The lifecycle of a Dynasty Huge Receiver (Fantasy Soccer)
Welcome back to “The lifecycle of a Dynasty Player“Series. In my first article, I analyzed career history and fantasy production by age for the back race Position. And while a running back is absolutely critical to your championship run, a stable and productive core of wide receivers can be the backbone of ongoing dynasty dominance. For this article, we’ll take a look at the wide receiver position and answer the following questions:
- Can you be early contributors to your dynasty teams?
- When can we expect a player to reach their maximum fantasy potential?
- When should you swap out a wide receiver to maximize value?
To analyze the career arc of a wide receiver, I use data from 21 seasons from 2000 to 2020. The scoring format adopted in this analysis is PPR points per game, with at least 8 games being played. As always, this data comes from Professional soccer reference.
Historical WR1 and WR2 surfaces by age
At the beginning I analyzed the likelihood that a wide receiver would end up in the top 12 player for Fantasy. If we look at every single WR1 finish over the past 21 seasons, we can see a very distinct trend in the graph above. About 48.4% of the sample size is concentrated in the 25-28 year old age group, with each age accounting for at least 11% of the total WR1 seasons since 2000. According to this information, the peak age of a wide receiver is likely to be 26 years old with a sample size of 13.1%.
Additionally, it is inherently evident how rare it is for a rookie or even a second grader to finish as WR1. In fact, the age group of 21 to 23 year olds makes up only 12.7% of the total sample size. These results agree with mine too Draft Capital Correlation Research where I came to the conclusion that the likelihood that a player will have average WR1 numbers in their first three seasons is quite small. Of course, the likelihood increases if a prospect enters the league as an early declaration with high draft capital and elite college production. But even among the wide receivers of the first round, the average top 12 production in the first three years in the league is only 5.26%. In short, be patient with Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith. You’ll absolutely add to your Dynasty teams, but don’t expect WR1 production to begin with. This further underscores how special Justin Jefferson’s rookie season was when he ended up as WR9 in PPR points per game in 2020. In fact, Jefferson is the only 21-year-old player since 2000 to end up as WR1.
If we shift our focus to every WR2 season since 2000, the conclusion is pretty much the same. Again we see a slow increase between the ages of 21-23, with the peak age highlighted at 26. Another key takeaway from these two sets of data is that the WR1 sample size is less likely after the 29th after this threshold is exceeded. However, the WR2 sample size remains pretty strong at 7 to 9% per year between ages 27 and 31. This would suggest that wide receivers are not falling off immediately after their peak years. If they were imaginative in their prime, they have the potential to remain productive even after eight to ten years of their careers.
And to wrap up that segment, below are some of the most prolific players in the past two decades:
- Terrell Owens leads all WRs since 2000 in WR1 placements (9 in total)
- Larry Fitzgerald leads all WRs in the top 24 positions since 2000 (11 in total)
- July Jones leads all * active * players since 2000 in WR1 (8) and top 24 placements (9)
- Justin Jefferson is the youngest WR1 since 2000 (age 21)
- Jerry Reis is the oldest WR1 since 2000 (age 40)
Sample size from 2000 to 2020
The life cycle of a wide receiver
To better understand a dynasty recipient’s career path, I narrowed my sample size to highlight players who have been in the league for at least eight seasons. So I mainly focus on wide receivers designed from 2000 to 2013 and analyze each season of their careers over the past two decades. That gives us a sample size of 73 players, led by some of the most elite recipients in Julio Jones, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, and Larry Fitzgerald. If we plot their PPR production over this time period, we see that the most productive year for this sample size is at the age of 26. Not only is the average PPR per game the highest (12.5), most of the PPR points in my sample size were accumulated at this age (13,110.2). Furthermore, we do not see a steep drop after its peak. In fact, the PPR average continues to hover around 12 points by the age of 29.
Unsurprisingly, the shaded area on the graph decreases dramatically after age 31, signaling the true decline in wide receiver position. The average values per game also decrease, but remain well above 9 points even at the age of 37. How is that possible? For one, these numbers are heavily skewed by the small sample size of recipients who have remained productive so far in their careers. In fact, of the receivers drafted in my dataset from 2000 to 2005 (33 total), only two players (6%) played a season at the age of 37, and only six players (18.2%) had a top 24 -Season after this age from 31. In short, a wide receiver can remain perfectly productive until the end of its career; however, the likelihood of becoming an impact starter after age 31 is relatively low.
