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Usual Suspects: Profiling #1 Receivers in Fantasy Football

How much does size matter for receivers in Fantasy? Our expert investigates.
How much does size matter for receivers in Fantasy? Our expert investigates.

You may not mentally make the connection, but chances are you want to come out of your fantasy football drafts with a big wide receiver as your number one guy. The obvious names like Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Jordy Nelson are all a minimum of 6 feet 2 inches, but just how important is size at the wide receiver position?

To get a better idea of the relationship between size and success in fantasy football leagues, I’ve gone through and compiled the last 10 NFL seasons, looked at the heights and weights of receivers that finished in the top 12 in terms of standard fantasy points and come to a pretty strong conclusion on the anatomy of a true #1 to help guide you to a fantasy football trophy.

Presenting the Data

Over the past 10 seasons the average height for a top 12 receiver was 6 feet and 1.6 inches. Over the past 5 years that number rose to 6 feet 1.82 inches, and over the past 2 seasons it went up again to 6 feet 2.58 inches.

Likewise, over the past 10 seasons the average weight for a top 12 receiver was 209.99 pounds. Over the past 5 years it was 212.43 pounds. The past 2 seasons it was 217.75.

Over the past 10 seasons, no receiver taller than 6’5″ or shorter than 5’9″ went on to post a top 12 year. The lightest receiver was 175 pounds and the heaviest was 236 pounds.

Out of 120 entries since 2004, only 21 of them (17.5%) have come from wide receivers under 6 feet. 55 entries (45.83%) came from receivers 6’3″ or over. The remaining 44 entries (36.66%) fell between 6’0″ and 6’2″. In the past 2 seasons 18 of the 24 receivers (75%) were 6’3″ or above.

Here is a list of all the players who finished top 12 multiple times, organized by how many times they did it:

(5) Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne
(4) Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Steve Smith (CAR), Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson
(3) Marques Colston, Greg Jennings, Randy Moss, Plaxico Burress, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt
(2) Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Eric Decker, DeSean Jackson, Jordy Nelson, Mike Wallace, Hakeem Nicks, Miles Austin, Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Javon Walker, Donald Driver

The average height for receivers who finished top 12 five times was 6 feet 2.5 inches. Four times was 6 feet 0.6 inches, three times 6 feet 2 inches, and two times 6 feet 1.69 inches.

Of the 30 repeat WR1 finishers, only 4 players (13.33%) under 6 feet finished as a top 12 receiver multiple times (Welker, Smith, Jennings, D.Jackson). 15 of the 30 (50%) were 6’3″ or above. The rest – 11 of 30 (36.67%) – were between 6’0″ and 6’2″.

What does all this mean going forward?

Well, we could already surmise that it would be beneficial for wide receivers to be bigger, but these numbers help quantify how much of an advantage it can be. Not only are top 12 receivers more likely to be 6’3″ to 6’5″ than anything else, those players are also more likely to come back and post multiple WR1 seasons. That doesn’t preclude shorter players from doing it – 6’0″ to 6’2″ receivers were fairly strong too – but it is good to be aware of what history says the odds are when forecasting seasons or even careers in fantasy football leagues.

There also appears to be a trend developing over the past few seasons of elite wide receivers becoming taller and heavier than ever before. Whether this is due to the way the game has changed recently on offense or because the most talented players just happen to be the taller players currently, it’s hard to tell, but there is a trend present and trends have a way of seeping into our brains. It’s also difficult to say whether or not this trend will continue, hold steady, or even move back into the other direction as defenses adapt. With defenses beginning to stockpile larger cornerbacks to deal with the giant receivers, we could see smaller and quicker receivers being used to counter them.

For a more specific fantasy player impact, some of the numbers have to be concerning for guys like Antonio Brown. At 5’10” Brown already defied the odds to post a single top 12 season last year, but it would put him in rare company if he is able to do it again. On the bright side for Brown, every year in the past decade except for 2005 has had at least one player under 6 feet make it into the top 12. Other than Brown, Randall Cobb is the only other obvious candidate to do so in 2014.

For rookies, it will be interesting to monitor the careers of players like Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin. At 6’1″ Watkins does not have ideal size, but he’s still big enough to project plenty of success. The receivers that have fared well in his height range have typically been great route runners which is something Watkins has going for him. At 6’5″ and reportedly somewhere between 240 and 260 pounds on game day, Benjamin would be tied for the tallest and certainly the heaviest receiver to finish in the top 12 if he were to do so. That would seemingly make his road tougher when he has to pave the way, but with the direction the NFL has been going, he could just be the next step in the evolution.

The Ideal Size of a #1 Fantasy Receiver

Taking a look at all the results from the past five seasons, we’ve come up with a quick-and-dirty measurement for the ideal size of a WR1 in 12-team fantasy leagues.

Height: 6’2
Weight: 215 lbs

While these results might not be a sure-fire way to tell you who will be the next Josh Gordon in fantasy football leagues, it’s still an interesting bit of info you can use to help differentiate tight players in your rankings, or use as a baseline in your search for potential sleeper picks. You can also use this data to further narrow down potential draft picks by including things such as wing span, 40 time or vertical jump.

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  • flashgordon12

    Size n speed kills!! I would like to see if the small dudes are better #2 fantasy wr than tall guys tho. check it out maybe?

  • HuffDuff1988

    i think u should have done 40 time too so we could see what speed that would help narrow down a lot better

  • og49erfan

    lol. damnit antonio brown was going to be my value pick this year. smh maybe not now