Everyone dreams of wide receiver gold; those WR1 & WR2s we can set and forget when going through our starting lineups each week. Yes, WR3s and Flexes are important, but it’s the stud WRs that make their fantasy owners rich.
But what do we really know about WR gold? How can we recognize it? Where can we find it? And how long does it last? A study of the last seven years of PPR data combined with PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats, metrics, and analytics, along with tools like the Dynasty Deluxe and Breakout Finder offer valuable insights into that precious metal.
What Does WR Gold Look Like?
Firstly, WR gold shines right away and, more often than not, shines for a long time. In the last seven years, 60-percent of each season’s top-24 WRs reached that plateau for the first time either as rookies or in year 2. And, barring injury, that WR usually stays there for at least three consecutive years. Many, like Mike Evans, Davante Adams, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Jarvis Landry and T.Y. Hilton, do so for five-plus years. And Tyreek Hill would have just completed his fifth had he not missed four games in 2019. He finished as the WR26 in 12 games that year.
Interestingly, each year’s top 24 have spent 58-percent of their entire careers to that point as a top-24 WR. This holds true even for players that missed several games or even entire seasons to injury, like Adam Thielen (2019), Cooper Kupp (2017), DeAndre Hopkins (2016) and Julian Edelman (2017).
When we find young WR1s/WR2s – like recent members to the club Justin Jefferson, Terry McLaurin and A.J. Brown, hang on! And reap the rewards of dynasty!
Is It Easy to Find?
Unfortunately, it’s not. On average, 18 of each year’s top 24 WRs (75-percent) have been there before. As much as 60-percent were on last year’s list – even allowing for injuries! Most of 2020’s top WRs were also 2019’s top WRs, and most of 2019’s were on the 2018 list, and so on.
This means that our leaguemates can already name most of 2021’s WR1s/WR2s if they just guess the exact same guys as last year. Most proven stud WRs are unavailable in trade, so we are better served focusing our time on finding the breakouts.
Though it’s not easy, our mining task is to find that 25-percent that will break out in 2021!
Where to Look
There are only three places to dig for next year’s WR nuggets; the six or so WRs per year that will grace our top 24 WR list for the first time:
On average, two rookies break into each year’s top 24. That’s only eight-percent. In our study, except for Kelvin Benjamin, 100-percent returned to the top 24 at least once more; most several times. And say what you will about Benjamin, after missing his second season with an ACL tear, he did manage a WR28 finish in his third year.
Rookies are the best place to search for WR gold. Use PlayerProfiler’s Dynasty Deluxe, get the Breakout Finder App and target top-ranked rookies. Take several chances and, when you hit on rookies, hang on!
– Check out the Dynasty Deluxe “Big Board” for 10+ Mocks from across the industry.
Year 2 Breakouts
As with rookies, two or so second-year players will make their initial appearance in the top 24.
What did year 2 breakouts look like in our study? Almost 100-percent were outside the top 36 as rookies. They were not featured as rookies, but earned relatively consistent playing time, typically appearing in 10-plus games with 400-500 yards and a few touchdowns.
The year 2 breakouts showed less staying power than rookie breakouts, though. Only 62-percent of Year 2 breakouts returned to the top 24 at least once more. Though some that have failed to return did so because of a year 3 injury. D.J. Chark and Courtland Sutton are excellent prior year 2 breakouts that are now 2021 targets.
Year 2 breakouts that retained top 24 status in following years typically had an above-average BMI, solid PlayerProfiler metric scores and a solid NFL Catch Rate. 2021 offers several great candidates for year 2 breakouts, including:
- -Denzel Mims: Mims has great metrics: a 115.6 (96th-percentile among qualified wide receivers) Speed Score, 42.3-percent (85th-percentile) College Dominator Rating, 131.0 (90th-percentile) Burst Score and 10.34 (95th-percentile) Catch Radius. New OC Mike Lafleur’s West Coast offense should feature Mims and Corey Davis on the outside with Jamison Crowder or Keelan Cole in the slot. Mims earned five targets and 40 yards per game as a rookie, and is in the sweet spot for year 2 breakouts.
- -Laviska Shenault: Shenault earned 600 yards and five TDs as a 2020 rookie with QBs Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon and Jake Luton slinging the rock. Shenault managed an excellent 73.4-percent (No. 21) Catch Rate despite a 7.18 (No. 55) Target Accuracy mark. No earth-shattering news here – he’ll get better passes from Trevor Lawrence. Yes, Marvin Jones is coming to town as a deep threat, but Shenault is bigger, has a higher Speed Score and is nine years younger.
