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5 Year Fantasy Analysis - Wide Receivers
by David M. Dorey
July 10, 2003
 
Quarterback Running Back Wide Receiver Tight End Kickers Defenses

  1998 Pts 1999 Pts 2000 Pts 2001 Pts 2002 Pts
1 R Moss 230 M Harrison 234 R Moss 228 M Harrison 233 M Harrison 234
2 A Freeman 222 R Moss 210 T Owens 219 T Owens 233 H Ward 218
3 T Owens 201 C Carter 198 R Smith 218 D Boston 205 T Owens 217
4 E Moulds 182 J Smith 194 M Harrison 217 R Smith 199 E Moulds 182
5 K Johnson 178 M Robinson 188 D Alexander 195 R Moss 179 R Moss 177
6 T Mathis 172 I Bruce 187 T Holt 194 J Smith 178 A Toomer 176
7 J Rice 165 P Jeffers 177 I Bruce 193 J Horn 174 P Price 172
8 C Carter 165 G Crowell 175 E McCaffrey 181 T Holt 170 J Horn 169
9 J Galloway 163 M Westbrook 172 J Horn 176 T Brown 166 P Burress 169
10 R Smith 162 M Muhammad 167 C Carter 173 D Mason 162 D Driver 161
11 J Smith 162 T Brown 165 T Brown 172 J Rice 160 J Rice 159
12 E McCaffrey 161 K Johnson 158 J Smith 163 C Conway 158 L Coles 156
13 W Chrebet 149 R Ismail 155 E Moulds 158 K Johnson 158 K Robinson 152
14 R Ismail 149 A Connell 148 A Toomer 158 T Brown 151 M Booker 151
15 T Martin 148 A Toomer 146 D Boston 151 M Booker 150 T Holt 148
16 T Brown 146 Q Ismail 140 M Muhammad 147 D Jackson 149 I Bruce 145
17 O Mcduffie 140 D Scott 139 K McCardell 143 K McCardell 142 C Johnson 142
18 L Shepherd 129 K Johnson 139 A Freeman 139 Q Ismail 141 J Smith 141
19 C Pickens 126 E McCaffrey 137 W Chrebet 133 B Schroeder 141 R Gardner 141
20 M Muhammad 126 A Freeman 137 K Johnson 129 I Bruce 140 Q Morgan 137
21 F Sanders 125 E Moulds 136 T Glenn 127 J Morton 135 K Johnson 136
22 H Moore 122 J Morton 135 I Hilliard 122 L Coles 135 C Conway 128
23 B Engram 121 D Mayes 135 T Brown 118 P Price 134 R Smith 126
24 K McCardell 120 S Dawkins 134 B Schroeder 117 J Thrash 130 J Galloway 125

Rank 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
1 230 234 228 233 234
2 222 210 219 233 218
3 201 198 218 205 217
4 182 194 217 199 182
5 178 188 195 179 177
6 172 187 194 178 176
Top 6 1185 1211 1271 1227 1204
7 165 177 193 174 172
8 165 175 181 170 169
9 163 172 176 166 169
10 162 167 173 162 161
11 162 165 172 160 159
12 161 158 163 158 156
7 - 12 978 1014 1058 990 986
13 149 155 158 158 152
14 149 148 158 151 151
15 148 146 151 150 148
16 146 140 147 149 145
17 140 139 143 142 142
18 129 139 139 141 141
19 126 137 133 141 141
20 126 137 129 140 137
21 125 136 127 135 136
22 122 135 122 135 128
23 121 135 118 134 126
24 120 134 117 130 125
13-24 1601 1681 1642 1706 1672
Total 3764 3906 3971 3923 3862

Receivers are the best place to find gems deep in the draft and is the position with the greatest depth since each NFL team makes significant use of two or three. Having a nice set of receivers cannot make up for a poor set of runningbacks but coupled with at least average or better runningbacks equal a winning combination for a fantasy team.

Most season yields three 200+ point receivers, yielding the standard "Big 3" for any given position. The step down to the rest is not nearly as pronounced as is seen in other positions. There is an advantage to having a top receiver, about 50 points a season or three points a game overall between the best and the sixth best.

That difference is smoothed out dramatically in the next levels, with small incremental changes from player to player down through the top 24 receivers. The difference between the best and sixth may be 50 points, but the difference between that sixth and twelfth is only about one point a game. Whoopee.

