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Is There a Correlation Between WR Combine Numbers and Fantasy Football Success?

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NFL Combine and Fantasy Success

The NFL is in a down period with the bulk of free agency done and the NFL Combine over, so it is time for serious fantasy football players to look for ways to get an advantage over their league mates. As I have done previously with the running back position, I looked for a potential advantage by looking at the 2017 NFL Combine and the measurables from the 58 wide receivers that tested at this year’s event.

Using information from the last five NFL seasons, I examined the top-90 fantasy wide receiver single season performances and those players’ NFL Combine stats to look for trends that may help fantasy football players target certain rookie pass catchers moving forward.

Full NFL Combine Results HERE

Rk Player Season Team FantPt
1 Antonio Brown 2014 PIT 251.9
2 Antonio Brown 2015 PIT 246.2
3 Julio Jones 2015 ATL 233.1
4 Brandon Marshall 2015 NYJ 230.2
5 Jordy Nelson 2014 GNB 229.9
6 Demaryius Thomas 2014 DEN 229.9
7 Dez Bryant 2014 DAL 228
8 Josh Gordon 2013 CLE 227.4
9 Demaryius Thomas 2013 DEN 227
10 Allen Robinson 2015 JAX 224
11 Odell Beckham 2015 NYG 223.3
12 Calvin Johnson 2012 DET 220.4
13 DeAndre Hopkins 2015 HOU 220.1
14 Calvin Johnson 2013 DET 219.2
15 Brandon Marshall 2012 CHI 216.6
16 A.J. Green 2013 CIN 208.6
17 Mike Evans 2016 TAM 208.1
18 Dez Bryant 2012 DAL 207.7
19 Jordy Nelson 2016 GNB 207.7
20 Brandon Marshall 2013 CHI 205.5
21 Odell Beckham 2014 NYG 204
22 A.J. Green 2012 CIN 202.8
23 Randall Cobb 2014 GNB 202.4
24 Antonio Brown 2016 PIT 201.3
25 Emmanuel Sanders 2014 DEN 200.8
26 Dez Bryant 2013 DAL 199.4
27 Antonio Brown 2013 PIT 198.9
28 Demaryius Thomas 2012 DEN 197.4
29 Odell Beckham 2016 NYG 195.6
30 Alshon Jeffery 2013 CHI 194.6
31 Julio Jones 2014 ATL 193.4
32 Eric Decker 2013 DEN 192.8
33 Jeremy Maclin 2014 PHI 191.8
34 Doug Baldwin 2015 SEA 190.9
35 Vincent Jackson 2012 TAM 188.4
36 A.J. Green 2015 CIN 187.7
37 DeSean Jackson 2013 PHI 187.4
38 Eric Decker 2012 DEN 184.4
39 Andre Johnson 2012 HOU 183.8
40 T.Y. Hilton 2016 IND 182.8
41 Julio Jones 2012 ATL 182.8
42 Jordy Nelson 2013 GNB 179.4
43 Mike Evans 2014 TAM 177.1
44 Roddy White 2012 ATL 177.1
45 Julio Jones 2016 ATL 176.9
Rk Player Season Team FantPt
46 Alshon Jeffery 2014 CHI 176.6
47 T.Y. Hilton 2014 IND 176.5
48 Calvin Johnson 2015 DET 173.4
49 Eric Decker 2015 NYJ 172.7
50 Davante Adams 2016 GNB 171.7
51 Larry Fitzgerald 2015 ARI 171.5
52 Marques Colston 2012 NOR 171.4
53 Wes Welker 2012 NWE 171.4
54 Andre Johnson 2013 HOU 170.7
55 Brandin Cooks 2015 NOR 169.6
56 Victor Cruz 2012 NYG 169.2
57 Brandin Cooks 2016 NOR 168.3
58 Michael Crabtree 2012 SFO 165.3
59 Pierre Garcon 2013 WAS 164.5
60 Vincent Jackson 2013 TAM 164.4
61 Michael Thomas 2016 NOR 163.7
62 Reggie Wayne 2012 IND 163
63 James Jones 2012 GNB 162.4
64 Demaryius Thomas 2015 DEN 162.4
65 Allen Hurns 2015 JAX 161.1
66 Anquan Boldin 2013 SFO 161
67 Golden Tate 2014 DET 160.1
68 Doug Baldwin 2016 SEA 159.6
69 Jarvis Landry 2015 MIA 159.4
70 Sammy Watkins 2015 BUF 158.8
71 Jeremy Maclin 2015 KAN 156.2
72 Calvin Johnson 2014 DET 155.7
73 DeAndre Hopkins 2014 HOU 155
74 Mike Williams 2012 TAM 154.7
75 Randall Cobb 2012 GNB 154.6
76 Larry Fitzgerald 2013 ARI 154.2
77 DeSean Jackson 2014 WAS 153.6
78 Kelvin Benjamin 2014 CAR 152.8
79 Michael Crabtree 2016 OAK 150.3
80 Amari Cooper 2016 OAK 149.3
81 Keenan Allen 2013 SDG 148.6
82 Emmanuel Sanders 2015 DEN 148.4
83 Tyrell Williams 2016 SDG 147.9
84 Julian Edelman 2013 NWE 146.7
85 Rishard Matthews 2016 TEN 146.5
86 Michael Crabtree 2015 OAK 146.2
87 Mike Wallace 2014 MIA 145.8
88 Jordan Matthews 2015 PHI 145.7
89 Torrey Smith 2014 BAL 142.7
90 John Brown 2015 ARI 142.5

