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Demaryius Thomas
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Demaryius Thomas
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a yawning chasm in the fantasy football community, one that has those who cast their lot with big wide receivers on one side, and those who point to flaws in the burgeoning obsession with tall, heavy, fast wideouts on the other.

Fantasy football analysts, in short, have largely split into two camps: Team Big Wide Receiver and Team Small Wide Receiver. Maybe the latter should be called Team Consider All Wide Receivers. It’s hard to say.

It’s not that partisans to big pass catchers would advise fantasy owners never to take a shot on an undersized receiver, just as the other side would never concoct a fantasy squad made up exclusively of small wideouts. Smart analysts on each side of the receiver size divide know a value play when they see one, no matter a guy’s height and weight.

I’m more than a little partial to Team Big Wide Receiver, as you surely know if you follow me on the Twitter Machine. I find the evidence for big receiver dominance to be overwhelming, and anecdotally, I’ve had much more fake football success when targeting a slew of hulking, speedy pass catchers. Anecdotal evidence is the best, isn’t it? (It’s not)

Josh McCown, by the bye, joined Team Big Wide Receiver just this week.

Yards, as the tireless number crunchers at rotoViz have shown, are much more replaceable than touchdowns — something fantasy owners and NFL general managers would do well to note. Height and weight are two critical pieces of the Holy Grail of receiver success, and a simple visualization of wide receiver size shows that all-time NFL greats are taller, heavier, and boast a higher body mass index (BMI) than the average pro receiver.

Thirty-seven of the 50 double-digit touchdown seasons posted by pass catchers over the past five years have been courtesy of guys who are at least 6-foot-2, as rotoViz writer Davis Mattek noted. Perhaps most importantly, the outliers — guys like Wes Welker and Greg Jennings — had one thing in common: elite quarterbacks at the helm.

Probably this isn’t shocking to anyone who even casually watches football on Sunday afternoons. Big guys score touchdowns — it’s hardly a difficult concept to digest. They reach and leap over defenders and they use their weighty, big frames to box out cornerbacks and safeties.

There are exceptions to every rule, however, and every season, a few small-ish wide receivers sneak into elite fantasy territory, usually bolstered by high volume targets and a handful of lengthy touchdowns. It’s critically important to be able to spot those small pass catchers whose draft price isn’t too high, and who could feast on a boatload of passes his way.

I wanted to better understand what a high-end fantasy wide receiver looked like, to create a sort of composite sketch using data from the past five seasons. If you threw every top-12 fantasy receiver into a blender and hit the “on” button, what would come out, besides gore beyond human understanding?

I averaged the height and weight of every single top-12 receiver from 2009-2013, parsing out the average size of the elite of the elite: Top-5 receivers.

Year Average height of top-12 WRs Average weight of top-12 WRs Average height of top-5 WRs Average weight of top-5 WRs
2009 73.5 inches 208.5 pounds 73.4 inches 206.9 pounds
2010 73.3 inches 210.7 pounds 72.4 inches 205.5 pounds
2011 72.9 inches 209 pounds 73.3 inches 212.4 pounds
2012 74.8 inches 220.6 pounds 75.6 inches 225.7 pounds
2013 74.4 inches 216 pounds 75.8 inches 226.5 pounds
AVERAGES 73.8 inches 212.9 pounds 74.1 inches 215.5 pounds

 

There you have it. The top-12 wide receiver composite sketch shows us a 6-foot-2 guy who weighs about 213 pounds. (Broncos rookie receiver Cody Latimer fits this profile almost exactly, standing 74 inches and weighing in at 215 pounds, for whatever that’s worth)

The top-end receivers — players who posted top-5 fantasy numbers — stand slightly taller and weigh a few more pounds. The difference between the two averages isn’t nearly as dramatic as I thought it’d be, although it’s fairly easy to understand why.

The 2010 and 2011 NFL seasons saw a cavalcade of undersized receivers make their way into WR1 range. In 2010, it was Brandon Lloyd — fantasy’s top receiver, somehow — Jennings, Mike Wallace, and Jeremy Maclin. In 2011, Victor Cruz, Welker, Percy Harvin, Wallace, and Steve Smith sauntered into the WR1 party.

