How Impressive Has Keenan Allen’s Rookie Season Been?

Is Keenan Allen one of the best rookie receivers we've ever seen?

I like shows on HGTV.

House Hunters, Property Brothers (or “bros” if you’re cool), Love It or List It – it’s fantastic television, even if it’s mostly just an act.

I like watching folks get angry at one another because there isn’t a washer/dryer hookup in a house they’re considering buying, or when the renovation isn’t progressing the way it should be, despite it always working out. I like seeing which person in the relationship wears the pants (it’s the woman) based on which house the couple chooses. I like seeing how awful other peoples’ tastes are, and watching them whine to their realtor when they can’t afford a mansion on a $200,000 budget in California.

I like the shows on HGTV. But there’s always this one thing that frustrates me to death on nearly ever single home buying related episode on there.

Everyone wants a bigger bedroom.

Why? So you can wake up from a nice nap on a king-size bed, put on running shoes and do laps around the sitting area that no one’s ever come close to? Seriously, why? Why do you need a large bedroom and not a bigger living room, kitchen, basement or back yard?

Wanting a bigger bedroom is like wanting Phil Simms to do more in-game commentary. Large bedrooms aren’t important – most of the time, at least. They’re the rookie wide receivers of houses.

You see, rookie wide receivers typically don’t mean a lot to football – from a fantasy perspective especially. They’re usually overvalued at draft time, rarely living up to the hype. They’re like big bedrooms over-inflating the price of a house.

But sometimes you find a rookie wideout who makes it all worthwhile. And we’re seeing that this year in San Diego’s Keenan Allen.

Allen By the Numbers

Through 14 games, Keenan Allen’s already making a name for himself among rookie wide receivers over the last 14 NFL seasons (since 2000). Take a look at the chart below showing the top NFL rookie pass-catchers since that time, sorted by total receiving yards.

PlayerYearRec.Rec. YardsTDs
Anquan Boldin200310113778
Michael Clayton20048011937
A.J. Green20116510577
Marques Colston20067010388
Dwayne Bowe2007709955
Eddie Royal2008919805
Andre Johnson2003669764
Mike Williams20106596411
Julio Jones2011549598
Keenan Allen2013639317

As you can see, he’s currently ranked 10th among said rookie receivers in yardage, and still has two more games to go. If he keeps up his average – 71.6 yards per game – he’ll end up with more receiving yards during his rookie campaign than Cincinnati Bengals’ stud A.J. Green had during his, third-best since 2000.

Not only that, but if healthy, he’s most definitely going to surpass Green in receptions, making a run for Michael Clayton’s 80-reception mark set in 2004.

But, as always, these raw numbers don’t tell the entire story. Perhaps some of these receivers saw a crazy number of targets, and only were able to post what they did because of this volume. Or maybe the majority of their yardage came in garbage time, or points in a game where they didn’t really provide much value for their team.

That’s where Net Expected Points (NEP) comes into play. We can look at advanced metrics to actually show how many points a player adds to his team. Simply computing yards usually doesn't tell the entire story, after all.

Below shows the same receivers as above, but instead of their raw numbers, we're looking at their advanced metrics.

PlayerRec NEPTargetsTarget NEPRec NEP/TargetCatch RateSuccess Rate

I’ve included Keenan Allen’s current stats, and then a full extrapolation from here on out (underneath his current numbers) based on his averages (clearly the percentage-based metrics will remain the same in this case).

So what all does this show? Well, Allen’s pacing to score the fourth-highest Reception NEP among rookie receivers since 2000, and he’s doing it with far fewer targets than the majority of receivers above. Reception NEP shows how many points a player is contributing on catches only, which can often favor players with more volume.

That’s why Reception NEP per Target can be an effective measure, as it looks at a player’s effectiveness given volume. Someone with a low volume can score high here, but given the sample above, we're not dealing with low-volume players. Keenan Allen is proving to be more efficient than any other first-year receiver since 2000, including the Cardinals’ magnificent Boldin in 2003.

What’s just as incredible about Keenan Allen’s rookie campaign is his Target NEP. Like Reception NEP, this looks at the point contribution a player is making for his squad. But unlike Reception NEP, it looks at all targets – not just catches. Of the 10 receivers analyzed, Allen’s extrapolated total ranks second behind Marques Colston, thanks to Marques’ big-play ability.

Allen's Future

In all, an argument could be made that Keenan Allen is having a one of the best rookie wide receiver seasons we've seen in recent history. And given the names on the list above, we shouldn't expect him to go away. Unless, of course, you're a pessimistic Mark Clayton fan.

Allen slipped in April's draft because a knee injury hindered his ability to score well at the combine. As a result, his draft position dipped from being a potential late Round 1 guy, all the way to Round 3.

But thanks to a couple of wide receiver injuries (I hate to give "thanks" to this), Allen has taken advantage and become one of the top wideouts in the game today, regardless of experience. He's been that good.

If you were able to snag him in your fantasy drafts or off the wire and can keep him next year at a discount, consider yourself lucky. As long as he continues to be a part of this offense, and as long as his opportunity remains the same, chances are he's not going away. You now own one of the few homes where a big bedroom is actually worthwhile. Well done.