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True Fantasy Points: 2017 Wide Receiver Projections

A stats-based guide for separating skill from luck in wide receiver projections.

This is the third installment in my True Fantasy Points (TFP) series for 2017. If you missed the previous installments or want more details of my statistical methodology, here are the relevant links:

  1. Quarterback TFP
  2. Running back TFP

Below are the three efficiency stats I'll be using to evaluate wide receivers and calculate their TFP. For the edification of newcomers, I've also included the number of routes a given stat takes to represent less than 50 percent luck, and therefore become a reliable indicator of a wide receiver's "true" ability:

True Stats Through 2016

Below are actual and "true" per-route stats for the 87 wide receivers that are a) playing on the same team they did last year, and b) projected to see 100 or more fantasy-scoring opportunities (i.e., carries plus routes run). The table is sorted by YPRR, with the Top 6 in each "true" stat category displayed in bold, and the Bottom 6 displayed in italics.

  ACTUAL STATSTRUE STATS
PlayerTmRPRRRKYPRRRKTDPRRRKRPRRRKYPRRRKTDPRRRK
Julio Jones ATL 17.35% 6 2.66 2 1.40% 22 17.11% 4 2.57 1 1.34% 18
Antonio Brown PIT 18.80% 4 2.48 4 1.49% 19 18.52% 3 2.42 2 1.41% 11
A.J. Green CIN 16.43% 10 2.44 6 1.67% 12 16.25% 8 2.37 3 1.55% 5
Odell Beckham Jr NYG 17.18% 7 2.46 5 2.09% 4 16.81% 6 2.35 4 1.76% 2
Demaryius Thomas DEN 16.66% 8 2.35 7 1.59% 15 16.48% 7 2.30 5 1.49% 7
Mike Evans TB 14.95% 19 2.25 10 1.70% 11 14.79% 17 2.17 6 1.50% 6
Martavis Bryant PIT 13.45% 34 2.33 8 2.48% 2 13.45% 34 2.13 7 1.66% 4
Taylor Gabriel ATL 15.42% 16 2.55 3 2.64% 1 14.53% 20 2.11 8 1.45% 9
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 15.52% 15 2.17 12 1.21% 31 15.31% 14 2.11 9 1.19% 30
Jordy Nelson GB 14.38% 27 2.13 13 1.82% 9 14.34% 21 2.10 10 1.68% 3
T.Y. Hilton IND 13.35% 35 2.09 15 1.07% 38 13.35% 35 2.06 11 1.09% 45
Tyreek Hill KC 23.37% 1 2.30 9 2.30% 3 19.22% 1 2.02 12 1.40% 13
Dez Bryant DAL 14.17% 29 2.04 18 2.05% 6 14.13% 27 2.01 13 1.86% 1
J.J. Nelson ARZ 11.34% 54 2.18 11 2.02% 8 12.02% 60 2.01 14 1.41% 12
Jarvis Landry MIA 19.21% 3 2.03 19 0.87% 54 18.57% 2 1.99 15 0.97% 66
Rishard Matthews TEN 14.57% 23 2.12 14 2.02% 7 14.24% 24 1.99 16 1.43% 10
Adam Thielen MIN 14.57% 24 2.04 16 0.98% 46 14.30% 23 1.96 17 1.07% 52
Michael Thomas NO 16.49% 9 2.04 17 1.61% 14 15.72% 11 1.95 18 1.32% 21