As I point out these trends, it is important to remember that I am not stating that just the wide receivers that fall into each range will be successful. Instead just that the data suggests that the range provided in each measurable has had the most success by wide receivers over the last five NFL seasons.

Height

Of the 90 top single-season fantasy wide receivers examined from the past five NFL seasons, just one was measured at less than 70 inches at the NFL Combine. At the 2004 NFL Combine, Wes Welker measured in at 69 inches. The other 89 pass catchers reached at least 70 inches on the tape measure.

Using the 70-inch mark as the cutoff, we can start to eliminate some 2017 rookie wide receivers from future fantasy football considerations. Seven of the 58 wide receivers to participate in the 2017 NFL Combine did not measure up in the height category.

Wide Receivers with a height less than 70 inches at 2017 NFL Combine

Player School Height
Bolden, Victor Oregon State 68”
Lucas, Keevan Tulsa 69”
McKenzie, Isaiah Georgia 67”
Switzer, Ryan North Carolina 68”
Taylor, Trent Louisiana State 68”
Whitfield, Kermit Florida State 68”
Wilson, Bobo Florida State 69”

In addition to trying to eliminate some wide receivers from future fantasy consideration, we also want to try to find the gems. In the case of height, most of the top fantasy wide receivers from the last five NFL season have fallen between 73 and 75 inches. 49 of the top 90 fantasy wide receivers (54.4%) in that time were measured in that range in their respective NFL Combine experiences.

The 2017 NFL Combine saw just 27 of 58 participating wide receivers’ height reach between those marks.

Those that followed the trend set by previous successful fantasy wide receivers were: Rodney Adams (South Florida), Quincy Adeboyejo (Mississippi), Kendrick Bourne (Eastern Washington), Noah Brown (Ohio State), Jehu Chesson (Michigan), Amara Darboh (Michigan), Corey Davis (Western Michigan), Robert Davis (Georgia State), Malachi Dupre (Louisiana State), Travin Dural (Louisiana State), Amba Etta-Tawo (Syracuse), Isaiah Ford (Virginia Tech), Chris Godwin (Penn State), Chad Hansen (California), Keon Hatcher (Arkansas), Krishawn Hogan (Marian University), Zay Jones (East Carolina), Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington), Jerome Lane (Akron), Josh Malone (Tennessee), Zach Pascal (Old Dominion), Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M), Jalen Robinette (Air Force), Darreus Rogers (USC), Fred Ross (Mississippi State), JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC), Jamari Staples (Louisville).

Weight

Nearly half of the top 90 fantasy single season wide receivers of the last five seasons have weighed between 210-229 pounds at their combine. This range owned 44 of the 90 pass catchers. Interestingly enough, the 180-199 lb range held 25 of these wide receivers.

Since we are looking for trends to predict future fantasy success lets take a look at which of the 58 wide receivers that participated in this year’s NFL Combine fell into the most heavily populated range from the past five years. Of all the 2017Combine participants just 15 of the pass catchers tipped the scale within the 210-229 pound marks. Those wide receivers were:

Noah Brown (Ohio State), Amara Darboh (Michigan), Robert Davis (Georgia State), Kenny Golladay (Northern Illinois), Keon Hatcher (Arkansas), Krishawn Hogan (Marian University), Mack Hollins (North Carolina), Bug Howard (North Carolina), Jerome Lane (Akron), Zach Pascal (Old Dominion), Jalen Robinette (Air Force), Darreus Rogers (USC), Fred Ross (Mississippi State), JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC), Mike Williams (Clemson).

40-Yard Dash

Before I get into using the 40-yard dash as a future fantasy predictor, I should mention that the sample size used here is less than ideal. Of the top-90 fantasy wide receivers from the previous five seasons, one-third of them choose not to race the clock at the NFL Combine. So while the numbers you are about to see regarding the straight line run seem pretty easy to interpret, just keep in mind that the numbers only include 59 of those 90 top fantasy pass catchers from the last half decade.