That all changed in 2012 and 2013, and though we’re years away from accurately labeling this a trend, I think the shift is well worth our attention.

The average top-12 receiver in 2012 came in at 74.8 inches and 220.6 pounds, while top-12 guys in 2013 were 74.5 inches tall and weighed 216 pounds. DeSean Jackson and Antonio Brown were the lone members of Team Small Wide Receiver who cracked the top-12.

That’s a lot of height and weight added to the averaged from 2010-2011. Probably the 2010 season stands out as the most fascinating outlier, for it was that season that saw the average top-5 wideout weigh in at a meager 205.4 pounds, standing just a smidgen over 6 feet.

Is this information immediately and unquestionably actionable for fantasy owners? Will it change the way you approach your 2014 fantasy drafts, opening your eyes to a Matrix-like reality in which stockpiling big receivers is key to manipulating the reality of our fantasy sport? I think you know the answers to these questions.

The above numbers tell me to err on the side of size, especially in standard scoring leagues that don’t reward a bushel of points for a 70-yard, nine-catch performance. Our little game, like poker, should be centered around the process of winning: making clear-headed choices that increase your likelihood of success over the long haul. Process is all we can control, and without knowing what separates good process from bad, we don’t stand a chance.

I think good process in fantasy football includes prioritizing receivers who are taller and weigh more than the average NFL wideout. The above table agrees with me.

  • CDCarter13

    DavisMattek Thanks dude. I will say TeamBigWR would’ve been in a tough spot 2-3 years ago. 2012 and 2013 were so different though.

  • DavisMattek

    CDCarter13 2011 was such an aberration on every level. Just ask LateRoundQB

  • CDCarter13

    DavisMattek LateRoundQB JJ writing that book was the biggest, boldest contrarian move I’ve ever seen in FF. So much respect for that.

  • DavisMattek

    CDCarter13 LateRoundQB JJ is so not used to being #TeamContrarian either

  • CDCarter13

    DavisMattek LateRoundQB Summer 2012 was hilarious in hindsight: “If you don’t get an elite QB, you might as well not play.”

  • DavisMattek

    CDCarter13 LateRoundQB I mean, I’ve been doing Late Round QB since I was 10, but it was awesome to see the math.

  • LateRoundQB

    CDCarter13 DavisMattek Love you.

  • DavisMattek

    LateRoundQB CDCarter13 luv u 2 bby
    (I know that was for Denny)

  • RyanDFF

    CDCarter13 Bookmarked for later rereading. Thanks for the link, DavisMattek

  • spidr2ybanana

    LordReebs CDCarter13 FGs have an aesthetic quality of technique that TDs lack…..art of the game … style counts

  • CDCarter13

    spidr2ybanana LordReebs The ball turning end over end, sailing into the golden sun on a picturesque Sunday afternoon? Gorgeous.

  • LordReebs

    spidr2ybanana CDCarter13 I wear my Phil Dawson jersey every night.

  • spidr2ybanana

    CDCarter13 LordReebs the holder plucks ball cleanly w hands, kicker sinks hips, extends w power ….glorious

  • CDCarter13

    This goes without saying. RT LordReebs: spidr2ybanana CDCarter13 I wear my Phil Dawson jersey every night.

  • CDCarter13

    Phil_Culbertson Thanks bud.

  • RyanDFF

    LordReebs spidr2ybanana CDCarter13 Extra Point Hero. 😉

  • HaroldBaIIsagna

    CDCarter13 team big wide receiver is like team roll toilet paper over…..people that roll under are psychopaths

  • dwainmcfarland

    Phil_Culbertson CDCarter13 bigger is better. Got it. But so do most other owners. Would be interesting to know how to target right smalls

  • CDCarter13

    dwainmcfarland Phil_Culbertson Elite small WRs are almost always connected to top-end QBs. Also, lots of people reject the big WR argument

  • dwainmcfarland

    Phil_Culbertson CDCarter13 since they often are guys that provide value -hilton, brown, garcon in 13. Scheme is huge. Other factors?

  • CDCarter13

    dwainmcfarland Phil_Culbertson Garcon is sort of a ‘tweener though. Still not a legit red zone threat.

