Wide Receiver Hit Rates 2017-2022

Each season, the National Football League (NFL) holds its annual entry draft. The NFL draft is an event in which teams select eligible college football players to add to their rosters. The purpose of the draft is to acquire new players, intending to strengthen their roster and address areas of need.

Dynasty fantasy football leagues typically operate similarly. The purpose of a rookie draft in dynasty fantasy football is to give owners an opportunity to acquire incoming NFL rookies and add them to their roster. The question is, what should Dynasty managers expect to get out of their draft selections?  

There is a phenomenon in Dynasty leagues known as Rookie Fever. We tend to overvalue rookie picks this time of year, driving up their perceived value. The reality is managers should have a more realistic expectation of what value their rookie picks hold. 

Some rookies will make an immediate impact, some take time to develop and some may never reach the fantasy value we envisioned when we added them to our rosters. I refer to the level of success a player may or may not achieve during their career as their Hit Rate.

Since joining RotoHeat, I have utilized historical data on an annual basis to attempt to determine the expected hit rates of drafted prospects. In this 4-part series, I dive into the drafts over the past six seasons to identify trends and help set a level of expectation for this upcoming rookie class. 

This process began back in 2018 and has compiled the results of every skill player drafted since 2010. With a large number of players drafted in the early years of my data collection no longer playing, I have reduced the data used to the previous six seasons. The 2010-2016 data is referenced throughout to give a larger sample of the historical data. 

The third installment of this 4-part series looks at the wide receiver position. When reviewing hit rates, it’s important to define what a hit is. I define wide receiver “Hits” as any WR that has delivered a top-12, 24, or 36 season at any point in their career. In addition, I have crunched the data and determined which WRs accomplished the feat as a rookie, as well as how many have done it on more than one occasion. 

Since the 2017 NFL draft, there have been 187 wide receivers selected. Of those 186 RBs – 24 were first-round selections, 33 in the second, 24 in the third, 26 in the fourth, and a total of 80 were selected in rounds five through seven. 

Similar to the previous reviews of the quarterback, and running back positions, this data shows us that the draft capital of the player is king. While the WR, draft capital doesn’t have the dramatic impact that it does with the QB, and RBs it remains a very relevant indicator of the player’s potential for hit seasons. 

6. Rounds 5-7

As most dynasty managers would expect, wide receivers selected in rounds 5-7 don’t frequently deliver fantasy-relevant seasons. The 80 players selected in these three rounds since 2017 are comprised of 24 fifth-rounders, 31 sixth-rounders, and 25 7th round selections.

The 56 players selected after the fifth round have failed to record a top-36 season or better thus far in their careers. The 5th round has generated two hit seasons, Hunter Renfrow finished as WR10 and Darnell Mooney as WR23 both in 2021.

Sleepers at the WR position in these rounds are extremely rare. Taking a look back to 2010, there were an additional 94 WRs selected between 2010-2016, and only seven of them recorded a hit season. 5th round selections Stefon Diggs, and Tyreek Hill have combined for 14 hit seasons (9 top-12s), and 6th round selected Antonio Brown with his eight hit seasons–six of which were top-12 seasons.

Dating back to 2010, we have seen a total of 174 WRs selected between rounds 5-7, and of those 174, 9 (5.17%), have delivered their fantasy managers a hit season. Drafting a round 5-7 WR and having him deliver you a hit season is not something that happens very often. If it happens to you, consider yourself an extremely fortunate dynasty manager.

5. Round 4

Jumping into round 4 and looking at the 26 WRs drafted from 2017-2022, there are three WRs (4.5%) here that delivered a hit season. Dede Westbrook and Gabriel Davis both have a top-36 season on their resume and Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown has a top-12 and a top-24 season under his belt. St. Brown is the lone multiple-hit season WR selected in the 4th round between 2017-2022 as well as the lone rookie to deliver a hit season as a rookie.

The 35 WRs selected in the fourth round between 2010-2016 fared slightly better than their 2017-2022 counterparts. There are 4 members of the fantasy hit club; Mike Williams, Cecil Shorts, Travis Benjamin, and Jameson Crowder. Williams had two top-24 seasons in 2010, and 2012, and Crowder has posted three top-36 seasons to date. Williams and Crowder are the only multiple-hit WRs of the 35, and none of them delivered a hit as a rookie.

There have been 61 WRs selected since 2010, and seven of them have delivered a hit season, (11.48%). These seven have combined to put up 11 hit seasons, of those 11 only one has been a top-12 finish. Three of these 61 pass catchers, (4.91%) have multiple-hit seasons and only Amon-Ra got there as a rookie. Round four has delivered less often than Round 5 and Round 6 and should be a round if possible that you avoid.

4. Round 3 

Similar to when reviewing the history of running back draft classes, we start to see the relevance in terms of fantasy production in Round three. There have been 24 WRs drafted in this round since 2017. Six of them, (25%) have provided their fantasy managers with at least one hit season.

Four (17%) of them have a top-12 season on their resume — Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Diontae Johnson. All four have produced multiple hit seasons, as has Washington’s Terry McLaurin, who has finished as a top-36 WR in all of his four seasons to date. Cooper Kupp, and Terry McLaurin both finished inside the top-36 as rookies, the only two of the 24 third-rounders selected since 2017 to do so.

We saw 31 receivers selected in Round 3 from 2010-2016 and nine of them (29%) have experienced at least one hit season. In total, these nine wide receivers have combined to bring 32 hit seasons, nine top-12, 16 top-24, and 12 top-36 campaigns.