Cameron Meredith CHI 15.40% 17 2.03 20 0.80% 57 14.87% 16 1.94 19 1.02% 61
Kelvin Benjamin CAR 13.82% 30 1.98 21 1.63% 13 13.76% 29 1.94 20 1.40% 14
Amari Cooper OAK 13.50% 33 1.95 23 0.96% 49 13.49% 32 1.92 21 1.04% 56
Keenan Allen SD 16.31% 11 1.94 24 1.18% 33 15.96% 9 1.91 22 1.16% 33
Doug Baldwin SEA 14.25% 28 1.92 27 1.39% 23 14.19% 26 1.91 23 1.33% 19
Willie Snead IV NO 14.49% 25 1.93 25 0.72% 62 14.32% 22 1.90 24 0.92% 72
Devin Funchess CAR 12.50% 40 1.95 22 2.08% 5 12.79% 44 1.89 25 1.45% 8
Tyrell Williams SD 11.87% 49 1.92 26 1.34% 24 12.25% 53 1.88 26 1.22% 25
Josh Doctson WAS 8.33% 83 2.75 1 0.00% 79 12.87% 41 1.88 27 1.11% 42
Larry Fitzgerald ARZ 14.74% 21 1.87 29 1.30% 28 14.70% 19 1.87 28 1.28% 22
Stefon Diggs MIN 15.80% 13 1.89 28 0.81% 56 15.38% 13 1.87 29 0.98% 65
Randall Cobb GB 15.12% 18 1.85 31 1.45% 21 15.00% 15 1.85 30 1.36% 16
Julian Edelman NE 17.36% 5 1.85 32 0.98% 47 17.08% 5 1.85 31 1.02% 59
DeAndre Hopkins HST 13.03% 37 1.84 34 0.95% 50 13.06% 39 1.84 32 1.00% 63
Jaron Brown ARZ 14.59% 22 1.86 30 1.33% 26 14.21% 25 1.84 33 1.20% 29
Travis Benjamin SD 12.84% 38 1.85 33 1.09% 37 13.05% 40 1.84 34 1.13% 37
Kasen Williams SEA 20.00% 2 1.60 48 0.00% 79 13.62% 31 1.82 35 1.13% 36
Brandon Coleman NO 13.79% 31 1.81 35 1.23% 30 13.69% 30 1.82 36 1.17% 31
Geronimo Allison GB 10.53% 63 1.77 38 1.75% 10 12.35% 50 1.81 37 1.21% 27
Laquon Treadwell MIN 9.09% 77 1.36 67 0.00% 79 13.21% 36 1.81 38 1.13% 38
John Brown ARZ 12.36% 43 1.80 36 1.14% 35 12.50% 47 1.81 39 1.14% 35
DeVante Parker MIA 11.75% 52 1.77 37 1.00% 43 12.11% 57 1.79 40 1.08% 48
Rashard Higgins CLV 12.00% 46 1.54 53 0.00% 79 13.15% 38 1.79 41 1.08% 49
T.J. Jones DET 10.95% 59 1.64 46 0.73% 61 12.40% 49 1.77 42 1.08% 47
Mike Wallace BLT 12.27% 44 1.73 40 0.68% 64 12.55% 45 1.77 43 0.96% 68
Michael Crabtree OAK 15.72% 14 1.74 39 1.54% 17 15.39% 12 1.76 44 1.36% 17
Breshad Perriman BLT 11.11% 57 1.68 44 1.01% 42 12.02% 59 1.76 45 1.11% 43
Allen Robinson JAX 12.18% 45 1.72 41 1.33% 25 12.31% 51 1.73 46 1.27% 23
Golden Tate DET 14.91% 20 1.72 42 0.75% 60 14.78% 18 1.73 47 0.87% 78
Chris Hogan NE 9.25% 73 1.65 45 0.97% 48 10.57% 75 1.73 48 1.09% 46
Cole Beasley DAL 16.10% 12 1.69 43 1.18% 32 15.78% 10 1.72 49 1.17% 32
Kevin White CHI 14.39% 26 1.42 62 0.00% 79 13.84% 28 1.71 50 0.99% 64
Brice Butler DAL 9.24% 74 1.57 50 0.99% 44 10.85% 73 1.71 51 1.10% 44
Tyler Lockett SEA 11.79% 51 1.64 47 0.90% 52 12.12% 56 1.69 52 1.03% 58
