How does changing teams impact WR production?


Conventional wisdom states that a wide receiver who changes teams won't produce as well as he did with his old team. Why is this? Because it takes time to get timing down with a new quarterback while learning a new offense, and this often results in a drop in receptions and yardage.

As part of a study that I did back in June, I pulled the PPR data from the 1990-2010 seasons. At that point, I was looking at the impact of age on a wideout's production, but the same data can be used to see how changing teams affected fantasy performance. To qualify, a receiver had to be "fantasy relevant" (i.e. he had to finish in the Top 36 at his position in at least one season during his career). The results are interesting...

  Same Team New Team  
Age # % Diff # % Diff % Diff
23 76 58% 2 55% -3%
24 135 21% 4 -25% -46%
25 146 23% 17 19% -5%
26 146 4% 26 8% 4%
27 137 -2% 35 -19% -18%
28 118 -9% 42 -2% 7%
29 104 2% 45 -14% -15%
30 95 -9% 34 -22% -12%
31 79 -12% 30 -27% -15%
32 58 -10% 24 -38% -27%
33 39 -24% 18 -15% 8%
34 27 2% 11 -33% -35%
35 25 -24% 6 -17% 7%
36 16 -21% 6 -26% -5%

Here's the same data in a graph, for you table-haters out there. (Haters gonna hate, yo.)


WR Study

Look at the pretty lines. As you can see, on average it's typically worse to change teams mid-career. But how much worse?

Weighting each group by the number of WRs who actually changed teams, we find that the average increased drop in production is -9.8% when compared to those players in the same age group who did not change teams.

Fantasy owners should keep this in mind when evaluating receivers who changed teams in the offseason. To offset this expected drop in production, a player is going to have to see a bump in targets, join a significantly better offense or have a significantly better QB throwing him the ball. (Those last two often go hand-in-hand.) With this in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 WRs who were on the move this summer:

Chad Ochocinco (33 years old)

Ochocinco has received mixed reviews from the Patriot beat writers; some say he has "sucked" in the preseason while others say he is progressing. We're still cautiously optimistic (PPR WR30, STD WR28) about his chances due to the quality of New England's offense and Tom Brady's ability to get him the ball.

Mike Sims-Walker (26)

The graph shows that 26-year-old wideouts are still increasing production and that WRs who join new teams actually do a bit better than those staying put. That said, MSW has disappointed in the past, but with Sam Bradford throwing the ball and the pass-happy Josh McDaniels calling the plays, Sims-Walker could surprise this season. 4for4 has MSW ranked PPR, STD WR35.

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