The Code Breaker Ep. 2: @jlarkytweets is back to breakdown @breakout_finder favorite Laviska Shenault ?
? https://t.co/9DHGn7Pu5Y pic.twitter.com/JXnIwW8psd
— RotoUnderworld (@rotounderworld) February 23, 2021
- -Michael Pittman: A new QB in Indy that will even remotely consider throwing the ball downfield will play to Pittman’s 111.2 (93rd-percentile) Speed Score, 10.25 (89th-percentile) Catch Radius and 11.10 (66th-percentile) Agility Score. Per Pro Football Reference, Philip Rivers ranked No. 25 with 7.2 Intended Air Yards Per Attempt. For comparison, Pittman’s new QB, Carson Wentz, ranked No. 4 with 8.8 IAY/PA.
Is Michael Pittman the Alpha in Indianapolis?
? 17.1% Target Share
? 7.6 Fantasy Pts Per Game
? 6.7% Drop Rate pic.twitter.com/BMpVWo2Iqg
— RotoUnderworld (@rotounderworld) February 15, 2021
- -What about Brandon Aiyuk?: Aiyuk was 6th in the NFL among rookies with 748 (No. 44) Receiving Yards, though he played a lot without George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. Aiyuk’s 61.9-percent Catch Rate ranked No. 76 among qualified receivers. By comparison, Kittle and Samuel had Catch Rates of 76.2-percent and 75.0-percent, No. 12 among WRs and No. 3 among TEs, respectively, when on the field. Not making the top 24 as a rookie, Aiyuk faces an uphill climb in year 2.
Brandon Aiyuk finished as the Rookie WR 5️⃣ in 2020 ?
Where did you have Aiyuk ranked in the 2020 class? pic.twitter.com/XruHgJrRTI
— RotoUnderworld (@rotounderworld) February 18, 2021
Year 3 and Beyond
The “third year breakout” is looking more and more like a myth every year. In our study, only two WRs per year reached the top 24 for the first time in year 3 or beyond. In the last three seasons, a total of four players have done it. It’s not impossible to find one. It’s just a long shot. To improve your odds, use the Dynasty Deluxe rankings and take a couple flyers – especially those that have missed time early but have tremendous profiles. Churn them though if they don’t flash right away. No need to keep pyrite on the roster. Guys with high-quality profiles that fit this description include the aforementioned Deebo Samuel and Parris Campbell.
Does WR Gold Ever Go on Sale?
Yes. Don’t expect to find them in the clearance bin, but the best way to save money on WR gold is to look for young receivers coming off injury. Even coming off multi-week or full-season injuries, top young WRs usually bounce right back the next year. Six of the seven WRs that were in 2019’s top 24 but fell out in 2020 missed at least four games due to injury. History shows they’re great candidates to bounce right back.
Now’s the time to see if you can save five or 10 cents on the dollar on Michael Thomas or Courtland Sutton. Even Odell Beckham is worth a later flyer. Though Beckham is now at the age apex, he’s been top 24 whenever he’s been on the field.
When Should We Sell Our Gold?
When a former top 24 WR spends two consecutive years outside the top 24 after prior success, that’s usually it unless it can be explained by injury. That WR is moved to another NFL team (where he doesn’t live up to prior glory), loses his role to younger/more talented/cheaper players or is simply done.
Now is the time to move older players. Their value only goes down once they start slipping.
Examples in 2021 include Tyler Boyd, T.Y. Hilton and even Brandin Cooks. Looking at Cooks in particular, he was Houston’s best WR in 2020. But being the best on a bad team made him WR30. After a run of four straight WR1/WR2 finishes, he now has two straight WR3 finishes and will reach the age apex this year – now is the time to shop him. Just don’t remind your league-mates that Cooks piled up half his 2020 touchdowns and 300 of his 1,150 yards in Weeks 16 and 17. His 12.8 PPR Fantasy Points per Game before that point did not carry his teams to the finals.
How Do I Get Rich With WR gold?
-Expect 75-percent of each year’s top 24 to be returnees. Two-thirds of each year’s new WR gold will be rookies or year 2 players.
-Focus attention on the youngest WRs following PlayerProfiler, Dynasty Dominator and Breakout Finder recommendations. Don’t expect more than one or two players to break out each year beyond their second season though.
-The best way to find a bargain on already-proven talent will be young WRs coming off injuries; don’t expect a big discount but the price is likely the lowest it’ll be.
-And, after two consecutive years outside the top 24, move that WR while his name still has cachet. The odds are the player won’t return to top 24.
The tools at PlayerProfiler and the BreakoutFinder app are the best sources to give us a leg up on our competition and strike it rich with dynasty WR Gold!