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Rookie Wide Receiver Agility Score Stars

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Josh-Docston-advanced-stats

When looking into how a player with the physical and production profile of Doug Baldwin was able to tie for the NFL lead in touchdowns scored in the 2015 season, I came to realize how much the Agility Score metric actually matters for the wide receiver position.  The basic premise behind that idea is that a receiver with great-to-elite agility can win in every area of the field, not only in the red zone or inside the 20s.

When a wide receiver with great agility becomes the focal point of an efficient NFL offense, fantasy owners should quickly pounce.  If plus agility is all that a particular player has going for him, as was the case with Wes Welker in his prime fantasy point scoring years, it stands to reason that he has better odds of having a memorable fantasy season in the right circumstance than a player with subpar agility.  Unless the player with subpar agility falls into the Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall or Calvin Johnson archetypes.  With this general idea in mind, my focus turned to the incoming crop of rookie wide receivers in hopes of identifying some overlooked WRs with encouraging agility metrics.

 The 2016 Rookie Wide Receivers

The 2016 wide receiver rookie class has been described as a “whelming” class; a class short on players who look like Dez Bryant and Julio Jones. But a class featuring a number of svelte receivers who had precocious college seasons but who, for the most part, flunked the Combine.  And while there are some players in this class who, like Doug Baldwin, recorded a great Agility Score while having a poor Catch Radius and/or a below-average College Dominator Rating, you can’t rely on those players becoming fantasy assets.  Those are the players who absolutely need to catch the proverbial lightning in a bottle if they ever hope to be relevant in either a fantasy or reality football context, much like Baldwin did in 2015.

That being said, there are a number of incoming rookies who recorded above average Agility Scores at, around or under 11.00. Some have piqued my interest more than others for varying reasons.  And while it could take up to a few years for enough pieces to fall into place to make it happen, there are wide receivers in this draft class with a season reminiscent of Doug Baldwin‘s 2015 in their range of possible outcomes in a perfect storm-type of environment.  Most can be had late in rookie drafts at the moment.

(Still) The Top Dog

Underworld favorite Josh Doctson is one of 33 wide receivers in the PlayerProfiler database that recorded a sub-11.00 Agility Score while standing 6-2 or taller (thank you, Player Profiler Data Analysis tool).  The most impressive names to come out of that group are Jeff Janis, Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffery and Vincent Jackson, all of whom are taller and heavier than Doctson.  Unfortunately, most of this cohort’s players haven’t made any sort of NFL impact.  A number of them fit Doctson’s taller, leaner archetype.  Luckily for Doctson, he’s among the most well-rounded receivers to enter the NFL in the last several years.

josh-doctson-playerprofiler

Josh Doctson Advanced Metrics Profile

Of all the 6-2 or taller wide receivers with sub-11.00 Agility Scores, only Josh Doctson and Alshon Jeffery have 74th-percentile scores or better in College Dominator rating, College YPR, Breakout Age and SPARQ-x.  And of these 33 receivers, Doctson is one of only seven who recorded a 64th-percentile score or better in every relevant workout metric (a group that again includes Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson and Jeff Janis).  Not even players like Amari Cooper and Sammy Watkins can boast that kind of overall efficiency and athleticism.  This all adds further credence to the belief that Doctson is not only the best wide receiver in this rookie class, he’s likely to be the only one who won’t need to rely on playing with an elite quarterback and/or playing in a pass-happy offense in order to be fantasy relevant.

The 2016 Agility Score Champion

It’s almost unfathomable that a 6-4, 234-pound wide receiver has the best Agility Score of all the skill position players in the 2016 class.  And while Devon Cajuste fits into an archetype that includes Andre Holmes, Kenny Britt and Larry Fitzgerald, he didn’t have the college productivity to match.  His 4.62 40-time was also the slowest of the bunch, though it still gives him a 106.9 (84th-percentile) Height-adjusted Speed Score (HaSS).

[DevonCajuste]-WideReceiver-Stanford

Devon Cajuste Advanced Metrics Profile

Regardless, concerns about his long speed have inspired debate about whether he should play tight end instead of wide receiver in the NFL.  There are only six players at either position who have recorded sub-11.00 Agility Scores at 230-plus pounds.  Five of them are tight ends (with Owen Daniels being the most notable name) and the other is Vincent Jackson.  A position switch could be Cajuste’s best chance at achieving fantasy relevance.  Either way, he could become an intriguing red zone weapon for touchdown-seeking fantasy teams, as long as he’s drafted onto a relatively talent-deficient depth chart.

The Converted QB

[BraxtonMiller]-WideReceiver-OhioState

Braxton Miller Advanced Metrics Profile

Like Julian Edelman, it may take Braxton Miller up to a few years to gain enough of a grasp of the nuances of the wide receiver position to make a fantasy or reality football impact.  But also like Edelman, and unlike fellow Ohio State quarterback-turned-wide-receiver Terrelle Pryor, Miller has an elite Agility Score.  Raw athleticism will help Miller make an impact on special teams early in his career, much like Edelman during the Wes Welker years.

The Litmus Test

[MarquezNorth]-WideReceiver-Tennessee

MarQuez North Advanced Metrics Profile

Like Devon Cajuste, Marquez North has exceptional weight-adjusted agility.  He barely had any college production to speak of, so he has an uphill battle as it relates to being drafted or even catching on with a team as an undrafted free agent.  But as stated by Kevin Cole of Rotoviz, North will test the limits of athleticism’s ability to drive NFL success, however you want to look at it.