Five of the 31 (16.12%) have at least one top-12 season, led by Keenan Allen with three. Emmanuel Sanders, Eric Decker, Mohammed Sanu, John Brown, Tyler Lockett, T.Y. Hilton, along with Allen, all have recorded a hit season on multiple occasions. Hilton and Allen are the only two of the 31 top who have a hit season as a rookie.

In total dating back to 2010, 55 wide receivers have been drafted here, and 15, (27%) have delivered a hit season thus far in their careers. Dynasty rosters typically are not comprised of top-12 wide receivers only, and Round 3 WRs should be considered when drafting your rookies. Historically you are likely adding WR3/4 and flex spot talent here, and at times you’ll find yourself a rock-solid, weekly startable asset.

3. Round 2

Looking at Round two, we have 33 wide receivers drafted between 2017 and 2022. Eleven of the 33 have recorded at least one top-36 season to date. All totaled these 11 have combined to contribute six top-12, ten top-24, and eight top-36 seasons. 

The six top-12 seasons come from five different receivers with only A.J. Brown delivering more than one. On six occasions we had a Round 2 drafted WR hit during his rookie season, with the best result being a WR21 finish from Brown in 2019.

We heard 27 wide receivers’ names called in the second round between 2010 and 2016. 14 of these 27 pass catchers have combined to produce 21 top-12, 17 top-24, and 18 top-36 seasons to date. 

The 21 top-12 seasons came courtesy of eight different players, led by five from Davante Adams, four by Michael Thomas, and three each from Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry. The talent and consistency start to emerge with this group of WRs as 13 has given their fantasy manager multiple hits seasons.  

Five delivered a hit in their rookie season. Michael Thomas is the lone rookie here to hit the top-12 in his first season, and the only WR selected in round two from 2010-2022 to have a top-12 season in each of his first four seasons. 

A total of 60 wide receivers have been drafted in Round 2 since 2010. 26, (43%) of them have delivered a hit season thus far in their careers. 13 of the 26 have a top-12 season in their portfolio, and seven have done it on more than one occasion. Of the 60 selected here, ten had rookie hit seasons with Thomas being the only WR1 as a rookie.

Wide Receivers drafted in the second round of the NFL draft will typically be 1st round selections in your 1QB league rookie drafts and the top-ranked will be first-round selections in Super-Flex drafts as well. Round two in addition to Round one wide receivers are WRs to target.

Despite this being a round for you to target it is important to point out that 57% or 34 of the receivers selected in this round since 2010 have failed to finish inside the top-36 at any point in their career.

2. Round 1

One would expect round 1 to be chalked full of WR1 talent. Those drafted between 2017-2022, however, for the most part, have been dynasty duds instead of studs. There have been 24 WRs selected during the first round of NFL drafts in this timeframe, and we have seen 15 of them reach hit status thus far in their careers. A 63% hit rate should not be overlooked, but what is disappointing is the number of top-12 seasons this group has generated.

These 24 WRs have played a combined 67 seasons and have generated only ten (14.93%) top-12 seasons– Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase have five of them. The remaining 5 seasons have come from Mike Williams, Calvin Ridley, Cee Dee Lamb, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith. The number of top-24 seasons is not overwhelming either, as of those 67 seasons played, only 12 (17.9%) have been top-24 seasons. The remaining twelve hit seasons have been top-36 finishes.

There was a total of 27 WRs selected in the first round from 2010-2016. 17 (73.9%) of these WRs delivered at least one hit season, ten (37%) of which achieved at least one top-12 campaign. Some of the best WRs in the game today were 1st round selections from 2010-2016. Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, AJ Green, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., and Amari Cooper, all have multiple top-12 seasons, led by Julio Jones’ seven.

In total dating back to 2010, there have been 51 WRs selected in round one. 30 of them (58%) have delivered at least one hit season. 24 have done it more than once. When looking at these first-round drafted WRs, 19 had rookie hit seasons, with only three of them — Odell Beckham Jr, Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase reaching the top-12.

1. Conclusion

In conclusion, we have 157 wide receivers drafted since the 2017 NFL Entry draft. Those 157 wide receivers have produced a total of 15 top-12 or better finishes, 17 top-24 or better seasons, and 16 top-36 or better seasons.

Those 15 top-12 or better finishes came from 10 of the 157 (6.4%). Two of the ten (20%) were first-round selections, three of the ten (30%) were second-round selections, and three of the ten (30%) were drafted in round 3. Eight of the ten wide receivers (80%) to deliver their fantasy managers a top-12 WR season were selected in the top three rounds of the NFL draft.

The bottom line is that when drafting wide receivers this offseason, you should be targeting the WRs selected in the first three rounds to maximize the return on your investment.

It is difficult at this point of the offseason to predict where the top-ranked rookie wide receivers will be drafted. Using the historical data dating back to 2010, we know that 401 wide receivers were selected. In addition, we know that there have been 44 (10.92%) WRs to finish with a top-12 season at least once in their career. So, of the top 24 ranked WRs in the 2021 draft class, we would expect as of today that two of them will have at least one top-12 season during the course of their career.

There will be useful WR2 and WR3 seasons from these WRs as well. The bottom line is rookies are risky, and to limit your risk you need to be drafting top-100 NFL picks whenever possible.

Thank you for reading Wide Receiver Hit Rates 2017-2022

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