create z-scores with the addition of every new draft class  (back)

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By Jon Moore | @HelloJonMoore | Archive