Welcome to the fantasy football how to draft training series. In this video, I’m going to show you how to project receptions, using wide receivers as an example. With the majority of fantasy football leagues rewarding at least a half-point for receptions, accurately predicting catches is essential to solid PPR drafting.
As with any stat, we’re looking to determine how well the perception of a player matches reality. In this case, ‘perception’ means how many receptions the player actually had and ‘reality’ means how many he should have had. To properly project future receptions, we need to determine how many targets a receiver will see and what percentage of those targets he’ll catch.
[youtube id="ojyqW96Jw-I" width="620" height="360"]
How to Calculate Catch Rate
A receiver’s catch rate is calculated by simply dividing his receptions by his targets. For reference, the typical catch rate for a top receiver is around 60 percent, while a normal No. 2 receiver’s catch rate is around 65 percent. The reason that No. 1 receivers usually have lower catch rates than No. 2 or No. 3 receivers is that they see stiffer coverage and often get a lower percentage of quality targets. When a quarterback forces a poor pass to a receiver on 3rd and 10, for example, it’s often his No. 1 option.
When a receiver’s catch rate is dramatically higher or lower than it was in previous seasons, it’s bound to regress toward the mean. We saw this at one point with Packers receiver Jordy Nelson; during a three-year period, his catch rate dropped from 74.2 percent to 71 percent and down again to 68.7 percent in recent seasons. Nelson’s decline coincided with becoming a starter; he faced better cornerbacks and saw a lower quality of targets, so his catch rate dropped.
Note that while we can use averages for players as a baseline, each receiver should really be taken on a case by case basis. Receivers with superior quarterbacks obviously have an advantage over those with poor passers, so we’d never treat the two in the same way. That means that it’s best to take a receiver’s three-year average for targets and catch rate to make sure you can accurately predict his future.
How to Project ReceptionsIs preparing for the draft killing you? Power up here and never look back.
Let’s look at Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson as an example. To project his receptions, we need to look at Johnson’s three-year averages for targets and catch rate. His three-year target averages is simply his total targets from the past three seasons divided by the number of games he played in over that time. Catch rate is calculated by simply dividing Johnson’s total receptions into his total targets, then multiplying by 100. It turns out that Johnson has averaged 9.4 targets per game and posted a 68.1 percent catch rate over the past three seasons.
To calculate Johnson’s projected receptions, we simply multiply his targets (9.4) by his catch rate (.681 or 68.1 percent). That equates to 6.4 catches per game. Johnson’s targets and catch rate are about where they should be for such a talented receiver in a run-first offense.
Next, we need to refine that baseline projection based on things we know about Johnson. Johnson will probably continue to get his targets, but it would be a mistake to expect his catch rate to remain steady at his age. Johnson is likely slowly losing a step, making a catch rate of around 63.0 percent or so more realistic. Multiplying that by Johnson’s anticipated targets, a solid projection for Johnson is 5.9 catches per game. Projecting Johnson to play 14 regular season games after averaging 12 in the past three seasons, we get a final projection of 83 receptions—quite a drop from his 2012 season, but one that the numbers suggest is coming.
Don’t forget that the formulas used in this video can be used for any position, not just wide receiver. In the next video, I’ll take a look at projecting yards.