2014 NFL Draft wide receiver prospects and Football Outsiders' Playmaker Score

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Football Outsiders unveiled their 2014 Playmaker Score to break down the current crop of wide receiver prospects. We break down what it all means.

After months of hype and mock drafts and speculation and mock drafts and nonsense and even more mock drafts, the NFL Draft is finally upon us. We are mere hours before the 49ers will be on the clock, selecting the next piece for what we hope is a championship puzzle.

Wide receiver looks to be a position the 49ers will target early, almost certainly selecting one within the first two days of the draft. And just in time, Football Outsiders has released the data for their wide receiver projection system, Playmaker Score. Before getting to the results, let's briefly explain what the hell it even is.

For those of you unfamiliar with Playmaker Score, it uses a few key measures of a player's college production combined with the prospect's vertical jump (as a measure of explosiveness) to project how the player will translate to the professional ranks. It's slightly more complicated than that behind the scenes, but that's the basic gist of it. Readers more familiar with Playmaker Score will notice a few differences from previous versions. Namely, the system now outputs two different numbers, Playmaker Projection and Playmaker Rating.

Playmaker Projection represents the average seasonal receiving yardage for the wide receiver's first five seasons in the NFL, adding the round the player is projected to be selected in as an additional factor. Playmaker Rating is a percentage representing the amount of prospects in the Playmaker database (which goes back to 1996) the player outperforms based on the factors considered by the Playmaker system. For example, a Playmaker Rating of 80 percent would indicate that player has a score higher than 80 percent of all prospects the system has measured.

Playmaker Rating shouldn't be considered some be-all, end-all system that can be blindly trusted. Like any type of projection system, including scouting-based methods, Playmaker Rating has its faults and has certainly missed on prospects in the past. But it is another useful measure that should be taken as just one piece of the overall evaluation of the player.

With that basic explanation out of the way – and if you're interested you can find more details over at FO – let's get to the good stuff. Here are a few of the players that have been brought up in connection with the 49ers in some way along with their Playmaker projections.

Player School Playmaker Projection Playmaker Rating
Brandin Cooks Oregon State 638.0 95.8%
Odell Beckham Jr. LSU 608.4 93.6%
Mike Evans Texas A&M 558.4 86.8%
Sammy Watkins Clemson 543.7 83.8%
Marqise Lee USC 525.6 90.8%
Allen Robinson Penn State 496.0 88.2%
Kelvin Benjamin Florida State 465.7 88.0%
Cody Latimer Indiana 382.6 76.2%

Two players that have been favorites among many 49ers fans top the list in both Playmaker Projection and Playmaker Rating, Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham Jr. The idea of trading up into the middle of the first round to select Beckham has been an intriguing possibility and one that many of us would be very excited about. Playmaker Rating is just another gold star next to Beckham's name on your draft board.

The depth of this year's receiving class has been raved about in scouting circles and Playmaker agrees wholeheartedly. We could see as many as 15 wide receivers selected over the next three days with a Playmaker Rating above 80 percent. Going back to 1996, there's never been more than eight selected in any one single draft. In the event that San Francisco doesn't make the splashy move to trade up in the first round, there's plenty reason to believe that they will be able to select a wide receiver on day two that has the potential to make just as large of an impact as one selected in the mid to late first round.

Provided that we do see 49ers call the name of a wide receiver in the first few rounds, we'll be back with more analysis on that pick with Playmaker Rating just one of the many means at our disposal to evaluated our new pass catcher.

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