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A Quick Rebuttal for Team Tall WR

A Quick Rebuttal for Team Tall WR
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A Quick Rebuttal for Team Tall WR

If you haven’t already read Jake Ciely’s take on small versus big wide receivers make sure you do so here: Jake does a great job at taking a look at why those Fantasy football players, such as myself, who proclaim to be a part of #TeamBigWR may not be helping ourselves. His study shows that in general if we look at the raw total of touchdowns scored by wide receivers over the past decade, there is a negligible difference between the results of big wide receivers (6’2 or greater) and any other wide receivers (less than 6’2). (NOTE: When referring to tall and short wide receivers throughout the article, these are the benchmarks I’m using.) Jake goes as far as to say, “The fact is there is no tangible proof that a tall receiver will be a better option at registering touchdowns.” While it was a great read and shed an interesting light on the conversation, I felt Jake shortchanged tall wide receivers since his study did not take into account two important things:

  1. Tall wide receivers have a higher ceiling
  2. Using raw leaderboard totals was a bias way of looking at things since the overall player pool of wide receivers consists of more “short” wide receivers than it does tall wide receivers

First, I wanted to attack point number one. Do tall wide receivers have a higher ceiling? To show this I took a look at all player seasons over the past decade that resulted in 10-plus receiver touchdowns. Not surprisingly, the majority of this list was comprised of tall wide receivers. There were 78 total 10-plus receiving touchdown seasons over the past decade, and 46 of those came from tall wide receivers (59 percent). If we focus further on ceiling, only five wide receivers managed to score 16 touchdowns over a season; all of them were 6’2 or taller. Of all seasons in which wide receivers scored 13-plus touchdowns in a season, 15 of the 17 were tall wide receivers. The other two were James Jones (6’1) and the awesome Antonio Brown.

WR Graphic

It’s pretty clear that tall wide receivers are more likely to record a double digit touchdown season and each touchdown we go up the percentage of tall wide receivers that comprises that group rises. This is even more impressive when we take into consideration my second point: There’s an inherent bias in using raw totals since the majority of wide receivers are short (by the benchmarks set forth in the opening paragraph). The data backs this up. Over the past decade, there have been 871 player seasons in which a player received 50-plus targets. Of these, 541 were turned in by sub 6’2 wide receivers. In other words, short wide receivers represented 63 percent of 50-plus target seasons over the past decade but just 41 percent of 10-plus touchdown seasons. Meanwhile, tall wide receivers represented just 37 percent of 50-plus target seasons over the past decade but were able to convert those into 59 percent of the 10-plus touchdown seasons.

The 547 50-plus target seasons for sub 6’2 wide receivers led to 51,885 total targets and 2,289 total touchdowns. That’s a touchdown rate of 4.41 percent. The 324 50-plus target seasons for tall wide receivers led to 31,972 total targets and 1,734 total touchdowns. That’s a touchdown rate of 5.42 percent. In other words, tall wide receivers over the past decade were 23 percent more likely to convert a target into a touchdown than a short wide receiver.

At the end of the day, you can decide whether or not this information is actionable. To me, it demonstrates that height does in fact matter and there is tangible proof that a tall wide receiver will be a better option at registering touchdowns. A good tall wide receiver is more likely to outperform a good short wide receiver when it comes to touchdowns. It’s just probability. The problem with this debate, on both sides, is the need to reach for absolutes. Both of these sentences can be true:

  1. Tall wide receivers are generally more likely to out produce short wide receivers in touchdowns
  2. Individual assessment of wide receiver talent is important as there will always be exceptions and nuances to exploit (Stephen Hill, Antonio Brown)

This is a good tie in to what I consider the most fascinating aspect of Fantasy sports, both from a season long perspective and from a DFS perspective: balancing macro truths and probabilities with micro assessments. Do I draft Corey Kluber as a top five starting pitcher because I believe in his peripherals and two seam fastball? Do I pass on Corey Kluber because I know players who have career years such as he did on average suffer 20 percent regression? Do I build a balanced NBA DFS roster knowing that over time this roster construction yields better results? Do I go with a studs and duds approach in NBA DFS because James Harden should have a monster game and I’m confident in my cheap options hitting value? Successfully striking that balance is what makes a great Fantasy player in any format, in any sport.

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