Knowing that you can identify a potential outlier that could produce beyond the prime of its career, knowing that when you are a wide receiver over 31 years old, you can hold an empty pocket? Let’s take a look at that six wide receivers which I mentioned above that produced a top 24 season after age 31:
- Larry Fitzgerald
- Reggie Wayne
- André Johnson
- Steve Smith
- Anquan Boldin
- Roddy white
What do these players have in common?
- They were all drafted within the first 3 rounds (four in the first round)
- You have completed an average of 4.6 WR1 seasons by the age of 31
- They averaged 6.8 top 24 seasons by the age of 31
While these six players have clearly been some of the best receivers over the past two decades, these numbers should still provide a rough guide Blueprint for an aging, productive wide receiver. Of all the active players, there is someone who fits perfectly into this form and is approaching their season at age 32 Julio Jones. Provided he stays healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays imaginative for a few more years. And just because he’s been an outlier in round 6 throughout his career as a wide receiver is that worth mentioning Antonio Brown meets the production thresholds above, although most of the 2019 campaign was missed. Regardless, he’s already proven in his 32-year season that he can continue to be an effective fantasy receiver, becoming the WR23 in PPR per game in 2020.
In summary, it can be said that players who produce well into their 30s are clearly outliers. Not everyone can be a Jerry Rice or a Larry Fitzgerald. So if a player is unlikely to hit the production thresholds above, I would consider trading them during their peak rather than hoping they can be an outlier beyond 31 years.
The climax and the decline
Finally, I mapped all 73 wide receiver peak times from my sample size. For reference, a peak year is defined as the highest PPR per game a wide receiver has in its career. If you look at the results below, the conclusions are in line with the rest of my research. The graph clearly shows that most wide receivers produce their best PPR season by the age of 26. In addition, the graph shows that a peak year can occur between 24 and 29 years old, which is 84% of this sample size. As for the inevitable drop in production, we see that it becomes extremely rare for a wide receiver to produce their best fantasy season after the age of 29.
But as I do in my “Running back life cycle“Article, a peak year doesn’t mean a player was unproductive before or after their prime. In fact, the elite receivers maintain their high-end production ahead of, or even beyond, their peak year. A perfect example of this is the Cardinals legend: Larry Fitzgeraldwho achieved his best seasonal cut at the age of 24. How did he go about it? Fitzgerald produced eight more top 24 seasons, including six WR1 results. On the flip side, there are two players who peaked later in their careers despite having had several productive years beforehand: Roddy White, 29, and Reggie Wayne, 28. And as I mentioned above, both players would keep producing well into their 30s.
Hopefully this information has been helpful in building your championship lists for the 2021 dynasty season. In summary, here are some of the key takeaways from this article:
- Age 21 to 24: The likelihood that a wide receiver will produce elite numbers in this age group is slim; So be patient with your beginners. If a wide receiver has the profile, the draft capital, and the ability to become an effective player, they will advance to the top 24 WR by the end of that age group.
- Age 25-28: These are the most productive years in a wide receiver’s career and are likely to reach the highest dynasty value. In this age group, dynasty managers need to evaluate what they have in a player. According to my research above, if a wide receiver produces four to five WR1 seasons by the age of 31, it has a higher chance of producing by mid-30s. Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind as players who could produce well beyond their peak. If a player hasn’t produced multiple WR1 seasons at this point in their career, I’d try to swap them by the end of that age group.
- Age 29 to 31: This is the beginning of the end for most wide receivers. The likelihood that a player will end up as WR1 or WR2 decreases sharply after the age of 30. Also, at the end of this age range, we generally see a decrease in PPR per game production.
- Age 32 and older: The likelihood that a wide receiver will produce a top 24 season is now very slim. Elite wide receivers, however, are the outliers and exceptions to this rule. History has shown that a receiver who was extremely productive in the first decade of their career is more likely to remain imaginative in the latter stages. Therefore Michael Thomas is someone I would be willing to target for his current ADP dynasty, especially as a contender. He produced WR1 numbers in four of his first five years and has the profile of becoming a producer later in his career.
If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact us on Twitter @FF_MarvinE.