True Fantasy Points: 2015 Wide Receiver Projections

A stats-based guide for identifying "true" wide receiver talent in fantasy drafts.

So far in this series, I’ve used True Fantasy Points (TFP) to identify a handful of quarterbacks and running backs with projections for 2015 that far exceed or fall short of their “true” fantasy scoring ability. Today, I’ll do the same for wide receivers. The methods I’ll be using remain almost entirely the same, so feel free to click on either of the above links if you’re unfamiliar with how the system works.

There is one major difference, though. Fantasy-relevant receiving stats for wide receivers “stabilize” (i.e., become reliable indicators of “true” skill) at different points than they do for running backs:

The take-home message from these differences is that touchdown rate is the main thing that separates wide receivers from running backs in terms of our ability to trust the past when trying to predict the future. In fact, whereas only six fantasy-relevant running backs have run 1,063 routes or more with their current team, 29 wide receivers have run 882 routes or more. The end result is that, say, Lamar Miller’s actual 0.16% TDPRR in Miami (i.e., 1 touchdown in 620 routes) is father away from his “true” 0.39% TDPRR than Cole Beasley’s actual 0.97% TDPRR in Dallas (i.e., 6 touchdowns in 620 routes) is from his “true” 1.11% TDPRR.

true rprr, yprr, & tdprr for 2015

So where do all 73 fantasy-relevant wide receivers stand according to True RPRR, True YPRR, and True TDPRR? That information is in the table below (sorted from highest to lowest True YPRR):

