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Offseason Dynasty Refocus: WR

By Matt Schauf 9:02pm EST 2/26/19


The current top crop of young RBs has shifted some dynasty habits.

Check the current overall ADP at DynastyLeagueFootball.com, and you’ll find 5 RBs leading the board. DeAndre Hopkins breaks up that blockade in the “expert” consensus rankings on Fantasy Pros, but the same RBs still round out the top 6.

That quintet of backs -- who we already discussed on the podcast earlier this month -- stands tall because each player is young and already productive at a position that gets scary in a hurry thereafter. Their ascension, however, doesn’t mask the importance of wideouts in dynasty leagues.

Nine of the next 12 players in the DLF ADP are wideouts, and 13 of the top 25 players overall. Perhaps, however, the Fantasy Pros rankings indicate a buyer’s market at WR this offseason.

The top 25 overall there find WR and RB evenly split, 12-12. The top 60 finds WR gaining just a 1-player edge, 26-25. The RB count reaches 37 before the 40th WR gets on the board, and similar examples follow well into the triple digits.

Various studies/articles through the years have showed us that RBs peak earlier and fall off more quickly than WRs, making wideout the stronger long-term investment. The NFL confirms this with its contracts.

WRs rank 3rd in franchise-tag value, outpacing RBs (5 spots behind) by a little more than $4 million. And OverTheCap.com projects that gap to grow for the yet-unreleased 2019 tag numbers.

I don’t want to overrate the results from pooling a group of 16 rankers, especially early in the offseason, with many not even including the incoming rookies. But if folks in your league consider players in the current RB3 tier to be equivalent as dynasty investments to those in the WR3 tier, then I say you’ve got some fishing to do.


Where to Look

As we did in the QB and RB editions of this dynasty-updates series, we’ll get to some specific players the DS writers are targeting in dynasty leagues this offseason. But our discussion from last week’s dynasty-WR podcast got me thinking about a category that could reap some offseason-shopping benefits.

Tyler Boyd broke out for the Bengals in 2018, after a pair of fairly disappointing campaigns to open his career. Seattle’s Tyler Lockett added by far his most productive season to date as well. And Buffalo’s Zay Jones rebounded from a tough 2017 debut to quietly finish among the top 36 across fantasy formats.

We could do an article on each player, digging into why he did what he did in 2018 and whether he can repeat. But I point them out here because each fits squarely into the argument for tracking college market-share numbers.

Kevin Cole introduced most of us to the value of college market-share numbers in projecting fantasy WRs with this Rotoviz article 3 years ago. Basically, Kevin’s research found that factoring in a player’s market share -- i.e. his share of his team’s total in a given category -- made it easier to find wideouts likely to succeed in the NFL.

Others have certainly added to that since, including Hayden Winks’ series on Rotoworld this offseason. In his WRs article, Winks finds that no specific stat correlates strongly to NFL success, but that the strongest correlations come from final-year market shares.

Keep those 2 things in mind as we all digest this week’s NFL Scouting Combine and then continue through draft season:

1) No stat or measurement points directly to NFL success.
2) Among the available measures, college market share has worked better than most.

Winks’ top 3 correlations came in market share of receptions, market share of yards and “dominance rating,” which combines the market shares of receiving yards and TD receptions.

For us, Jared’s been tallying market-share numbers by WR class since 2016. Here’s how our 3 aforementioned 2018 breakout boys fared in their final college seasons:

If you’re a serious dynasty player, chances are you’ve already incorporated market share into your evaluations for each year’s rookie drafts. But this trio from last season serves as a reminder -- Boyd and Jones arguably much more so than Lockett -- that we shouldn’t forget about those market shares just because a player starts slowly in the NFL.


Who’s Next?

Lockett, Boyd and Jones obviously had more working for them in 2018 than just their positive market shares from back in college. Each opened the season among his team’s top 2 wideouts. So we’re looking here for market-share darlings with potential opportunity soon (ideally as soon as 2019). And, of course, it’s always nice to buy cheaply to mitigate risk. So I’m focusing this section on wideouts well down the 2019 offseason dynasty rankings -- outside the top 80 in the Fantasy Pros consensus.

Here are 5 targets, in the order they appear on that list …

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