2017 Senior WRs: 4 Rookie Bargains and a Potential Star
Since we began working on wide receivers with the birth of RotoViz in 2013, we’ve written hundreds of articles on the position. Most of them arrive at the same conclusion: Understanding age-adjusted market share production allows you to hack the NFL’s evaluation process and get tremendous bargains at the position.
This was the message of Jon Moore’s Phenom Index, RotoDoc’s rookie WR model, Kevin Cole’s regression tree analysis, and my research that led to the selection of Stefon Diggs as last year’s breakout star.
In Part 1, I mentioned some of the components likely to be included in the machine-learning model RotoDoc and Josh Hermsmeyer are currently building. Before we get to that point, it’s helpful to build a solid foundation. In this series, I will attempt to present the career raw and market share production of the 2017 class in an apples-to-apples format. Each experience sub-group will get their own article.
* Market share yards (msYD) and market share TDs (msTD) represent the percentage of the team’s receiving yardage accounted for by the prospect. Games missed due to injury are removed. Games without a catch due to coach’s decision are included.1
* Recruit rankings are from 247 Sports unless otherwise stipulated.
* Age, when available, is taken from the Rookie Age Database.
Noel Thomas, Connecticut, 22.3
It doesn’t appear that Thomas will be drafted, but he’s worth noting due to an extraordinary senior season. When you go for 1,179 yards in only 12 games for a team that barely eclipsed 2,400 . . . that’s something special.
R.J. Shelton, Michigan State, 22.7
Shelton doesn’t have the career numbers of a legitimate NFL prospect, but his final season performance did surpass many of the bigger names. He also averaged more than 20 carries per season and totaled over 500 yards rushing.
DeAngelo Yancey, Purdue, 22.1
Yancey is a former three-star recruit who put himself on the fringes of the draft radar with a solid senior season for the Boilermakers.
Yancey’s overall resume probably relegates him to practice squad consideration in 2017, but he flashed in his final campaign with 19.4 yards per catch and double-digit touchdowns.
Keevan Lucas, Tulsa, 21.7
I penned a Bowl Series article on Lucas and called him one of the draft’s biggest sleepers. After tearing a patellar tendon four games into his junior season, he came roaring back as a senior.
Lucas frequently played inside at Tulsa and may be a slot threat at the NFL level, but he’s a scoring machine with two double-digit TD seasons and a career mark above 40 percent market share. A quick perusal of his collegiate highlights reveals multiple instances of leaping, spinning one-handed grabs.
Corey Davis, Isaiah Ford, Cooper Kupp, and Kenny Golladay are the only other players with similar or better career resumes in this class.
Fred Ross, Mississippi State, 21.6
Ross was the No. 25 WR recruit for 2013. He didn’t play much as a true freshman but really came on down the stretch of his career.
Ross gained almost 2,000 yards receiving over his final two seasons and posted an excellent senior campaign with a 35 percent yardage share. His 12 TDs represented 52 percent of the team’s receiving scores. While Ross is a marginal prospect based on his 19 percent career msYD, he’s someone to keep on your radar if an impressive offseason leads to a draft day surprise.
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech, 22.7
La Tech’s diminutive possession receiver was a raw stats monster, but his advanced stats are impressive as well.
In examining Taylor before his bowl game, I called him the most underrated possession receiver in this class. He evidently agreed, because he went out and eviscerated Navy to the tune of 12-233-2.
Ryan Switzer, North Carolina, 22.2
Switzer only comes in at No. 23 in the most recent RotoViz Scouting Index, but some services see the possession receiver as a competitor for one of the first 10 receiver spots in this draft.
With a peak Dominator Rating in the mid-20s and poor career numbers to boot, I’d target other possession threats.
Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M, 21.8
Reynolds played his freshman season at Tyler Junior College where he was second team all-conference with 782 yards and 12 TDs. Getting that valuable experience probably skews his career market share numbers compared to the four-year Division I players, but there’s a lot to like in his resume.
Reynolds can find the end zone with 30 career scores, and his senior season flashed from a raw yards (1,039), yards per catch (17.0), market share yards (0.31), and market share TDs (0.48) perspective. He’s commonly mocked into late Round 4 of the reality draft, a slot which would put him squarely into the third round conversation in dynasty rookie drafts.
Stacy Coley, Miami, 22.6
Coley was the No. 7 WR recruit in the 2013 class. This may help explain his inclusion in the draft discussion despite paltry career numbers.
Coley scored 20 career TDs, but his yardage numbers do not paint him as an NFL prospect. He received some mid-season buzz, but it’s difficult to square with his results. Coley only reached 100 yards once. By contrast, he was held under 60 yards on eight occasions.
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky, 21.7
Taylor finished his career with back-to-back monster seasons, especially his 2016 campaign where he finished third in the nation with 1,730 receiving yards. He separates himself from the rest of the high-yardage receivers with his combination of yards per catch (17.7) and TDs (17). If reports about his athleticism are correct, he may be a higher-upside version of Biletnikoff winner Dede Westbrook.
Zay Jones, East Carolina, 21.7
Jones finished the 2016 season with 1,746 yards, good for second in the nation. While it doesn’t help his NFL projection, you have to love that he hauled in 158 passes and finished one short of a staggering 400 for his career. He’s probably overvalued in Round 3 of the reality draft, but it’s such a tremendous story that I hope I’m wrong.
Corey Davis, Western Michigan, 21.9
Nothing screams consistently elite like a career yardage share of 40 percent and a TD share over 50. To do it on the back of 5,278 yards and 52 TDs is ungodly. These are Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, and Dez Bryant numbers.
We don’t know what Davis would have accomplished playing for a power conference school or how his market share numbers might have suffered if surrounded by the talent of a team like Clemson, but we do know the 2016 Broncos were hardly overmatched by Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. Davis also averaged 5.8 catches for 78 yards and 0.6 TDs in nine career games against the Big 10, an impressive feat when you consider that Davis would have been the defensive focal point in contests played in hostile venues.
Here are the 40-plus market share guys from the Box Score Scout. Seeing Charles Rogers is heartbreaking for Lions fans, but injury trouble combined with drug addiction can derail any career.
The Senior Class
|Player||Final msYD||Best msYD||Career msYD|
For nine of these players, their final yardage share also represented their peak share. This helps provide an explanation of why seniors tend to be overvalued in the draft. In order to post draft-worthy seasons, most of them needed to keep playing at an age and experience level where they have an advantage over younger players and at a time when most of the true prospects are already in the NFL.
This is obviously not the case for Davis, who recorded four seasons in a very tight window. Jones, Lucas, and both Taylors also managed multiple elite seasons. I would certainly be very interested if they land in good destinations.
In most cases, the draft buzz seems appropriate for these prospects. The disconnect between results and age/experience is a larger concern for someone like Westbrook, a player I didn’t cover in this group because he played only two years at the Division I level and is five years removed from high school.
Check out the full 2017 market share results in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Market Share Database.
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- Occasionally these can be difficult to differentiate. An effort has been made to represent these accurately. Please let me know if you see an error. (back)