Wide Receiver Prospects, Part 3: Using Hard Data

(See part one and part two.)

Upon reviewing all the data across the major conferences, I decided the only way I could trust my evaluations of success or failure was to set an objective standard. Like I mentioned last time, I’m using PFR’s “Approximate Value” stat to compare– comparing the expected AV of a draft slot to a player’s Career AV. (Note: I am using the career AV as listed on PFR’s Draft Finder page, which slightly weighs in favor of peak seasons, and not the sum total of AV.)

I graded prospects into four categories:

  • Bust achieved fewer than 50% of his expected AV in his career;
  • Disappointment totaled between 50% and 80% of expected AV;
  • An Average player accrued between 80% and 120% of expected AV;
  • And a Success accrued 120% or more of expected AV.

Of course, with active players, I had to use my judgment in certain cases. In some cases I decide the career to date is enough for a confident ranking; in others, I may project beyond career AV to date based on age of the prospect and success to date. (For example, AJ Green and Julio Jones currently rate as “average,” but any reasonable use of the word “success” has to consider them successful draft picks.)

I have separate rankings for when I feel there is not enough information for me to be confident:

  • Optimistic for when a player has shown enough that I expect him to have successful return;
  • Neutral for when, in rare cases, I think a player will end up returning roughly the equivalent of expectation, but the player is young enough that there is still high variance in the range of outcomes;
  • Jury Out for when there’s not enough information yet on a player;
  • And Pessimistic for when I feel a player will fail to make an average return.

This chart will show the raw information I found and how I rated it, and the accompanying percentages. The color codes are in the order listed above.

For example, of the six first-round Pac-X prospects, four have finished their careers and all rate as busts. (If you want to know, that’s R. Jay Soward, Freddie Mitchell, Reggie Williams, and Mike Williams.) Two first-rounders are still playing, and I’ve projected one as Optimistic (Brandin Cooks) and one as Jury Out (Nelson Agholor).

So you can see the numbers and make your own conclusions. It looks like, from my view, that the SEC is the best existent conference to pick highly-rated prospects from, followed by the ACC.

Next time, I’ll get into the specifics of the chart, and discuss some of the players in question here (including the Big East’s ridiculous streak of wide receivers, and it wasn’t entirely the early-00s University of Miami).

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