NameTmPrev RRPrev RecsPrev YdsPrev TDsTrue RPRRRkTrue YPRRRkTrue TDPRRRk
Odell Beckham Jr NYG 476 91 1305 12 17.55% 3 2.38 1 1.67% 4
Demaryius Thomas DEN 2175 351 5313 41 15.93% 8 2.37 2 1.69% 3
Antonio Brown PIT 2167 390 5203 28 17.64% 1 2.33 3 1.27% 20
A.J. Green CIN 2059 329 4874 35 15.78% 10 2.30 4 1.55% 7
Julio Jones ATL 1832 278 4330 26 15.03% 16 2.29 5 1.35% 12
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 574 101 1404 9 16.60% 4 2.23 6 1.35% 13
Calvin Johnson DET 4611 643 10408 74 13.93% 26 2.23 7 1.54% 8
Victor Cruz NYG 1740 264 3963 24 15.02% 17 2.21 8 1.32% 15
DeSean Jackson WAS 479 56 1169 6 12.22% 43 2.21 9 1.23% 23
Martavis Bryant PIT 200 26 549 8 13.28% 35 2.20 10 1.73% 2
Randall Cobb GB 1379 226 3049 25 16.05% 7 2.15 11 1.58% 6
Anquan Boldin SF 1007 168 2241 12 16.19% 5 2.14 12 1.20% 28
Dez Bryant DAL 2585 381 5440 56 14.66% 20 2.08 13 1.92% 1
Vincent Jackson TB 1721 220 3610 17 12.86% 38 2.06 14 1.06% 46
Steve Smith BAL 494 79 1065 6 15.33% 12 2.04 15 1.21% 24
T.Y. Hilton IND 1584 215 3289 19 13.57% 31 2.04 16 1.20% 26
Golden Tate DET 626 99 1331 4 15.30% 13 2.04 17 0.97% 60
Roddy White ATL 4594 706 9409 59 15.30% 14 2.04 18 1.27% 19
Eric Decker NYJ 456 74 962 5 15.45% 11 2.01 19 1.17% 34
Mike Evans TB 513 68 1051 12 13.34% 34 1.98 20 1.63% 5
Andrew Hawkins CLE 406 63 825 2 14.90% 19 1.96 21 0.98% 58
Pierre Garcon WAS 1377 226 2731 12 16.07% 6 1.96 22 1.00% 54
Marques Colston NO 4182 596 8200 60 14.22% 24 1.96 23 1.40% 10
Alshon Jeffery CHI 1484 198 2921 20 13.37% 33 1.95 24 1.30% 17
Malcom Floyd SD 2470 273 4713 27 11.23% 59 1.91 25 1.12% 36
Taylor Gabriel CLE 334 38 633 1 12.17% 45 1.89 26 0.96% 65
Brandon Coleman NO 0 0 0 0 13.57% 30 1.89 27 1.21% 25
Kamar Aiken BAL 144 24 267 3 14.92% 18 1.88 28 1.33% 14
Cody Latimer DEN 15 2 23 0 13.56% 32 1.87 29 1.19% 32
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 4881 680 9022 65 13.92% 27 1.85 30 1.31% 16
Chris Matthews SEA 8 0 0 0 13.02% 37 1.85 31 1.20% 29
Keenan Allen SD 1004 148 1836 12 14.56% 21 1.84 32 1.20% 27
Jordan Matthews PHI 484 67 872 8 13.77% 28 1.84 33 1.37% 11
Doug Baldwin SEA 1512 196 2761 15 13.03% 36 1.84 34 1.07% 45
Brandon LaFell NE 535 74 953 7 13.76% 29 1.82 35 1.25% 22
Charles Johnson MIN 276 31 475 2 12.18% 44 1.81 36 1.09% 42
Jarvis Landry MIA 434 84 758 5 17.61% 2 1.81 37 1.19% 31
Albert Wilson KC 162 16 260 0 11.86% 51 1.80 38 1.02% 50
Stedman Bailey STL 388 47 661 1 12.59% 39 1.79 39 0.92% 67
Corey Brown CAR 186 21 296 2 12.44% 40 1.78 40 1.19% 33
Kendall Wright TEN 1393 215 2420 12 15.21% 15 1.77 41 1.00% 56
Allen Robinson JAX 334 48 548 2 14.08% 25 1.77 42 1.04% 48
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 1163 128 2012 8 11.36% 56 1.77 43 0.91% 68
Rod Streater OAK 925 108 1550 8 12.00% 49 1.73 44 1.03% 49
Jarius Wright MIN 805 90 1332 7 11.63% 53 1.73 45 1.05% 47
Brandin Cooks NO 353 53 550 3 14.51% 22 1.72 46 1.11% 40
Kenny Britt STL 468 48 748 3 11.21% 61 1.72 47 1.01% 53
Quinton Patton SF 82 6 78 0 11.67% 52 1.71 48 1.11% 39
Julian Edelman NE 1642 266 2740 14 15.93% 9 1.71 49 0.98% 59
Sammy Watkins BUF 619 65 982 6 11.22% 60 1.70 50 1.11% 37
Brian Quick STL 534 54 835 7 11.01% 62 1.69 51 1.25% 21
John Brown ARI 459 48 696 5 11.36% 57 1.68 52 1.17% 35
Marvin Jones CIN 593 69 913 11 12.10% 46 1.67 53 1.47% 9
Josh Huff PHI 106 8 98 0 11.40% 55 1.66 54 1.08% 44
Rueben Randle NYG 1177 131 1847 12 11.47% 54 1.64 55 1.10% 41
Cole Beasley DAL 620 91 916 6 14.42% 23 1.63 56 1.11% 38
Michael Floyd ARI 1571 158 2444 13 10.43% 67 1.62 57 0.97% 62
Marqise Lee JAX 330 37 422 1 12.07% 47 1.59 58 0.96% 63
Jeremy Kerley NYJ 1408 166 2073 7 12.00% 48 1.56 59 0.77% 73
Terrance Williams DAL 951 81 1357 13 9.35% 72 1.55 60 1.29% 18
Allen Hurns JAX 515 51 677 6 10.88% 64 1.55 61 1.19% 30
Cordarrelle Patterson MIN 656 78 853 5 12.27% 42 1.50 62 1.02% 51
Jerricho Cotchery CAR 480 48 580 1 11.01% 63 1.50 63 0.86% 72
Jermaine Kearse SEA 705 63 914 5 9.91% 68 1.49 64 0.99% 57
Danny Amendola NE 670 81 833 3 12.42% 41 1.46 65 0.88% 69
Markus Wheaton PIT 589 59 708 2 10.88% 65 1.46 66 0.86% 71
Mohamed Sanu CIN 1102 120 1399 11 11.28% 58 1.42 67 1.09% 43
Robert Woods BUF 1061 105 1286 8 10.45% 66 1.38 68 0.96% 64
Andre Roberts WAS 464 36 453 2 9.44% 70 1.37 69 0.94% 66
Davante Adams GB 465 38 446 3 9.73% 69 1.36 70 1.02% 52
Tavon Austin STL 632 72 657 4 11.89% 50 1.34 71 0.97% 61
Marquess Wilson CHI 288 19 153 1 9.35% 71 1.28 72 1.00% 55
Jeremy Ross DET 557 29 373 2 7.32% 73 1.14 73 0.88% 70

