How Consistent are Rookies (Fantasy Football)?

by Bob Lung
May 4, 2017

Will Corey Davis make an substantial impact as a rookie?

Bob Lung shows how inconcistent rookie position players have been for fantasy over the years.

This piece is part of our article program that features quality content from experts exclusively at FantasyPros. For more insight from Bob, head to Big Guy Fantasy Sports.

The one question that I get asked every year is “Why don’t you include rookies in your consistency analysis?” My answer has always been “They’re too inconsistent.” Or “College talent doesn’t always equate to NFL talent.” That normally leads to “Well, what about Odell Beckham, Jr. or LeVeon Bell or Ezekiel Elliott?” Good point.

So, I decided this year to back up my theory with facts. I accumulated the number of draft choices at the offensive positions (QB, RB, WR and TE) since 2010. For the past seven years, there have been 290 of these players drafted in the first four rounds. I did only the first four rounds since that’s where most of the NFL starters come from. Yes, there are the Tom Brady’s of the world that are drafted in Round 6, but those are few and far between.

The breakdown of the positions and rounds are as follows:

  Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Total
QB 19 8 9 12 48
RB 10 20 16 27 73
WR 27 27 32 35 121
TE 3 12 16 17 48
Total 59 67 73 91 29

Next, I accumulated all the rookies who exceeded a 60% Clutch Rating (how consistent the player was during the season) in their rookie season since 2010.

90% – 100% 80% – 89% 70% – 79% 60% – 69% Total
QB 0 1 1 2 4
RB 2 2 5 2 11
WR 1 2 2 2 7
TE 0 0 0 1 1
Total 3 5 8 7 23

As you can see above, since 2010, only 23 TOTAL rookies have ever exceeded a 60% Clutch Rating in their rookie season. Around 65% of those players had a Clutch Rating between 60-79%, while only 35% were over an 80% Clutch Rating. In summary, it’s very rare that a rookie has a Clutch Rating over 80% in his first season. Let’s look at the breakdown by position.

90% – 100% 80% – 89% 70% – 79% 60% – 69% Total
QB 8.33%
RB 15.07%
WR 5.79%
TE 2.08%
Total 1.03% 1.72% 2.76% 2.41% 7.93%

The chart shows that only one percent of all position players drafted in the past seven years have earned a Clutch Rating (CR) over 90% in their rookie season. The other Clutch Rating categories don’t show much success as well with success ratings between 1.72% and 2.76%. In total, less than 8% of all rookies since 2010 earned over a 60% Clutch Rating.

If you’re wondering, who were these 23 rookies, who earned over a 60% Clutch Rating in their first season, then you’re in luck! We’ll start with the quarterbacks. Remember, only four quarterbacks out of the 48 (8.33%), drafted in the first four rounds since 2010, have earned over 60% Clutch Rating. Robert Griffin and Marcus Mariota both earned a 67% Clutch Rating while Cam Newton had an extraordinary 81% in 2011.

Many would have expected Jared Goff or Carson Wentz to earn over 60% in 2016 since they were drafted #1 and #2 overall, but neither one made it. Wentz was the closest at 31%. However, the newest addition to this list at quarterback was a fourth-round pick named Dak Prescott. After an injury to Tony Romo in the preseason, Dak stepped in and had a tremendous rookie season with the second-highest season ever for a rookie quarterback at 75% Clutch Rating. This led to Romo’s retirement and now Dak will lead the Cowboys going forward.

Rd Pick Team Name Year CR
1 1 CAR Cam Newton 2011 81%
4 135 DAL Dak Prescott 2016 75%
1 2 WAS Robert Griffin 2012 67%
1 2 TEN Marcus Mariota 2015 67%

The running backs lead all positions with 11 rookies having exceeded the 60% Clutch Rating. This equated to 15.07% of all the drafted running backs since 2010. Of those 11, only one exceeded a 90% Clutch Rating until 2016 and he was LeVeon Bell. In 2016, first round pick, Ezekiel Elliott not only reached the 90% rating, he exceeded Bell’s rookie season record of 92% with a 93% Clutch Rating.

Interestingly, Jordan Howard did earn over a 60% Clutch Rating in 2016, as a rookie. He earned a 73% Clutch Rating for the season. However, since he was drafted in the fifth round, he was not eligible for inclusion in the analysis. As I mentioned before, it does happen sometime, but they are few and far between.

Rd Pick Team Name Year CR
1 4 DAL Ezekiel Elliott 2016 93%
2 48 PIT Le’Veon Bell 2013 92%
2 61 GNB Eddie Lacy 2013 87%
1 31 TAM Doug Martin 2012 81%
1 10 STL Todd Gurley 2015 77%
6 173 WAS Alfred Morris 2012 75%
2 36 JAX T.J. Yeldon 2015 75%
1 3 CLE Trent Richardson 2012 73%
5 155 BUF Karlos Williams 2015 73%
2 37 CIN Giovani Bernard 2013 69%
5 160 STL Zac Stacy 2013 64%

The wide receivers are second in total rookies over 60% with seven. This equated to only 5.79% of all the drafted running backs since 2010. However, the biggest difference between the wide receivers and running backs is the success AFTER their rookie season. Almost all these receivers have had continued success after their consistent rookie season and remain as some of the top receivers heading into 2016. The newest addition to this list from 2016 was not first-round rookies like Wil Fuller or Corey Coleman, but was a second-round pick named Michael Thomas. It never hurts to get drafted by the New Orleans Saints when you’re a wide receiver and Thomas was 2016’s beneficiary.

Rd Pick Team Name Year CR
1 12 NYG Odell Beckham 2014 92%
2 47 NOR Michael Thomas 2016 80%
1 4 CIN A.J. Green 2011 80%
1 6 ATL Julio Jones 2011 75%
3 76 SDG Keenan Allen 2013 71%
1 7 TAM Mike Evans 2014 60%
2 61 JAX Allen Robinson 2014 60%

All by his lonesome at the tight end position is Jordan Reed. He is still the only tight end since 2010, who earned over a 60% Clutch Rating in his rookie season. He earned a 67% Clutch Rating in 2013. That’s right. No Rob Gronkowski (38%), Jimmy Graham (55%), Julius Thomas (0%); Tyler Eifert (20%) or Travis Kelce (0%). So, if there are any rookie tight ends that you are targeting, please make sure you are drafting in the very late rounds or you’re drafting in a dynasty league.

The facts show what many Fantasy owners already know, drafting rookies early is risky. The chance of drafting a rookie, who earns over a 60% Clutch Rating, is only 7.93%. Your chance of drafting a rookie who earns over an 80% Clutch Rating is less than 2.80%. Let’s be honest, you want the players that you draft in the first two rounds of your Fantasy draft to have an 80% Clutch Rating or higher. So, who would you draft? A proven veteran or a rookie? The facts above have already answered the question for you.

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