Eli Rogers PIT 12.50% 40 1.55 52 0.78% 59 12.81% 43 1.68 53 1.03% 57
Marvin Jones Jr DET 9.37% 72 1.58 49 0.68% 64 10.36% 78 1.67 54 0.96% 68
Malcolm Mitchell NE 11.68% 53 1.46 57 1.46% 20 12.40% 48 1.66 55 1.22% 26
Chester Rogers IND 8.84% 80 1.28 70 0.00% 79 10.99% 70 1.62 56 0.92% 76
Mohamed Sanu ATL 13.08% 36 1.45 59 0.89% 53 13.19% 37 1.61 57 1.05% 53
Chris Moore BLT 9.09% 77 0.60 86 0.00% 79 12.19% 55 1.60 58 1.05% 55
Terrance Williams DAL 9.87% 67 1.56 51 1.12% 36 10.21% 81 1.60 59 1.12% 39
Kenny Stills MIA 8.82% 82 1.49 54 1.53% 18 9.72% 84 1.59 60 1.33% 20
Jeremy Kerley SF 13.50% 32 1.41 63 0.63% 67 13.49% 33 1.58 61 0.96% 67
Paul Richardson Jr SEA 11.81% 50 1.39 64 0.46% 72 12.31% 52 1.58 62 0.92% 75
Robby Anderson NYJ 9.79% 69 1.37 66 0.47% 71 10.91% 72 1.57 63 0.92% 73
Brandon LaFell CIN 10.53% 63 1.42 61 0.99% 45 11.22% 68 1.57 64 1.08% 51
Jamison Crowder WAS 12.73% 39 1.47 56 0.91% 51 12.84% 42 1.56 65 1.02% 60
Donte Moncrief IND 12.38% 42 1.46 58 1.57% 16 12.54% 46 1.55 66 1.37% 15
Allen Hurns JAX 10.12% 65 1.47 55 1.28% 29 10.50% 77 1.54 67 1.23% 24
Marqise Lee JAX 11.32% 55 1.44 60 0.49% 69 11.65% 63 1.54 68 0.79% 85
Ricardo Louis CLV 9.05% 79 1.03 82 0.00% 79 11.19% 69 1.54 69 0.93% 71
Charone Peake NYJ 9.60% 71 0.94 84 0.00% 79 11.47% 64 1.50 70 0.93% 70
Tyler Boyd CIN 11.30% 56 1.26 73 0.21% 77 11.91% 61 1.50 71 0.81% 84
Dontrelle Inman SD 9.99% 66 1.38 65 0.67% 66 10.52% 76 1.49 72 0.88% 77
Corey Coleman CLV 9.19% 75 1.15 75 0.84% 55 10.66% 74 1.48 73 1.05% 54
Albert Wilson KC 10.88% 60 1.31 69 0.53% 68 11.39% 65 1.47 74 0.86% 81
Will Fuller V HST 9.14% 76 1.23 74 0.39% 75 10.30% 79 1.47 75 0.86% 80
Jaelen Strong HST 9.79% 69 1.02 83 1.05% 40 11.24% 67 1.46 76 1.12% 40
Adam Humphries TB 11.88% 48 1.28 71 0.43% 74 12.22% 54 1.46 77 0.83% 83
Jermaine Kearse SEA 9.83% 68 1.36 68 0.71% 63 10.22% 80 1.44 78 0.86% 79
Justin Hardy ATL 11.11% 57 1.05 80 1.06% 39 11.89% 62 1.42 79 1.12% 41
Phillip Dorsett IND 7.76% 85 1.15 76 0.46% 73 9.03% 86 1.38 80 0.85% 82
Sterling Shepard NYG 10.62% 61 1.12 77 1.31% 27 11.29% 66 1.37 81 1.21% 28
Davante Adams GB 10.62% 62 1.26 72 1.04% 41 10.93% 71 1.37 82 1.08% 50
Chris Conley KC 8.83% 81 1.05 79 0.14% 78 9.82% 83 1.31 83 0.70% 87
Braxton Miller HST 7.04% 87 0.46 87 0.47% 70 10.05% 82 1.31 84 1.01% 62
Seth Roberts OAK 8.24% 84 1.03 81 1.18% 34 9.19% 85 1.26 85 1.16% 34
Tavon Austin LA 11.89% 47 1.08 78 0.79% 58 12.06% 58 1.22 86 0.92% 74
Nelson Agholor PHI 7.27% 86 0.79 85 0.37% 76 8.43% 87 1.10 87 0.77% 86