After the top 24 receivers, the decline in scoring is smoother than any other position because there are far more worthwhile receivers in fantasy terms due to each team employing two or three of them in their offensive scheme. And given the fact that receivers are notoriously inconsistent anyway makes folly of scooping up guys too early once the top six are gone. Since they are among the hardest to predict, your chances are better served with getting value elsewhere where the decline is much more rapid like receivers or even backup quarterbacks.

The top six receivers are getting better the last two years at remaining at the top. You can thank Marvin
Top 6 WR next year became:
  98 99 00 01 Avg
Top 6 1 2 4 3 2.5
7-12 0 3 1 0 1
13-24 3 0 0 2 1.3
Deeper 2 1 1 1 1.3
Harrison, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens for that by placing them at the top of your draft board in which ever order makes sense to you. They are the most consistent, productive receivers in a position that is normally not either. Taking a Top 6 receiver from the season before has not been fruitful outside of those three players. On the plus side, you normally do not get too burned if you pick the wrong one since only one of the six will drop off the map and normally injury has to do with it. This season that means besides the big three, Ward, Moulds and Toomer should drop out of the Top 6 and are just as likely to cascade beyond the Top 12.

Selecting a receiver that finished from 7th to 12th rarely ends up with a better than expected next season.
7th - 12th WR next year became:
  98 99 00 01 Avg
Top 6 2 0 1 0 0.8
7-12 0 1 2 2 1.3
13-24 1 1 1 2 1.3
Deeper 3 4 2 2 2.8
Normally four of the six will not perform as well and at least two of them will end up being replaced on your team during the season.

Price, Horn, Burress, Rice, Coles and Driver all seem to be in situations to do well, but it is a safe bet that only two of them will likely perform as well. Horn is getting older and Rice is already old. Price and Coles have changed teams. Only Driver and Burress seem to have all the variables going for them but that is no guarantee.

Those receivers that were #2 on fantasy teams last season, ending 13th to 24th in performance last season,
13th-24th WR next year became:
  98 99 00 01 Avg
Top 6 3 2 5 3 3.3
7-12 0 4 3 2 2.3
13-24 4 1 1 4 2.5
Deeper 5 5 3 3 4

are as likely to fall as they are to rise. The good news is that about three of them will fill in the top six but three others will get worse. Considering where they can be drafted, having a 75% chance of them at least playing as well is a good bet and it is from this level you should be taking your #2 and #3 receivers. That is actually one of the most predictable groupings for any position from year to year.

The group composed of Robinson, Booker, Holt, Bruce, Chad Johnson, Jimmy Smith, Gardner, Morgan, Keyshawn Johnson, Conway, Rod Smith and Galloway will be putting at least two players into the Top 6 for 2003. Bruce, Jimmy and Keyshawn Johnson, Rod Smith and Galloway are all older players seemingly on the decline. Conway changes teams and Holt and Bruce await proof that Warner A shows up instead of Warner B. Most well positioned by this would seem Robinson, Chad Johnson, Gardner or Morgan but with any receiver you can find downsides that will impact them if only from their quarterback.

Since those Top 12 receivers are the main difference makers in the position, where did they come from? Last season saw a low of only four of them coming from the Top 12 of the past season and each season normally sees around five of them that are breaking out or finally returning to high scoring ways after some time away.
Top 12 WR was what the prior season?
  99 00 01 02 Avg
Top 6 2 5 5 3 3.8
7-12 2 1 3 1 2.8
13-24 2 1 0 3 1.5
Deeper 6 5 4 5 5
What the position essentially shows is that players develop or become valuable in an offense over time, and that can be forecasted with some success with the third year receivers or "second year with the team" players. None of the top 12 were new to their team and none of them were rookies.

What the past five seasons has shown is that there are Owens, Moss and Harrison as resident great receivers and a smattering of good but not great others. The difference in scoring supports the idea that once the top half dozen or so runningbacks are gone, taking a top three receiver makes sense as long as you are able to still get two decent backs in your next two picks. With less sleeper backs expected this season, even taking a top three receiver may not be as great a net advantage as securing a back and holding off and raiding the 13th to 24th group from last year..

This position takes time to develop and is a bit more stable than others once success is reached. There are enough breakout performances that come from deeper in your draft for receivers to make taking other positions a bigger priority early on.

Quarterback Running Back Wide Receiver Tight End Kickers Defenses