Best Ball: Rookie WRs Are Going Higher Than Ever (Fantasy Football)

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Rookie WRs are breaking Best Ball… for real.

Rookies WRs are among the easiest players to get excited about: we love the new hotness. But we know Justin Jefferson & Ja’Marr Chase aren’t always the norm. 

But apart from those two generational players, even the late-season surges of Jaylen Waddle & Amon-Ra St. Brown are affecting ADPs this year. Rookies can change the game in fantasy, especially down the stretch.

But Best Ball drafters are getting smarter about the impact rookie WRs can have. Mike shared some of this on the Best Ball Breakdown segment on Thursday’s podcast. I queued it up for you if you need the visuals.

Where Have All the Rookies Gone?

We looked at rookie WR ADP in Best Ball over the last 7 years sourced from BestBall10 win rate data.

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ADP last 7 Years Avg Round
1st Rd WR 124th 11th
2nd Rd WR 176th 15th
3rd Rd WR 207th 18th

However, that is not how rookie WRs in 2022 are being drafted in Underdog right now. The “rising tide lifts all boats” adage is holding true in 2022 Best Ball drafts.

Let’s compare Best Ball Drafts since 2015 just to give you a picture of this year’s insanity.…

  • Drake London at 73rd overall- He’s currently being selected as the 3rd highest rookie WR ever. For those curious, the top two are Amari Cooper (50th) and Ja’Marr Chase (61st) last year.
  • Skyy Moore at 90th- He’s now the highest 2nd round pick ever slightly edging out Sterling Shepard.
  • George Pickens at 116- Right behind Shepard, Pickens is now the 3rd highest 2nd round pick ever.
  • Jalen Tolbert at 119- You get the theme… Yes, a 4-year player out of South Alabama is the highest 3rd round draft pick ever selected in Best Ball.
  • Romeo Doubs at 130- Ok, you knew this one was coming. Yes, Mr. Doubs is the highest 4th-round rookie WR in Best Ball history…

Gone are the days when you could get 1st round rookie WRs in the 13th round. Check out that trio in the data set…

Currently, NINE rookie WRs are going BEFORE where those three were drafted. That is dicey territory people considering only 44% of rookie WRs taken before pick 150 have met or exceeded their win rate expectation since 2015.

Can Rookie WRs Meet Expectation?

Here’s the final statistic worth mentioning. On average, 4.6 TOTAL rookie WRs per year meet or exceed their win rate expectation. That’s it.

Back in February’s Things to Remember episode, Mike mentioned that fantasy managers need to take something for their “rookie fever”. Everyone has value but the odds are stacked against rookie WR not only having truly great seasons but being major difference-makers period. We looked back at every rookie 1st Round WR drafted since 2002. All 77 of them. Only 5% were top-12 WRs… just FOUR total.

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  • Chase (2021), Jefferson (2020), Odell Beckham Jr. & Mike Evans (2014)…(ZERO from ‘02-’13!!!)
  • 19.5% were top-24
  • 32.5% were top-36

We took it a step further and added the 93 2nd round WRs drafted in that span.

  • 2.6% were top-12…. Michael Thomas (2016) & Anquan Boldin (2003)
  • 3.2% were top-24
  • 16% were top-36

Rookies certainly can emerge and start producing – but the opportunity cost of the bet says you want to invest elsewhere for a breakout.

Main Takeaways

  • We’re never getting back to the glory days of finding rookie WRs super late.
  • Drafting earlier in Best Ball (May, June) gets you values on rookie WRs.
  • We are likely too overconfident in some of these rookies contributing… BUT when they hit, they are massive difference makers.

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