With 54 of the 59 wide receivers that did run the 40-yard dash at their respective Combines burning up the stop watch between 4.3 and 4.59 seconds, this Combine measurable seems like a great tool to predict future fantasy production at the NFL level.

22 of the 58 wide receivers to participate at the 2017 NFL Combine failed to fall within this predictive range. Six of those failures were due to not running the event.

The 22 pass catchers that did not meet the 40-yard dash criteria were:

Kendrick Bourne (Eastern Western), Noah Brown-DNP (Ohio State), Billy Brown (Shepherd), Corey Davis (Western Michigan), Isaiah Ford (Virginia Tech), Keon Hatcher (Arkansas), Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington), Jerome Lane (Akron), Drew Morgan (Arkansas), Speedy Noil-DNP (Texas A&M), James Quick (Louisville), Jalen Robinette (Air Force), Darreus Rogers-DNP (USC), John Ross (Washington), Travis Rudolph (Florida State), Artavis Scott (Clemson), Ricky Seals-Jones (Texas A&M), Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech), Noel Thomas (Connecticut), Greg Ward-DNP (Houston), Dede Westbrook-DNP (Oklahoma), Mike Williams-DNP (Clemson).

Bench

While wide receivers are not known for upper body strength, there was a pretty strong trend presented as I looked at the successful fantasy wide receivers of the past five seasons. But again please take note that the sample size was tampered with as just 44 of the top-90 fantasy pass catchers lifted at their NFL Combine experience.

28 of the 44 who did lift at their respective Combine landed between 12-17 reps of 225 pounds.

Only 18 of this year’s crop of rookies finished within this range at the 2017 NFL Combine.

Those that hit the mark were:

KD Cannon (Baylor), Amara Darboh (Michigan), Amba Etta-Tawo (Syracuse), Isaiah Ford (Virginia Tech), Keon Hatcher (Arkansas), Carlos Henderson (Louisiana Tech), Mack Hollins (North Carolina), Zay Jones (East Carolina), Jerome Lane (Akron), Zach Pascal (Old Dominion), Jalen Robinette (Air Force), Travis Rudolph (Florida State), Artavis Scott (Clemson), Ricky Seals-Jones (Texas A&M), JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC), Taywan Taylor (Western Michigan), Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech), Mike Williams (Clemson)

It should be noted that like many wide receivers before them, 11 of this year’s crop of pass catchers did not participate in the lifting part of the Combine.

Vertical

Of the NFL Combine measurements that I have looked at so far the vertical jump may be the least conclusive for predicting fantasy success in the NFL. 52 of the top-90 fantasy wide receivers of the last five seasons participated in this event. But finding the trend is not necessarily as clear as the past measurements were. Nine of those 52 jumped between 36” – 36.9”. While 28 of the 52 found leaped between 36” and 39.9”.

Even though it is not as clear-cut as I would like, I will be using the latter option to help predict fantasy success as it has the larger number of the top fantasy producers in the last five seasons.

14 of this year’s NFL Combine participants jumped between 36”- and 38.9”. It should be noted that six of the 58 wide receivers this season, did not participate in this event.

The 14 that measured up in the vertical jump were:

KD Cannon (Baylor), Amara Darboh (Michigan), Chris Godwin (Penn State), Carlos Henderson (Louisiana Tech), Krishawn Hogan (Marian University), Bug Howard (North Carolina), Zay Jones (East Carolina), Isaiah McKenzie (Georgia), Zach Pascal (Old Dominion), Michael Rector (Stanford), Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M), John Ross (Washington), Curtis Samuel (Ohio State), Jamari Staples (Louisville).

Since the 33” mark did have the highest population of the top-90 wide receivers, I should also mention that Taywan Taylor (Western Kentucky) and Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech) were the only two to jump within that range.

 

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Broad

Only 49 of the top-90 fantasy wide receivers of the last five seasons participated in the broad jump at their combines. Despite the small sample size there are some glaring trends. 38 of those 49 pass catchers jumped between 115 – 129. And 19 of those wide receivers landed between 120-124.

While the 115-129 range seems to be the sweet spot for using this measurement to predict future success it does not really help in determining which of the 2017 NFL Combine participants will be of fantasy value later. Of the 58 wide receivers to attend the Combine, only five of them did not participate in this event. And of the 53 remaining players all but four saw their broad test in between the 115-129.

So with the 120-124 range populating the majority of the top fantasy football wide receivers from the past five seasons that is where we will look to try to identify which of the 2017 rookie crop will provide fantasy value down the road. 14 of these 53 wide receivers at the 2017 NFL Combine reached the 120-124 range that holds the most fantasy success over the last five seasons.

