Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wide Receiver Success Rate

I was fiddling around with my wide receiver spreadsheets, trying to tweak my formulas, and I thought it would be interesting to see how NFL teams compare to one another when it comes to making selections at this position.  This is intended to just get some vague idea as to how often teams actually manage to correctly identify quality wide receiver prospects, though it has some limitations.

First of all, this will include players selected between 2004 and 2012.  Players taken in the last few years are probably still developing, and could possibly improve the historical grade I will assign to a team.  For my purposes though, it really doesn't matter.  I'm not trying to paint any team as being incompetent, I'm just trying to get a glimpse of the overall picture.

The next issue is coming up with a way of defining what we will call a "success".  I generally set the bar at 35 yards per game played (not per game started).  This would work out to a player that averages 560 yards per year.  This isn't an exceptional amount of production, but is significantly more than most draft prospects will ever produce.  At this level, a player is at the very least rosterable, and contributing to a reasonable degree.  The reason I chose 35 yards as the cutoff point, was that it seemed to be the average result for wide receivers who were at least given significant enough playing time to prove themselves, one way or the other.  I'm sure somebody will want to argue about this, and suggest a better method of defining what "average" is, so feel free to suggest something better.  I'm just shooting for simplicity.

I'll explore wide receivers in more depth later, but for now here is how things worked out.  Beside each team's name I will give the number of wideouts they have drafted since 2004, as well as what percentage of them managed to at least reach my magical line of mediocrity.  Receivers who were undrafted, such as Victor Cruz or Miles Austin, aren't included in this examination.  Teams only get credit for players they actually used a draft pick on.

Team                   # of Wideouts Taken              Overall Success Rate
49ers                                    13                                           15.38%
Bears                                     9                                            33.33%
Bengals                                 15                                           13.33%
Bills                                       7                                             28.57%
Broncos                                8                                               50%
Browns                                10                                              30%
Buccaneers                          10                                              10%
Cardinals                              7                                             57.14%
Chargers                               5                                               20%
Chiefs                                  12                                             8.33%
Colts                                     6                                             50%
Cowboys                              6                                             33%
Dolphins                               8                                             12.5%
Eagles                                   7                                            57.14%
Falcons                                 8                                             50%
Giants                                   8                                             38.57%
Jaguars                                11                                             36.36%
Jets                                       8                                             28.57%
Lions                                    8                                              37.5%
Packers                                9                                            44.44%
Panthers                               8                                             12.5%
Patriots                                 7                                                 0%  
Raiders                                13                                           15.38%
Rams                                   11                                           18.18%
Ravens                                12                                            16.66%
Redskins                              7                                             14.28%
Saints                                   7                                             28.57%
Seahawks                            7                                                  0%
Steelers                                9                                             33.33%
Texans                                 8                                                 0%
Titans                                  13                                             15.38%
Vikings                                10                                              20%

The league-wide median success rate would be 22.5%.  From 2004 to 2012, 287 wide receivers have been drafted, and 70 (24.39%) of them managed to become at least average by my definition of the word.  For teams like the Broncos, Cardinals, Colts, Eagles, Falcons, and Packers, congratulations, you are probably doing something right (and having a good quarterback might be biggest factor).  For everybody else, well, you might as well be blindly pulling names out of a hat.

The average NFL team has spent about 9 draft picks on the wide receiver position during this time frame.  If your team has used more picks than this, while having a success rate below 24.39%, it would seem that there are two possibilities that could explain what is going wrong.  They are either mind bogglingly unlucky, or they are are actively pursuing bozos.  A purge of the scouting department would seem to be in order, as a computer spreadsheet of combine data and college stats would probably do a better job.

Update: 8/1/13 - You can also go to the post Wide Receiver Success Rate part 2, to see what happens when we raise the bar to 45 yards per game.  In this post, I list who these receivers are, and get into what traits they all might all have in common.

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