That was quite a rookie season by Odell Beckham, Jr., eh? Even after adjusting for only having run 476 routes with the Giants (which, remember, is what the “true” stat calculation does), he’s still the only wide receiver to rank among the Top 5 in all three categories.

A few others stand out for ranking highly in one category but poorly in the other two, and vice versa. For instance, it’s clear that Antonio Brown is “truly” elite when it comes to receptions and yardage, whereas his “true” touchdown-receiving skill leans more towards mediocre. The good news is that TDPRR is less stable over time than RPRR and YPRR. The bad news is that Brown’s 2,167 routes run in Pittsburgh means we’ve seen more than enough of him to trust his lack of touchdown-scoring prowess in the past.

Mike Evans, on the other hand, shows the opposite “true” receiving profile: 5th in TDPRR, but 34th in RPRR and 20th in YPRR. Not surprisingly, then, Evans’ problem is the opposite of what I just detailed for Brown. Even though he’s only run 513 routes with the Buccaneers, that’s still more than enough to trust his non-elite actual RPRR (13.26%) and YPRR (2.05), but not enough to trust his elite actual TDPRR (2.34%).

true fantasy projections for 2015

Same as in previous posts, the point of all this is to apply the “true” stats from above to David Dodds’ receptions projection for each wide receiver, tally up the resulting TFP, and then compare TFP to Dodds' projection for fantasy points. The only change this time is that I'm limiting projections to standard receiving points only.

Last time, it made sense to include receiving TFP for running backs because receiving stats are a meaningful contributor to running back fantasy points, be they projections or end-of-year totals. In the context of wide receivers, however, rushing stats are practically meaningless for fantasy purposes. To wit, here's the table comparing TFP's receiving projections to Dodds' receiving projections (sorted by the "DIFF" column):

