One Weird Trick for Finding Top WR Prospects: Early Declaration and Draft Age – The Wrong Read, No. 53

Welcome to the 53rd installment of The Wrong Read. Does draft age really matter for wide receiver prospects? The truth may surprise you — at least if you’ve been following this column for a little while. As Karl Popper put it, the most important evolutionary advantage of the argumentative use of language is that it “allows us to let theories die in our stead.” In 2014, Chip Kelly was quoted as saying that he preferred to draft players who graduated college, or at least those who were about to graduate. The Eagles’ first six picks that year were all seniors, including wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. Kelly’s philosophy on drafting seniors appears to go against some research I’ve done previously on draft age, which shows that 21-year-old rookies outperform all other age groups throughout their careers. Finding a 21-year-old college graduate in the NFL Draft is tough, but not impossible — there have been three since 2000.1 But what if Kelly’s outlook is more problematic than just effectively eliminating the youngest group of prospects? Shawn Siegele has found that whether a player declared early for the NFL draft is an important component in projecting that player’s early career. WRs who declare early outscore seniors drafted a full round earlier over their first two years in the league. This is consistent with work I’ve done on draft age, as almost all 21-year-old rookies are players who declared early. But my question is, does declaring early mitigate the effects of draft age for older wide receivers?2
  1. None of whom have been fantasy-relevant — Maurice Stovall’s 366 receiving yards in 2009 are the most ever produced by a 21-year-old graduate in a single season.  (back)
  2. Special thanks to Shawn not only for the original insight but also for providing much of the data I’m using. Shawn’s research on the topic was sparked by questions from Matthew Freedman in his early-RotoViz role as the Dissenting Costanzan and work by Nathan Forster on Playmaker Score.  (back)

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By Blair Andrews | @AmItheRealBlair | Archive