You Had One Job: Target-to-Catch Analysis of Top 2017 Rookie WRs
Believe it or not, 2QB strategy isn’t all about the quarterbacks. In my preferred format, two-quarterback dynasty, I like to draft quarterbacks in the first and second rounds, to have the long-term assets locked up early. When you do that, you must have smarter analysis of the other positions and find the deals elsewhere. One way I do this is to make sure the rookie dynasty receivers I draft afterwards have a high target-to-catch rate in their last year of college.
Now, up front, let me be honest – when I say “smarter analysis”, there’s a level that’s generally beyond me. True expert analysts and their analysis like Matt Harmon’s #ReceptionPerception or Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Profile (RSP) are what most people go to for the details. My own view of it doesn’t include the number or type of routes run, the quality of the quarterback or system they’re in, etc. I look up at those rookie wide receiver analysts from my “hack” level. However, for my purposes, I boil all the receiver analysis down to one number and I put out a single article each year called “YOU HAD ONE JOB!”
If you want to skip to what’s important for me, it’s the target-to-catch rate. No matter what college program you’re in or who’s throwing you the ball, if it’s in the air coming your way, you’d better damn well catch it. That’s your job. That doesn’t mean that a team’s third receiver, who sees 50 passes a year will be a top player in NFL fantasy – you still need the opportunity. But most of the wide receivers drafted in the top two rounds will have that WR1 opportunity someday.
A pass-catcher who doesn’t catch a high number of targets thrown their way won’t be a “top” receiver for long. The NFL doesn’t work like that, usually. For existing NFL players, you can look up their targets to catches numbers easily at ESPN. At the top end of receiving stats, you can see Michael Thomas and Doug Baldwin led the pack, respectively, with 75.4% and 74.6% of their targets caught. On the tight end side, Travis Kelce caught 72.6% of his targets last year. Obviously these are players to target, whether you’re a quarterback… Or a fantasy owner.
For rookie wide receivers target-to-catch numbers, you have to dig a bit deeper to get the data…
The top drafted wide receivers in 2017 were:
Corey Davis at 1.05
Mike Williams at 1.07
John Ross at 1.09
Zay Jones at 2.05
Curtis Samuel at 2.08
JuJu Smith-Schuster at 2.30
A good source to find college target-to-reception stats comes from Bill Connelly’s advanced WR stats database, where the below numbers are culled from. Note these are sorted by catch rate.
You might notice Curtis Samuel is not on this list, and that’s because he was classified as a running back at Ohio State. On the running back tab in Bill’s data you can see he caught 74-of-97 targets for a catch rate of 76.3%. You must take running back numbers with a grain of salt though, as their average yards per catch are typically lower than those of the the wide receiver position. They catch closer to the line of scrimmage, essentially. Samuel’s was a respectable 11.7 yards per catch though, so he could go either way. From my view, he might be a PPR machine in a Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead role, but I doubt he’ll ever be a true WR1.
A quick look at a few of the top drafted players show that Zay Jones had a spectacular target to catch ratio at 71.5%, with a very large sample size of attempts. He’s my value rookie wide receiver for this year.
So when you use this 2QB dynasty strategy of drafting quarterbacks first, you might have Andrew Luck and Marcus Mariota as your quarterbacks, Michael Thomas, Doug Baldwin and Zay Jones as your wide receivers, and Travis Kelce as your tight end. That’s a lot of talented passing and catching, with a ton of years of PPR production ahead of them.
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