Perusing the table, it should be abundantly clear that my "true" wide receiver stats pass the smell test. To wit, only seven wide receivers rank in the Top 18 of all three "true" stat categories, and five of these seven are literally the Top 5 off the board per ADP right now. And who's the only wide receiver to rank in the Top 6 of all three "true" stat categories? (Mildly) arguably the best wide receiver talent in the game today, Odell Beckham, Jr.

I'll discuss the somewhat-surprising sixth later, but the total surprise among these seven statistical studs is Tyreek Hill. In fewer than 400 routes run with the Chiefs, he's already No. 1 in True RPRR (along with No. 12 in True YPRR and No. 13 in True TDPRR). He should be a target in drafts regardless of format and a must-have in PPR leagues.

Two other wide receivers are worth noting for their "true" stats. First, Dez Bryant is No. 1 in True TDPRR. Any potential Ezekiel Elliott absence will catalyze Bryant's penchant for touchdowns. But even if Elliott somehow avoids the Ginger Hammer, Dak Prescott's growth in his second season should be more than enough to sustain Bryant's TDPRR.

Second, wow, Nelson Agholor is awful. Ever sinnce the Eagles traded Jordan Matthews, Agholor's been mentioned as a sleeper candidate. One look at the bottom of the above table, which shows that he's last or second-to-last in all three "true" stat categories, should be persuasive enough to stay woke. (That's the first and last time I'll ever use that term.)

True Projections for 2017

The table below displays David Dodds' standard-scoring projections, my TFP projections, and the difference between the two (i.e., sorted by the "DIFF" column):