  • CDCarter13

    dwainmcfarland Phil_Culbertson I’d say massive targets volume and/or elite QBs make small WRs high-end options.

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 Phil_Culbertson roger on the qb. Welker-brady, cobb-rodgers, brown-ben, harvin-favre, s holmes-ben, hilton-luck …

  • CDCarter13

    dwainmcfarland Phil_Culbertson I don’t think scheme has a ton to do with it. Don’t know if that’s measurable though.

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 Phil_Culbertson agree lbs per inch higher – shanahan scheme has always produced targets for the X as well

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 Phil_Culbertson i would disagree. Cobb, welker, brown play in schemes that spread field and give them 1:1 opps in open field

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 Phil_Culbertson all over formation – that plays to their strengths vs forcing them to play outside all the time where size is

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 Phil_Culbertson determining factor more than quickness …

  • CDCarter13

    dwainmcfarland Phil_Culbertson I just don’t know how to quantify 1-on-1 opportunities. Small WRs are so reliant on so many things.

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 Phil_Culbertson unless it is a vertical guy like holmes / wallace etc – but those types are boom bust weekly plays

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 Phil_Culbertson i quantify with historical coaching target distribution. Pff focus helps for recent years – more about slot

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 Phil_Culbertson example: mike campanaro goes to Ravens = yawn. Kubiak – no slot history. Gallon to NE = eye brows raised

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 interesting – 77 wrs under 72″ entered league from 2003-2011. Six of them (8%) had multiple top 30 ppr seasons.

  • CDCarter13

    dwainmcfarland Great find.

  • dwainmcfarland

    CDCarter13 229 that entered were over 72″. 24 had multi top 30 ppr seasons (10%). So really they are close when you normalize denominator

  • ArnauldJJ

    CDCarter13 XNSports So what you’re saying is my mancrush Jordy Nelson will be juuuuuuuust fine?

  • justinbonnema

    CDCarter13 Da’Rick Rogers is a guy.

  • CDCarter13

    justinbonnema Da’Rick on a WR hungry team like Carolina >>>>>>>>>

  • SigmundBloom

    CDCarter13 here’s an interesting exercise – avg ht/wt of the WRs outproduced ADP by the largest amounts in 2013

  • SigmundBloom

    CDCarter13 most of those big WRs that finished in the top 12 in 2013 were drafted in the top 12

  • ArnauldJJ

    CDCarter13 justinbonnema …or on a Gordon-less Browns…

  • CDCarter13

    SigmundBloom No doubt. I’ll look into that. 2010 and 2011 had a lot of outlier small-ish WRs who proved to be huge draft day values, fwiw.

  • SigmundBloom

    CDCarter13 the right question isnt “do big WRs or non-big WRs do better” its “is it more profitable to draft big or non-big WRs”

  • CDCarter13

    SigmundBloom To your first point: I’d point to Gordon, Decker, Alshon and Jordy as examples of big WRs who proved giant values in 2013.

  • CDCarter13

    SigmundBloom So it’s not like all the WRs who make up that average size were drafted high and simply met their value.

  • 4for4_John

    CDCarter13 SigmundBloom Michael Floyd too.

  • justinbonnema

    CDCarter13 I forgot Hakeem Nicks ended up with the Colts. However, I see me taking cheap shots on Rogers in DFS.

  • CDCarter13

    justinbonnema Me too, if he can even get on the field. Even late last year he was only running ~18 routes per game. Sighsighsigh.

  • justinbonnema

    CDCarter13 Give it time. Nicks’ foot or something…

  • FFHoudini

    justinbonnema CDCarter13 Wonder if Moncrief shines in camp if it makes Rogers more expendable 2 move 2 a team like Carolina?

  • justinbonnema

    FFHoudini CDCarter13 Could be. I suppose the best thing that could happen to FF is Rogers getting out of Indy.

  • FFHoudini

    justinbonnema CDCarter13 If he stays, it could easily be Moncrief, Rogers and Hilton in ’15.