Those receivers were:

Quincy Adeboyejo (Mississippi), Stacy Coley (Miami), Amara Darboh (Michigan), Kenny Golladay (Northern Illinois), Krishawn Hogan (Marian University), Josh Malone (Tennessee), Isaiah McKenzie (Georgia), Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M), Jalen Robinette (Air Force), Ricky Seals-Jones (Texas A&M), JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC), Ardarius Stewart (Alabama), Kermit Whitfield (Florida State), Mike Williams (Clemson).

20-Yard Shuttle

Like the many NFL Combine measurements that I have looked at here, the 20-yard shuttle is pretty conclusive in terms of where the top fantasy wide receivers’ level is at. 48 of the top-90 fantasy pass catchers of the last five NFL seasons participated in the 20-yard shuffle when it was their time to attend the NFL Combine.

34 of the 48 wide outs’ shuttle time fell between 4.1 and 4.39.

Unfortunately, this information does not help us conclude a lot about the 2017 wide receiver class. 29 of the 58 pass catchers at this year’s NFL Combine were timed within this range. While 16 wide receivers did not participate in the event and 13 ran but failed to make it to the 4.1 – 4.39 range.

The receivers that met the 20-yard shuttle criteria were:

Rodney Adams (South Florida), Quincy Adeboyejo (Mississippi), Victor Bolden (Oregon State), Kendrick Bourne (Eastern Washington), Billy Brown (Shepherd), Robert Davis (Georgia State), Malachi Dupre (Louisiana State), Amba Etta-Tawo (Syracuse), Isaiah Ford (Virginia Tech), Shelton Gibson (West Virginia), Kenny Golladay (Northern Illinois), Chad Henson (California), Carlos Henderson (Louisiana Tech), Kirshawn Hogan (Marian University), Bug Howard (North Carolina), Jerome Lane (Akron), Josh Malone (Tennessee), Gabe Marks (Washington State), Isaiah McKenzie (Georgia), Drew Morgan (Arkansas), Zach Pascal (Old Dominion), James Quick (Louisville), Michael Rector (Stanford), Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M), Fred Ross (Mississippi), Curtis Samuel (Ohio State), Ricky Seals-Jones (Texas A&M), Taywan Taylor (Western Kentucky), Kermit Whitfield (Florida State).

3-Cone

The 3 Cone drill may be better suited to predict running back success than wide receivers’ future performance. But there still is an optimal time as presented by the top-90 fantasy wide receivers of the past five years. Just 46 of those 90 wide-outs ran the 3-Cone at their NFL Combine experience. But over 50 percent of them (26/46) ran the drill in between 6.90 – 7.09 seconds.

This range was clearly the most populated among the top-90’s times. No other time, besides the 6.6-6.69 time range, even reached four participants.

This year’s crop of wide receivers that attended the NFL Combine landed 13 prospects within the 6.9-7.09 time range. Those wide receivers were:

Rodney Adams (South Florida), Noah Brown (Ohio State), Amba Etta-Tawo (Syracuse), Isaiah Ford (Virginia Tech), Chris Godwin (Penn State), Kenny Golladay (Northern Illinois), Bug Howard (North Carolina), Josh Malone (Tennessee), Gabe Marks (Washington State), James Quick (Louisville), Fred Ross (Mississippi State), Travis Rudolph (Florida State), Curtis Samuel (Ohio State).

Conclusion

Just as I stated with my look at the running backs, admittedly this look at the past five years of fantasy success and their NFL Combine numbers was not a scientific study. But instead, it was an opportunity to find trends among the top fantasy wide receivers of recent history and their measurable numbers from the Combine.

So this look into the measurables is not an end all be all for determining which soon to be NFL wide receivers will be successful. Instead, it is another tool to use in determining if one of these pass catchers should be a part of your future fantasy teams.

To help condense all of this information in an easy to read format, below is a chart that shows how each wide receiver prospect stacks up against the trends found for each of the NFL Combine measurables from the top 75 single season fantasy performances by wide outs over the past five seasons. If the cell is highlighted green they fit the trend. Gray means the prospect did not participate in that event. Finally, red means that the wide receiver did not fit within the trend discussed.

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About the author

Wes Anderson

After participating in fantasy football for over a decade and a half, Wes started to share from his experiences and began his fantasy football-writing career at TodaysPigskin.com in 2013. There he has provided draft strategies, a deep analysis inside the numbers of each week’s matchups as well as winning FanDuel lineups ever since.
While Wes is a big believer in the numbers, he also understands that the eye in the sky does not lie. So instead of just reading box scores, Wes also watches the tape of each NFL game that is played each week to help stay ahead of the pack in his quest to provide top-notch fantasy football information on a weekly basis.

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