 DODDS STATSTRUE STATSPOINTS
PLAYERTMREYDSRETDREYDSRETDDODDSTFPDIFF
Antonio Brown PIT 1432 13 1448 8 222.7 197.2 +25.5
Julio Jones ATL 1513 10 1454 8 211.3 190.9 +20.4
Jarvis Landry MIA 1015 5 923 4 133.7 121.4 +12.3
Michael Thomas NO 1222 9 1168 8 176.2 164.3 +11.9
Amari Cooper OAK 1218 8 1194 6 170.4 158.7 +11.7
Odell Beckham Jr NYG 1420 12 1399 10 214.7 203.4 +11.3
Eli Rogers PIT 446 4 432 3 69.2 59.7 +9.5
Mike Evans TB 1334 11 1352 9 199.4 191.0 +8.4
Dez Bryant DAL 1095 10 1041 10 169.5 161.7 +7.8
Cameron Meredith CHI 766 5 758 4 106.6 99.6 +7.0
Julian Edelman NE 806 5 779 4 113.5 106.7 +6.8
Taylor Gabriel ATL 517 4 493 3 78.0 71.9 +6.1
Golden Tate DET 995 6 996 5 138.5 132.7 +5.8
Tyler Lockett SEA 536 4 531 3 81.0 75.8 +5.2
Willie Snead IV NO 902 6 943 5 126.2 121.6 +4.6
T.Y. Hilton IND 1268 8 1297 7 174.8 170.7 +4.1
Davante Adams GB 890 7 863 7 131.6 127.7 +3.9
Mohamed Sanu ATL 552 5 586 4 85.2 81.6 +3.6
Tyreek Hill KC 818 5 769 5 146.1 143.2 +2.9
Travis Benjamin LAC 406 3 408 3 59.0 56.2 +2.8
Donte Moncrief IND 696 7 717 6 111.9 110.0 +1.9
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 966 6 977 6 133.0 131.2 +1.8
Malcolm Mitchell NE 203 2 215 2 32.3 30.9 +1.4
Keenan Allen LAC 966 7 1007 6 138.6 137.4 +1.2
Justin Hardy ATL 203 2 215 2 32.3 31.7 +0.6
Paul Richardson Jr SEA 402 2 386 2 52.6 52.4 +0.2
Mike Wallace BAL 783 5 816 4 110.0 109.8 +0.2
Will Fuller V HOU 432 3 456 3 61.7 62.2 -0.5
Kevin White CHI 391 2 383 2 51.4 51.9 -0.5
Devin Funchess CAR 666 5 667 5 96.6 97.3 -0.7
Kelvin Benjamin CAR 945 7 958 7 136.5 137.2 -0.7
Cole Beasley DAL 672 4 654 4 91.5 92.3 -0.8
Dontrelle Inman LAC 143 1 156 1 20.3 21.2 -0.9
Rishard Matthews TEN 747 5 740 5 104.7 106.0 -1.3
T.J. Jones DET 176 1 186 1 23.6 25.4 -1.8
Jaron Brown ARI 466 3 479 3 64.6 66.6 -2.0
Breshad Perriman BAL 725 4 716 5 97.6 99.8 -2.2
Marqise Lee JAX 576 3 594 3 77.3 79.5 -2.2
Jamison Crowder WAS 893 5 874 6 119.8 122.1 -2.3
Brandon LaFell CIN 406 3 433 3 58.6 61.1 -2.5
Kasen Williams SEA 168 1 187 1 22.8 25.7 -2.9
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 1139 7 1198 6 155.9 158.8 -2.9
Phillip Dorsett IND 458 3 490 3 65.1 68.3 -3.2
A.J. Green CIN 1376 8 1357 9 185.6 188.9 -3.3
Jermaine Kearse SEA 194 1 212 1 25.4 28.8 -3.4
Kenny Stills MIA 600 5 623 5 90.0 93.4 -3.4
Michael Crabtree OAK 949 7 960 7 136.9 140.5 -3.6
Brice Butler DAL 187 1 204 1 24.7 28.4 -3.7
Jordy Nelson GB 1214 11 1291 10 187.4 191.1 -3.7
Rashard Higgins CLE 180 1 204 1 24.0 27.8 -3.8
Adam Thielen MIN 865 5 905 5 117.9 121.7 -3.8
Marvin Jones Jr DET 720 5 791 5 102.3 106.6 -4.3
Brandon Coleman NO 315 2 345 2 43.5 47.8 -4.3
Adam Humphries TB 381 2 407 2 50.9 55.3 -4.4
Jeremy Kerley SF 396 2 411 2 51.6 56.1 -4.5
DeVante Parker MIA 883 6 946 6 124.3 128.8 -4.5
Chris Moore BAL 204 1 223 1 27.9 32.6 -4.7
Geronimo Allison GB 156 1 190 1 21.6 26.7 -5.1
Josh Doctson WAS 690 4 730 4 93 98.9 -5.9
Tyler Boyd CIN 388 2 428 2 50.8 56.7 -5.9
Albert Wilson KC 292 2 350 2 41.7 47.7 -6.0
Martavis Bryant PIT 832 6 856 7 119.2 125.6 -6.4
Charone Peake NYJ 372 2 406 3 49.2 55.7 -6.5
Tyrell Williams LAC 920 6 969 6 128.0 134.5 -6.5
Randall Cobb GB 764 6 826 6 114.6 121.4 -6.8
John Brown ARI 747 4 766 5 99.3 106.1 -6.8
Robby Anderson NYJ 891 5 937 5 120.7 128.2 -7.5
Chris Hogan NE 443 3 508 3 62.9 70.5 -7.6
Seth Roberts OAK 450 4 495 5 69.0 76.7 -7.7
Tavon Austin LAR 357 2 384 3 68.7 76.7 -8.0
Chris Conley KC 552 3 615 3 73.2 81.3 -8.1
Stefon Diggs MIN 958 5 1020 5 126.5 134.7 -8.2
Corey Coleman CLE 766 5 807 6 108.4 116.8 -8.4
Chester Rogers IND 132 0 162 1 13.2 21.7 -8.5
Laquon Treadwell MIN 448 3 520 3 63.1 71.7 -8.6
Doug Baldwin SEA 1109 8 1183 8 159.7 168.6 -8.9
Allen Robinson JAX 1091 8 1155 8 157.1 166.1 -9.0
Ricardo Louis CLE 290 1 329 2 35.0 44.9 -9.9
Demaryius Thomas DEN 1118 8 1227 8 159.8 170.5 -10.7
Jaelen Strong HOU 283 1 312 2 34.3 45.5 -11.2
Terrance Williams DAL 551 3 595 4 73.1 84.6 -11.5
J.J. Nelson ARI 405 2 453 3 53.1 64.9 -11.8
Braxton Miller HOU 358 2 417 3 48.6 61.8 -13.2
Allen Hurns JAX 705 5 778 6 101.0 115.5 -14.5
Sterling Shepard NYG 667 4 693 6 91.2 106.5 -15.3
Nelson Agholor PHI 599 4 706 5 84.9 101.2 -16.3
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 966 6 1169 8 132.6 165.0 -32.4

Below are three underrated wide receivers -- bottom of the table -- and three overrated wide receivers -- top of the table -- worth further discussion.

