Forecasting 2021 NFL Rookie WR Success: 3-Year Model

May 18, 2021
Forecasting 2021 NFL Rookie WR Success: 3-Year Model

The 2021 NFL Draft is now in the books, giving us dozens of new offensive players to consider for our fantasy teams. In this article, I will discuss some of the key rookie wide receivers to focus on going into fantasy drafts.

More Rookie Forecasts: RB | LB

Our friends over at Dynasty League Football (DLF) have already compiled some post-draft rookie ADP, and, as expected, Ja'Marr Chase is the top receiver off the board. I agree with that assessment, placing Chase as the only receiver in my top tier of rookie rankings. You should be able to get him with the second pick in the rookie draft (as Najee Harris is likely to go first overall), and you have every reason to expect Chase to be a big fantasy producer for years to come.

Below, we will look at some of the receivers you can get later in the draft that also have a good chance to turn into productive assets for your dynasty team.

Forecasting Wide Receiver Success

As in the past four seasons, I estimate the odds of each player putting up a top-36 season within the first three years of their career by using a combination of two analytical models. The first is a standard statistical model (built using logistic regression) and the second is a more sophisticated machine learning model. The odds reported below take an average of the individual predictions of the two models. This year, I am putting much more weight on the standard statistical model, which uses only college production and age information, since the machine learning model uses a lot of athletic testing data that we can reasonably suspect is less informative this year with no NFL combine.

In past seasons, the combined model highlighted undervalued players like Cooper Kupp, Kenny Golladay and Michael Gallup. Last season, it correctly identified Justin Jefferson as the top receiver.

Let me note, however, that even I do not take the model output as gospel. While it did nail the top receiver last season, in general, the model provides an edge to drafters not from taking the highest-ranked players but from using it to identifying players that are mispriced, i.e., by taking the players that the model likes a lot more than most drafters. I also like to consider John Paulson's estimation of each player's opportunity at their landing spot.

With that in mind, here are the players that stand out to me as most undervalued (the full table of rankings appears at the bottom of the page).

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