Sunday, 22 January 2017 00:00

Lessons learned from 2016: Wide Receivers

 Editor's note: This is Part 3 in a several part series where we dissect each offensive fantasy position and tell you what happened this season (2016) and how you can apply those lessons into your draft for next season (2017). You can check out all the lessons learned from quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends throughout the offseason.

The start of 2016’s fantasy football season was ushered in by countless twitter arguments over the validity of Zero RB. Week after week, our timelines would be cluttered with statistics in support or against the strategy, even worse, there were tons of unsubstantiated opinions on either side of the argument. While pure Zero RB didn’t filter into home league draft strategy, it is clear by looking at the first-round ADP that fantasy owners put an emphasis on drafting an elite WR. With five WRs in the Top-6 picks, 2016 was destined to be the year of the WR.

Except it wasn’t.

WR4 DeAndre Hopkins was plagued by Brock Osweiler.

WR5 A.J. Green was injured just late enough to completely wreck your season.

WR2 Julio Jones only played 14 games, as he suffered an injury just in time for fantasy playoffs.

But should we have seen this coming? The answer is yes.

Year Number of WR in Top 12
2006 4
2007 10
2008 3
2009 7
2010 5
2011 5
2012 7
2013 7
2014 8
2015 11
2016 6
Average 6.636363636
Mean 7
STDEV 2.419616799

As you can see over the past 10 years, the mean finish of WRs in the Top-12 is seven players. But 2015 was the most extreme outlier year since 2007. With 11 players in the Top-12 in scoring, fantasy owners who went WR heavy were awarded at unusually high rates. This WR success bled into draft strategy and created a run on WRs from 1.01.

How can we learn from this? Well, first, we can see that 2016 wasn’t exactly a down year for WRs. Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Mike Evans, and Odell Beckham Jr were all drafted in the first two rounds. They may not have had historically great seasons but they were all valuable players. The six WRs that finished in the Top-12, were just a tick below the average number of WRs in the Top-12 in the past 10 years. I wouldn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel in terms of draft strategy.

The most important lesson we must take from 2016 will be to fight the hysteria that will ensue when David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot come flying off the board in the first three picks of your 2017 drafts. It is a very rare occurrence for players to go back-to-back Top-3 years. In fact, no RB has done it since LaDanian Tomlinson in 2006 and 2007.

History will be on your side in 2017. So hop back on the WR bandwagon and draft Odell Beckham Jr. at 1.04 in your 2017 fantasy drafts.

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