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Fantasy Football: Pre-combine 2022 rookie wide receiver fantasy model

Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Treylon Burks (16) runs for a touchdown after making a catch against Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama won 42-35. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

In this analysis of 2022 NFL Draft prospects at the wide receiver position, I’m going to detail the quantitative process behind the results, including the importance of different features and how assumed draft position (via GrindingTheMocks), age and production markers all blend into a single prediction. In this case, the prediction will be focused on fantasy results, specifically the number of top-12 weekly finishes at the position over the prospect's first three NFL seasons. We could extend the window further to cover a player’s entire career, but the point in the real NFL draft and the fantasy rookie counterparts is to see a return on investment earlier rather than later.

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This analysis will cover all wide receivers from the 2022 class currently on the PFF Big Board, using their assumed weights and actual production figures to forecast fantasy success.

METHODOLOGY

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
  • Best-season market share of team receiving yards
  • Career market share of team receiving touchdowns
  • Draft age
  • Weight
  • Best-season yards per route run
  • Best-season yards per reception

Draft position is the most important feature in predicting fantasy success for wide receivers, followed by production.

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 having to split workloads. To account for this, 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 who are assumed to be drafted in the top-100 picks.

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2022 WIDE RECEIVER CLASS

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