NameTmTrue RRTrue YdsTrue TDsDodds YdsDodds TDsTFPRkFBGRkDiffRk
Odell Beckham Jr NYG 530 1261 9 1330 12 179.2 6 205.0 5 +25.8 1
Antonio Brown PIT 612 1426 8 1426 11 189.2 5 208.6 2 +19.4 2
Julio Jones ATL 612 1400 8 1426 11 189.7 4 208.6 2 +18.9 3
Randall Cobb GB 561 1203 9 1260 11 173.4 8 192.0 7 +18.6 4
Golden Tate DET 497 1014 5 1035 7 130.4 22 145.5 17 +15.1 5
T.Y. Hilton IND 582 1189 7 1209 9 160.9 11 174.9 9 +14.0 6
Jarvis Landry MIA 420 760 5 895 5 106.1 41 119.5 28 +13.4 7
Brandin Cooks NO 579 997 6 1025 8 138.1 21 150.5 15 +12.4 8
Mike Evans TB 555 1100 9 1140 10 164.1 10 174.0 10 +9.9 9
Demaryius Thomas DEN 590 1396 10 1372 12 199.4 2 209.2 1 +9.8 10
Alshon Jeffery CHI 569 1110 7 1049 10 155.2 12 164.9 12 +9.7 11
A.J. Green CIN 539 1238 8 1233 10 174.0 7 183.3 8 +9.3 12
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 482 1076 7 1072 8 146.7 16 155.2 14 +8.5 13
Michael Floyd ARI 479 775 5 775 6 105.2 42 113.5 32 +8.3 14
Calvin Johnson DET 610 1361 9 1343 11 192.6 3 200.3 6 +7.7 15
Jordan Matthews PHI 574 1054 8 1051 9 152.5 13 159.1 13 +6.6 16
Sammy Watkins BUF 597 1013 7 992 8 141.1 18 147.2 16 +6.1 17
Dez Bryant DAL 628 1304 12 1306 13 202.9 1 208.6 2 +5.7 18
Danny Amendola NE 201 295 2 270 3 40.1 72 45.0 69 +4.9 19
Stedman Bailey STL 270 484 2 493 3 63.3 63 67.3 53 +4.0 20
Cole Beasley DAL 264 428 3 460 3 60.4 66 64.0 56 +3.6 21
Kendall Wright TEN 454 802 5 807 5 107.3 39 110.7 34 +3.4 22
Pierre Garcon WAS 429 843 4 835 5 110.2 35 113.5 32 +3.3 23
Allen Robinson JAX 540 954 6 904 7 129.1 23 132.4 22 +3.3 24
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 722 1275 7 1279 7 167.0 9 169.9 11 +2.9 25
Eric Decker NYJ 459 925 5 916 6 124.8 28 127.6 23 +2.8 26
Brandon LaFell NE 414 755 5 718 6 106.5 40 107.8 36 +1.3 27
Mohamed Sanu CIN 301 428 3 452 3 62.5 65 63.2 58 +0.7 28
Anquan Boldin SF 445 951 5 914 6 127.1 25 127.4 24 +0.3 29
Jeremy Kerley NYJ 208 324 2 300 2 42.0 71 42.0 71 0.0 30
Kenny Britt STL 357 615 4 588 4 83.2 47 82.8 47 -0.4 31
Charles Johnson MIN 476 864 5 812 6 117.6 32 117.2 30 -0.4 32
Brian Quick STL 445 753 6 711 6 108.6 36 107.1 37 -1.5 33
Andrew Hawkins CLE 275 541 3 508 3 70.3 54 68.8 52 -1.5 34
Julian Edelman NE 521 890 5 880 5 119.5 29 118.0 29 -1.5 35
Tavon Austin STL 235 316 2 311 2 45.3 70 43.1 70 -2.2 36
Taylor Gabriel CLE 296 559 3 526 3 73.0 53 70.6 50 -2.4 37
John Brown ARI 528 886 6 870 6 125.6 27 123.0 26 -2.6 38
Steve Smith BAL 431 880 5 865 5 119.4 30 116.5 31 -2.9 39
Kamar Aiken BAL 261 491 3 491 3 70.0 55 67.1 54 -2.9 40
Josh Huff PHI 281 467 3 435 3 64.9 61 61.5 61 -3.4 41
Marqise Lee JAX 298 475 3 432 3 64.7 62 61.2 63 -3.5 42
Cordarrelle Patterson MIN 236 356 2 345 2 50.0 69 46.5 68 -3.5 43
Markus Wheaton PIT 524 764 5 695 5 103.5 44 99.5 43 -4.0 44
Malcom Floyd SD 392 747 4 669 5 101.1 45 96.9 44 -4.2 45
Jerricho Cotchery CAR 345 516 3 460 3 69.4 57 64.0 56 -5.4 46
Vincent Jackson TB 513 1058 5 970 6 138.6 19 133.0 21 -5.6 47
Quinton Patton SF 223 381 2 351 2 52.9 67 47.1 67 -5.8 48
Marvin Jones CIN 380 634 6 607 5 96.9 46 90.7 45 -6.2 49
Keenan Allen SD 563 1039 7 959 7 144.5 17 137.9 20 -6.6 50
Albert Wilson KC 287 515 3 442 3 69.1 58 62.2 59 -6.9 51
Jarius Wright MIN 292 504 3 435 3 68.8 59 61.5 61 -7.3 52
Roddy White ATL 458 932 6 847 6 128.1 24 120.7 27 -7.4 53
Victor Cruz NYG 380 840 5 764 5 114.1 33 106.4 39 -7.7 54
Doug Baldwin SEA 437 804 5 707 5 108.5 37 100.7 41 -7.8 55
Brandon Coleman NO 280 528 3 471 3 73.2 52 65.1 55 -8.1 56
Rueben Randle NYG 471 773 5 702 5 108.5 37 100.2 42 -8.3 57
Cody Latimer DEN 310 580 4 533 3 80.1 50 71.3 49 -8.8 58
Jeremy Ross DET 301 343 3 282 2 50.2 68 40.2 72 -10.0 59
Corey Brown CAR 330 588 4 541 3 82.3 48 72.1 48 -10.2 60
Rod Streater OAK 267 463 3 400 2 62.8 64 52.0 66 -10.8 61
Robert Woods BUF 411 568 4 512 3 80.5 49 69.2 51 -11.3 62
Marques Colston NO 408 797 6 725 5 113.9 34 102.5 40 -11.4 63
Davante Adams GB 761 1033 8 962 7 149.7 15 138.2 18 -11.5 64
Jermaine Kearse SEA 323 482 3 432 2 67.3 60 55.2 65 -12.1 65
Terrance Williams DAL 513 796 7 710 6 119.4 30 107.0 38 -12.4 66
DeSean Jackson WAS 515 1137 6 1021 6 151.6 14 138.1 19 -13.5 67
Andre Roberts WAS 360 493 3 439 2 69.7 56 55.9 64 -13.8 68
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 524 971 7 883 6 138.4 20 124.3 25 -14.1 69
Allen Hurns JAX 459 710 5 645 4 103.9 43 88.5 46 -15.4 70
Marquess Wilson CHI 417 532 4 441 3 78.2 51 62.1 60 -16.1 71
Martavis Bryant PIT 392 861 7 728 6 126.7 26 108.8 35 -17.9 72

