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Pay What You Want Advice - Start / Sit - Trade - Waivers

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2009 Breakout Wide Receivers

The third year breakout wide receiver theory has become one of the most known theories by fantasy football players because of a few wide receivers who became dominant during their third season. Names like Braylon Edwards, Lee Evans and Javon Walker come to mind. Many fantasy football sites such as FFToolbox publish a list of third year wide receivers every year which leads fantasy players to draft them earlier than they should. In this article I decided to look at all wide receivers in years two through five in order to see if there are actually more third year wide receivers that breakout than receivers in their second, fourth or fifth year. Moreover I looked at the WRs that did breakout and tried to find criteria that differentiate WRs that do breakout from the ones that do not.

It is important to clarify that I am using the term breakout a little loosely and I still include WRs who might have had a strong rookie season, a difficult second season and a solid third season. The two criteria that a wide receiver had to respect to be considered a breakout wide receiver are:

-At least 150 points in a point per reception scoring system
-An increase of at least 40 points per 16 games or a 25% increase in points per 16 games.

Since 1990, there have been 140 wide receivers that had a breakout season in their second, third, fourth or fifth season out of a possible 543 which is equal to 25.8% of them. To qualify amongst those 543 the only criteria were that the player had to have at least 300 receiving yards and 10 games played in two consecutive seasons. The following chart has the breakdown of the breakout wide receivers by year:

Year

Breakouts

Number

%Breakout

2

30

92

32.6%

3

38

145

26.2%

4

38

157

24.2%

5

34

149

22.8%

The most interesting thing to notice is that there are as many fourth year receivers as there are third year receivers that had a breakout season and that the highest percentage is for second year receivers, not third year. This really makes you wonder where the third year wide receiver theory is coming from.

In order to increase these percentages I applied three more criteria which are that the player must have had less than 70 catches, less than 1000 yards and less than 9 TDs in the previous year. These three criteria allowed us to eliminate 129 of the 543 players while only losing eight breakout players which increased the percentage to 31.9%. The following chart has the new breakdown of the breakout wide receivers by year after applying those three new criteria:

Year

Breakouts

Number

%Breakout

2

30

82

36.6%

3

34

115

29.6%

4

38

116

32.8%

5

30

101

29.7%

You might have noticed that the third year wide receivers now have the lowest breakout rate and that there is absolutely no reason to believe that it is a good theory. In order to increase those percentages, I decided to take this one step further and try to find more criteria individually for each year. Since we are dealing with relatively small samples this is a little tricky and I had to make sure the percentages were real and not simply a random coincidence. To make sure of this, when looking for more criteria, I made sure that I used rounded numbers so that I would not have criteria such as fewer than 63 receptions or over 13.7 yards per reception. The other rule I used is that I could remove players from my sample at both edges but not in the middle such that I do not have a criterion that says a wide receiver must have fewer than 40 receptions or more than 50. Although some of the criteria I will find may still be a random coincidence I think that by using these two rules I will limit that chance.