Underrated: Larry Fitzgerald

Going into last season, Dodds projected Fitzgerald for an 83-955-7 stat line, whereas I identified him as an underrated wide receiver due to TFP projecting an 83-1,079-8 stat line. Fitzgerald finished 2016 with a stat line of 107-1,023-6. Heading into 2017, it's deja vu. Fitzgerald has a True YPRR of 1.87 with the Cardinals, whereas Dodds' projections imply 1.54. Fitzgerald has a 1.28% True TDPRR, whereas Dodds' projections imply 0.96%.

Methinks the issue here is that Dodds thought the old man was going to fall off an efficiency cliff last season and is (reasonably) going to the well once again because the old man is even older. In contrast, my TFP system knew nothing of Fitzgerald's age last year, nor this year; only his efficiency across more than 6,000 routes run in Arizona over the past decade. But of course, players don't sustain their "true" stats forever. There has to come a point when Fitzgerald actually does fall of that effiency cliff. So what's the probability of that?

Well, our colleague Adam Harstad has calculated the "Death Rate" for wide receivers at a given age, and his math says that an average 34-year old has a 43.3 percent chance of falling off a cliff; up from 34.4 percent for a 33-year old. Therefore, compared to the average 34-year old wide receiver, Fitzgerald has better than a 50/50 shot to sustain his production. (Of note: Fitzgerald is not your average 34-year old wide receiver.)

Underrated: Demaryius Thomas

First and foremost, it's time to tie up a loose end: Thomas was the other wide receiver (of seven) that ranks in the Top 18 across all three "true" stat categories. Given his aforementioned company, that alone should be enough to establish his underrated bona fides. Alas, I presume readers want more.

The discrepancy between Dodds and TFP for Thomas is completely explained by YPRR. Namely, Thomas' YPRR across 3,000+ routes run in Denver is 2.35, which translates to a True YPRR of 2.30. Meanwhile, Dodds' projections imply a drop to 2.09 YPRR. That may not seem like much, but 0.21 YPRR over the course of 534 projected routes works out to over 100 additional receiving yards.

Underrated: Doug Baldwin

Ditto for Baldwin. Across 2,500+ routes run with the Seahawks, he's posted a YPRR of 1.92. But while both Dodds and TFP foresee regression in 2017, Dodds does more so. As displayed in the earlier table, Baldwin's True YPRR is 1.91, whereas Dodds' projection implies a YPRR of 1.79. And again, although it doesn't seem like much, .12 YPRR over the course of 620 projected routes translates to about 75 additional receiving yards.

Overrated: Antonio Brown

Brown's scored 50 touchdowns despite running over 3,300 routes for the Steelers for an unadjusted TDPRR of 1.49% and a True TDPRR of 1.41%. Meanwhile, Dodds projection of 13 receving touchdowns in 600 implied routes run translates to a TDPRR of 2.17%. To put how outlying this is into perspective, one need only to refer back to the earlier table, where Dez Bryant ranks No. 1 with a mere 1.86% True TDPRR. If that doesn't sway you, how about this perspective? Given his True TDPRR, Brown could also score 13 touchdowns by running nearly 1,000 routes this season, which is literally unprecedented since routes run has existed.

Overrated: Julio Jones

Jones is in the same boat as Brown. In nearly 2,900 routes with the Falcons, his TDPRR is 1.40%, which translates to a 1.34% True TDPRR. Dodds' projections imply a TDPRR of 1.76%.

If that's not enough, let me remind you that, as I detailed in the 2017 quarterback TFP article, Matt Ryan is due for a massive regression to the mean this season.

Overrated: Jarvis Landry

I assure you that this has nothing to do with Jay Cutler replacing an injured Ryan Tannehill, nor do I seek to exploit the recent buzz surrounding DeVante Parker. Rather, Landry is overrated per TFP because Dodds's projections imply a 2.19 YPRR and 1.08% TDPRR when his actual values across 1,500 routes run in Miami are 2.03 and 0.87%, and his "true" values are 1.99 and 0.97%.