  • SigmundBloom

    CDCarter13 you’re right, and i think the numbers would bear out that big WRs have higher ceilings overall

  • SigmundBloom

    CDCarter13 that being said, there are still plenty of misses among big WR in same range- britt, williams, austin, hopkins, etc

  • NintendoProbz

    SigmundBloom CDCarter13 Hopkins a miss already ?

  • SigmundBloom

    CDCarter13 but without a doubt, most of the “hits” from 7th rd on WRs were big. if we’re talking 4th-6th, more of a big/small mix

  • SigmundBloom

    NintendoProbz CDCarter13 talking about last year redraft

  • NintendoProbz

    SigmundBloom CDCarter13 I see. Thanks.

  • CDCarter13

    ScottSmith610 Thanks Scott. I thought that 12-13 size in tease was pretty wild.

  • juliet91387341

    ScottSmith610 what is it saying

  • darnellbright82

    ScottSmith610 CDCarter13 Very Nice read ! If you guys have more articles like this please drop them. Very helpful.

  • ScottSmith610

    CDCarter13 I agree…been reading a lot in prep of tweaking the fantasy footprint…BMI keeps revealing itself as important as well

  • CDCarter13

    ScottSmith610 I’d love to see Latimer run through the fantasy footprint machine.

  • ScottSmith610

    CDCarter13 I will get that up on rotoViz this week just for you boss

  • colekev_FF

    ScottSmith610 CDCarter13 Is hand size a significant variable in the WR footprint? Can 10″ hands & long arms make up for being shorter?

  • ScottSmith610

    colekev_FF CDCarter13 hand size is not in the footprint…just hasn’t been enough study to show correlation to success

  • colekev_FF

    ScottSmith610 CDCarter13 Interesting. Good news for Andre Holmes’ prospects: 8 5/8″ hands.

  • TJHernandez

    CDCarter13 XNSportsFantasy for some reason I laughed hard at “gore beyond human understanding”

  • mjreardon62

    Question re: the last lines: I think good process in fantasy football includes prioritizing receivers
    who are taller and weigh more than the average NFL wideout. The above
    table agrees with me.
    Do you happen to know what the average NFL wideout measures at?

  • CDCarter13

    TJHernandez I laughed too, but I laugh at all my own jokes. Just ask Planeis and MarielQ.

  • ProjectRoto

    CDCarter13 missed a great MY COLUMN: opportunity there

  • Planeis

    CDCarter13 TJHernandez MarielQ those are the only jokes he laughs at -_-

  • Planeis

    CDCarter13 TJHernandez MarielQ gore beyond human understanding is pretty typical for Denny…

  • Planeis

    CDCarter13 TJHernandez MarielQ …along with the hate of 10,000 supernovas

  • CDCarter13

    MY COLUMNNNNN: RT ProjectRoto: CDCarter13 missed a great MY COLUMN: opportunity there

  • CDCarter13

    Planeis TJHernandez MarielQ 100,000 for you, FYI.

  • MarielQ

    CDCarter13 TJHernandez Planeis Denny is a huge fan of Denny.

  • CDCarter13

    Only facts. RT MarielQ: CDCarter13 TJHernandez Planeis Denny is a huge fan of Denny.

  • darnellbright4

    CDCarter13 Good thing the Bears resigned Brandon Marshall .

  • TimmyDrisk
  • CDCarter13

    TimmyDrisk I’ll take the tall guy. If he puts on 80 pounds.

  • TimmyDrisk

    CDCarter13 so with an extra 80 he would have been 7 7 and 180 lbs

  • OLineBreakdown

    CDCarter13 Steve Smith should’ve been out of the league a long time ago

  • CDCarter13

    OLineBreakdown Don’t worry, Sully. I wrote a Steve Smith hate piece a couple months back. https://www.xnsports.com/2014/03/18/fantasy-football-steve-smith-complementary-dude/

  • JasonLMoomau

    CDCarter13 Hey, I’m looking for owners for my new leagues interested? http://football16.myfantasyleague.com/2014/options?L=55115&O=26 http://football16.myfantasyleague.com/2014/options?L=56034&O=26 Thanks4urTime

  • GregTompsett

    CDCarter13 LateRoundQB FFRittle Very good read, thanks!

  • CDCarter13

    GregTompsett LateRoundQB FFRittle Thanks bud.