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Top Rookies, Part II

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 29, 2008

Yesterday, I looked at how the top rookie RBs and WRs end up performing over the course of their careers. The huge failure rate among WRs reminded me of something I wrote three years ago, when I wrote the "downside" column to a debate about Anquan Boldin's 2004 fantasy value:

There are a lot of reasons to be down on Anquan Boldin this year, looking from a historical perspective. From 1991-2002, we've seen the top rookie WR see their FP/G drop the following year.

Well, Boldin continued the trend, and the next year, Michael Clayton became the fourteenth straight wide receiver to regress after leading his class in fantasy points per game as a rookie (note that yesterday, we looked at raw fantasy points). Since then, though, Braylon Edwards and Marques Colston have improved in their second seasons. Here's a list of the top rookie (measured by FP/G) WR each season since the merger, and then how they performed the next year.

name		rookyr	rookFP	rookG	rkFP/G	sophFP	sophG	soFP/G	FP/G Diff
Marques Colston	2006	152	14	10.8	186	16	11.6	 0.8
Braylon Edwards	2005	 69	10	 6.9	125	16	 7.8	 0.9
Michael Clayton	2004	164	16	10.3	 37	14	 2.7	-7.6
Anquan Boldin	2003	189	16	11.8	 69	10	 6.9	-4.9
Donte Stallworth2002	108	13	 8.3	 67	11	 6.1	-2.2
Chris Chambers	2001	129	16	 8.1	 99	15	 6.6	-1.5
Peter Warrick	2000	110	16	 6.9	 74	16	 4.6	-2.2
Kevin Johnson	1999	146	16	 9.1	 67	16	 4.2	-4.9
Randy Moss	1998	234	16	14.6	212	16	13.2	-1.4
Rae Carruth 	1997	 81	15	 5.4	  6	 2	 3.0	-2.4
Terry Glenn	1996	153	15	10.2	 55	 9	 6.1	-4.1
Joey Galloway	1995	167	16	10.5	153	16	 9.6	-0.9
Darnay Scott	1994	130	16	 8.1	113	16	 7.1	-1.0
Horace Copeland	1993	 91	14	 6.5	 31	16	 1.9	-4.6
Arthur Marshall	1992	 69	16	 4.3	 48	16	 3.0	-1.3
Lawrence Dawsey	1991	107	16	 6.7	 84	15	 5.6	-1.1
Fred Barnett	1990	121	16	 7.6	119	15	 7.9	 0.3
Hart Lee Dykes	1989	110	16 	 6.8	 67	10	 6.7	-0.2
Brian Blades	1988	119	16	 7.4	137	16	 8.5	 1.1
Bruce Hill	1987	 53	 8	 6.6	157	14	11.2 	 4.6
Bill Brooks	1986	162	16	10.1	 90	12	 7.5	-2.6
Eddie Brown	1985	155	16	 9.7	124	16	 7.7	-2.0
Louis Lipps	1984	153	14	10.9	193	16	12.1	 1.1
Willie Gault	1983	135	16	 8.4	 95	16	 5.9	-2.5
Charlie Brown	1982	117	 9	13.0	176	15	11.7	-1.3
CrisCollinsworth1981	149	16	 9.3	 75	 9	 8.3	-1.0
Kevin House	1980	 86	14	 6.2	173	16	10.8	 4.6
Jerry Butler	1979	109	13	 8.4	121	16	 7.6	-0.8
John Jefferson	1978	179	14	12.8	169	15	11.3	-1.5
Wesley Walker	1977	 95	14	 6.8	165	16	10.3	 3.5
Sammy White	1976	150	14	10.7	130	14	 9.3	-1.4
Alfred Jenkins	1975	113	14	 8.1	107	14	 7.6	-0.4
Nat Moore	1974	 76	13	 5.8	101	14	 7.2	 1.4
Isaac Curtis	1973	137	14	 9.8	130	14	 9.3	-0.6
Mike Siani	1972	 80	14	 5.7	 92	14	 6.6	 0.9
Randy Vataha	1971	141	14	10.1	 49	14	 3.5	-6.6
Ron Shanklin	1970	 93	14	 6.7	101	14	 7.2	 0.6
			125.1	14.5	 8.6	108	14.1	 7.5	-1.1

Eleven of the thirty-seven WRs improved in their second season, and twenty-six regressed. This isn't terribly surprising in light of regression to the mean, but an opposing force is that sophomores generally outperform rookies. Obviously fourteen of the last sixteen stud rookies regressed the next year, but the last two improved slightly. People with diverse reviews of the Dwayne Bowe Show will probably see what they want to see there.

