NFL Combine for Fantasy Football: Things to Watch (WRs)

NFL Combine for Fantasy Football: Things to Watch (WRs)

In the first article on NFL Combine stats for fantasy football players to watch out for, I covered the running back position. Here, I’ll take a look at the wide receivers who have participated in the NFL Combine from 2013-2018.

Once again, I pulled this data from Pro-Football-Reference.com, where they’ve tracked every participant’s numbers since 2000. I looked at all 175 wide receivers (WRs) who participated in the NFL Combine that have posted an approximate value (AV) greater than or equal to 0.

The Data

WR Correlations

Once again, you can see the strongest relationship with a player’s future NFL performance is their Draft Round. Beyond draft slot, where do wide receivers separate themselves from their peers in the NFL Combine?

Too Much Noise?

The strongest relationship with NFL production for the 175 player sample is a weird one. I don’t know if I believe WRs who post slower 3 Cone Drill or Shuttle Run times (as the positive correlations indicate) are actually more valuable.

So is there anything that can be done to try to clean the sample a bit? Here is what I tried:

175 WRs is a lot of players. Over 6 combines, that’s about enough to fill the wide receiver room for all 32 NFL teams. As the saying goes, however, the NFL stands for Not For Long – there’s a lot of WRs in this sample who burned bright, and flamed out spectacularly.

I decided to look at the top 30 by career AV in this sample. My justification for this was that those players should represent a healthy group of WRs that have proven to be more valuable (per the metric) to their franchises for a longer time period.

Hopefully, the relationship between NFL Combine performance and NFL production for the very best WRs in the sample gives a better picture of what to look for in future combines.

“Cleaner” Data

WR correlations (top 30)

I know, I know. You might want to cry “sampling error” or “selection bias” – I think that’s kind of the point here, though. We want to isolate what type of drill scores indicate the existence of skill sets that matter more for each position group. Who better to look at than the best of the best at each position? 30 is an entirely valid sample size.

The Lone Important Drill

I feel better drawing conclusions from this grouping. Here, the 3 Cone Drill appears to have an eye-popping strong relationship with future NFL production for WRs. Top performers in the drill since 2013 include Odell Beckham, Jr., Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Davante Adams.

This is honestly the only general drill I’ll personally be interested in looking at next week for wide receivers.

Other Drills: Do They Matter?

The Broad Jump has a much stronger relationship with future NFL production for WRs than it did with the RBs. It’s somewhat bizarre that a “lower” score has a better relationship with future success in this smaller sample, though. WRs with the smallest broad jumps in the top 30 sample: DeAndre Hopkins, Willie Snead (undrafted), Jarvis Landry, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen and Nelson Agholor.

Some of these guys have been among the most productive in football! Does this metric matter? Well, it depends. Stepping away from the draftnik world and taking a longer view, I think we can make sense of this correlation.

WRs play drastically different roles even from each other, especially on the same team. A slot receiver is going to run an extremely different route tree than an outside receiver, for example. The explosiveness the broad jump measures, therefore, is likely to be more valuable for certain types of WRs scouts are looking at to fill narrow and specific roles.

It will take a much deeper dive than I have done into each individual player’s team specific role to suss this out.

The relationship of AV to the Shuttle Run, Vertical Jump, 40 Yard Dash and Bench Reps for wide receivers is both weaker and not likely to be as significant based on the data.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of noise with the larger sample of WRs in the data. It probably makes sense to only look at the very best WRs in there to figure out which drills matter. Amongst the top 30 WRs who attended the NFL Combine since 2013, the biggest indicator of future success (other than draft round) has been performance in the 3 Cone Drill.

Up next, tight end performance. Thanks for reading!