Earlier this offseason, I took an initial shot at projecting the 2022 NFL Draft wide receiver and running back classes into the NFL after they completed their NFL Scouting Combine workout. In this piece, I’m updating the pre-draft projections now that we have the actual NFL draft positions.
In this analysis of 2022 NFL Draft prospects at the wide receiver position, we'll detail the quantitative process behind the results, including the importance of different features and how draft position, age, athletic traits and production markers all blend into a single prediction. In this case, the prediction will be focused on fantasy football results, specifically the percentile for projected top-12 fantasy weeks at the position over the prospect's first two NFL seasons. We could extend the window further to cover a player’s entire career, but the point in the real NFL draft and fantasy rookie drafts is to see a return on investment earlier rather than later.
This analysis will cover all wide receivers from the 2022 class who were selected in the NFL draft.
This analysis uses what is known as an ensemble model, or a blend of the results from different models which are then blended together to form a single, and hopefully more precise, final prediction. One of the models is tree-based, the other linear. The historical data from previous wide receiver classes from 2006 through 2019 were used to train the models, including the number of actual top-12 weekly fantasy finishes for those previously drafted wide receivers. The historical fantasy finishes are based on points-per-reception (PPR) scoring.
The features for each wide receiver in the models are as follows, ordered by relative importance and statistical significance. The stats are from the prospects’ best statistical season in which they played at least five games and logged at least 25 targets:
- Draft position
- Career market share of team receiving yards
- Draft age
- Career market share of team receiving touchdowns
- Best-season market share of team receiving yards
- Best-season yards per route run
- Hand size
- 40-yard dash time
- Best-season yards per reception
- 10-yard split time
- Vertical jump
Draft position is the most important feature in predicting fantasy success for wide receivers, followed by production and athletic measurements. While my research shows that NFL Scouting Combine results have a significantly greater impact on draft position than actual NFL value and production, I’m including some measurements and drills that show a correlation with NFL success.
Higher-drafted wide receivers at top programs are more often coming from receiving groups with two, three and even four drafted players, thereby diluting their shares of team production due to split workloads. To account for that, I adjusted up the career shares of team receiving yards and touchdowns for wide receivers by the number of wide receivers they played with during their careers. Each is assumed to be drafted in the top 100 picks.
I also included in the tables my estimation for the amount of opportunity each receiver’s landing spot affords them for rookie production. While the opportunity score (“Opp Score”) is not part of the percentile model projection, it is an important piece of context to keep in mind when thinking about the likelihood of success for receivers in the same tier in terms of projected success. You can find the details of the methodology I used to calculate the opportunity scores for rookie wide receivers here.
2022 WIDE RECEIVER CLASS
Two wide receivers stand above the rest according to my projections, the first and last to come off of the board in the first round of the NFL draft. Drake London and Treylon Burks have the exact same percentile score, which is strong at above the 90th percentile but not as good as we saw for a few receivers in last year’s class.
Despite the lower draft position, Burks evens out with London due to generally better production numbers. Burks also landed with the second-best team in terms of rookie production opportunity, which is already being reflected by his class-leading receiving yards and touchdown props in betting markets.