I never looked at the running backs, so let's do that now.

name		rookyr	rookFP	rookG	rkFP/G	sophFP	sophG	soFP/G  FP/G Diff
MauriceJonesDrew2006 228 16 14.2 172 15 11.4 -2.8
Samkon Gado 2005 108 8 13.5 0 1 - 0.2 -13.7
Julius Jones 2004 135 8 16.9 151 13 11.6 -5.2
Dom(Davis)Willia2003 186 14 13.3 262 15 17.4 4.1
Clinton Portis 2002 289 16 18.1 275 13 21.1 3.0
LaDainian Tomlin2001 220 16 13.8 307 16 19.2 5.4
Mike Anderson 2000 256 16 16.0 96 16 6.0 -10.0
Edgerrin James 1999 316 16 19.7 338 16 21.1 1.4
Fred Taylor 1998 266 15 17.8 118 10 11.8 -6.0
Corey Dillon 1997 199 16 12.4 161 15 10.7 -1.7
Eddie George 1996 203 16 12.7 186 16 11.6 -1.0
Curtis Martin 1995 265 16 16.6 251 16 15.7 -0.9
Marshall Faulk 1994 252 16 15.8 239 16 15.0 -0.8
Jerome Bettis 1993 209 16 13.1 156 16 9.7 -3.3
Ricky Watters 1992 208 14 14.8 194 13 14.9 0.0
Leonard Russell 1991 128 16 8.0 53 11 4.9 -3.1
Emmitt Smith 1990 183 16 11.4 260 16 16.3 4.9
Barry Sanders 1989 259 15 17.3 274 16 17.2 -0.1
Ickey Woods 1988 217 16 13.5 21 2 10.7 -2.8
Bo Jackson 1987 105 7 15.0 84 10 8.4 -6.6
Herschel Walker 1986 241 16 15.1 209 12 17.4 2.3
Kevin Mack 1985 200 16 12.5 156 12 13.0 0.5
Greg Bell 1984 186 16 11.6 200 16 12.5 0.9
Eric Dickerson 1983 341 16 21.3 308 16 19.3 -2.1
Marcus Allen 1982 196 9 21.8 226 16 14.2 -7.6
George Rogers 1981 258 16 16.1 74 6 12.3 -3.9
Billy Sims 1980 288 16 18.0 279 14 19.9 1.9
Ottis Anderson 1979 251 16 15.7 220 16 13.8 -2.0
Earl Campbell 1978 228 15 15.2 293 16 18.3 3.1
Tony Dorsett 1977 208 14 14.8 224 16 14.0 -0.8
Tony Galbreath 1976 147 14 10.5 109 14 7.8 -2.7
Mike Thomas 1975 182 14 13.0 193 13 14.9 1.8
Don Woods 1974 216 12 18.0 54 5 10.8 -7.2
Boobie Clark 1973 182 14 13.0 87 8 10.8 -2.1
Franco Harris 1972 190 14 13.5 95 12 7.9 -5.6
Vic Washington 1971 155 14 11.1 110 13 8.5 -2.6
Duane Thomas 1970 118 14 8.4 173 11 15.7 7.3
211.3 14.5 14.7 179 12.9 13.1 -1.6

Samkon Gado and Mike Anderson lost their jobs before the next season even started, so I'm not sure how "fair" it is to use them in this data set. Further, their huge drops really hurt the average -- take them out, and the average dropoff falls under one. It's also worth noting that regression to the mean applies to running backs as well, and they have a farther perch from which to fall -- the top rookies averaged six more fantasy points per game than the top receivers. I'm pretty confident in stating that the top running backs hold their value as sophomores better than the receivers, although the results aren't as disparate as yesterday.

Thirteen of the 37 running backs improved as sophomores, and twenty four have declined. Over the last eight years, it's been a 50/50 split, after ten of the twelve rookies from '87 to '98 regressed. In the last eight years, two of the four "regressers" lost their starting jobs, and Julius Jones was a poor bet to match his total since he played at a 394-carry pace in just eight games as a rookie. So if anything, the trend seems to be that the rookie RBs that excel are at least decent bets to hold their value, especially when you remember that the top RBs as a group decline every year. In other words, I wouldn't downgrade Adrian Peterson because of the sophomore slump, assuming I wouldn't downgrade him for some other reason. I'm not so sure if I feel the same way about Dwayne Bowe, although it's way too early to get a good read on the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs offense.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 29th, 2008 at 12:43 am and is filed under Fantasy, History, Statgeekery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.