Yes, Beckham, Jr., is the biggest outlier in this table (as he was in the last table), but, given how much of an outlier he is both talent-wise and fantasy-wise, I'm inclined to accept that TFP might be wrong here. Therefore, let's focus on a handful of other wide receivers that reside on the extremes of the table.

antonio brown

As I mentioned earlier, Brown is a wide receiver that you draft for his "true" receptions and yardage ability; not his touchdown-scoring ability. What's particularly astonishing about Brown's TFP is that his "true" receiving yards projection is exactly the same as Dodds'; and so the entire difference between the two projections is totally comprised of Brown's projected touchdowns. Given Dodds' projection of 108 receptions, Brown's True RPRR of 17.64% implies that Brown will run a route on 612 plays this season. But if that's the case, then Dodds' projection of 11 touchdowns would mean a TDPRR of 1.80%, which would obliterate Brown's True TDPRR of 1.27% TDPRR.

julio jones

Jones has run 1,832 routes with the Falcons, so we've seen more than enough of his past performance to trust it as a reliable indicator of his future performance. Once again, however, Dodds projects an Antonio-Brown-esque 1.80% TDPRR, while Jones' True TDPRR given 1,832 routes run with the Falcons is far lower (1.35%).

golden tate

I hate to sound like a broken record, but Tate suffers from the same "overrated touchdown scoring ability" problem as Brown and Jones: His 2014 history with the Lions suggests a 0.97% True TDPRR, whereas Dodds projects a TDPRR of 1.41% in 2015.

That said, the weirdest part of Tate's projection differential relates to his RPRR, which isn't in the above table (because I'm forced mathematically to assume that Dodds' reception projection is "true"). In 2014, Tate caught 99 passes in 626 routes run, which translates to an actual RPRR of 15.8% and a True RPRR of 15.3%. But, for whatever reason, Dodds projects only 76 projections for Tate this season, which translates to only 497 routes run (i.e., 76/.153), or 129 fewer than last season.

martavis bryant

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the previous three wide receivers, there's Bryant, whose major "DIFF" column contribution comes from yardage, rather than touchdowns. Granted, Bryant only ran 200 routes with the Steelers in his rookie season, but his actual YPRR in those 200 routes was an absurd 2.75. Now, 200 routes run is far below the 351-route stabilization point for YPRR, but Bryant's True YPRR is still 2.20 even after adjusting for this fact. As you might recall from the first table, that ranks 10th among all wide receivers playing for the same team this season as they did last season.

The prevailing issue is this. If we extrapolate Dodds' projection of 52 receptions for Bryant from his 13.3% True RPRR, then that means he's going to run 392 routes in 2015. But if he runs 392 routes, then Bryant's True YPRR means he'll gain 861 yards (as shown in the table above). Taking all of the above together, for Dodds' projection to be correct, Bryant has to either severely underperform his True RPRR or severely underperform his True YPRR.


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