Monday, September 15, 2014

Derek Carrier: Pegacorn?

You're probably going to think I'm nuts, in just a few moments.

Sometimes I have to wonder if I've become mentally impaired or crazy from looking at NFL statistics for too long.  Little things, which should really interest nobody but a lunatic, will fill me with deranged delight.  I'll just be sitting there on Sunday afternoon, watching the numbers come in from different games, and something incredibly stupid will catch my eye.  I'm not talking about Tom Brady's passing numbers, or Calvin Johnson's receiving yards.  I honestly have very little interest in that stuff.  Those types of players put me to sleep with their reliable and boring excellence.  I'm looking for the weirdos.  I'm interested in the pegacorns.

I'm not talking about unicorns.  I'm not talking about pegasus.  I am talking about their bastard offspring the fearsome pegacorn.  It's an exceedingly rare and ferocious creature, kind of like the chupacabra or the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.  Since it's unusual for people to encounter these creatures, and survivors are rarer still, you don't hear much about them in the press.  In much the same way, I would argue that there are players in the NFL who are a bit pegacorn-ish, both in their rarity and in the way they can dominate their opponents.  Sometimes, they are people we've never heard of before.

So, while mindlessly perusing the Sunday stat sheets, a weird set of numbers caught my eye.  Derek Carrier, backup tight end for the 49ers, caught 3 passes (on 4 targets) for 41 yards.  Yes, I know that this isn't exactly mind-blowing production, but he's just one of those odd players that always piques my interest.  Back when I first started this blog, I even made a very brief mention of Carrier's name.  In the post on using a statistics based approach to drafting wide receivers , I listed the players that the computer would have viewed as the top 5 receiving draft prospects, over a nine year span, and the computer came up with Derek Carrier as being it's favorite wide receiver prospect in 2012.  In the eyes of the computer, he was quite an interesting prospect.

Of course, things aren't really quite that simple.  I don't really view selecting wide receivers exactly the way I portrayed it in that post.  I was just trying to take a very simple look at a weird subject.  There were some factors that made Derek Carrier a very peculiar subject.  Issues which were beyond the computer's comprehension.

First of all, Carriers played at Beloit College.  Yup, I had to look that one up myself, as I had no idea where Beloit was located.  So, his level of competition is an obvious area of concern.  Still, a number of great players have come from very weird little schools.  Jerry Rice came from Mississippi Valley Sate.   Terrell Owens went to Chattanooga.  Marques Colston played at Hofstra.  I try to keep an open mind about these things, though I do admit that it makes me nervous.  Still, the degree to which Carrier dominated his competition at Beloit really made me wonder if he might be one of those weird guys who could succeed at making the leap to a higher level of competition.

I normally pay a lot of attention to what percentage of a team's total offensive yardage that a receiver is responsible for generating.  In a player's final year in college, I estimate the average result to be 17.75%.  In the year prior to that, I view 15.34% to be the average result.  Obviously, I want to see draft prospects meeting or exceeding these targets.  So, let's see how Carrier compared to two similarly plus-sized receivers (yes, he's a tight end now, but he was a wide receiver in college) from the 2014 NFL Draft (though Carrier went undrafted back in 2012).

Final Season          Rec       Yards           TD     % Offense    % Rec TD
Derek Carrier 75 1250 12 33.38 80
Kelvin Benjamin 54 1101 15 15.15 37.5
Mike Evans 69 1394 12 19.91 30
Average Result


Prior Year          Rec       Yards           TD     % Offense    % Rec TD
Derek Carrier 67 1044 12 26.78 50
Kelvin Benjamin 30 495 4 7.51 16.6
Mike Evans 82 1105 5 15.21 17.85
Average Result


Whether looking at the percentage of the team's offense, or the percentage of the team's receiving touchdowns, it's fairly obvious that what Derek Carrier was doing in college was pretty ridiculous.  The degree to which his team leaned on him was rather severe, which is a good thing since we are looking for someone who is comfortable carrying a load.  Also, just to be clear, I didn't pick Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans for this comparison for any reason other than the fact that they are both jumbo sized receivers, like Carrier.  Still, it does present an interesting comparison, since both of those receivers were selected fairly high in the most recent draft.  Now, if Carrier had played at a higher level of competition, how much of a bite would that likely have taken out of his results?  I really have no idea.  Even if we said that Carrier's results would be cut in half by such a change in competition, they'd still be in the range where you'd have to take him somewhat seriously.  Personally, I doubt the hit would have been that bad, but we're trying to be fairly cautious here.

There's also the question of whether he had the sort of athletic ability to hold up at a higher level of competition.  So, let's see how his physical traits compare to these same two players.  As always, the Kangaroo Score and Agility Score will be given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is away from the average results for a player in their position group.

Player     Height     Weight    40-yard    10-yard      Kangaroo      Agility
Derek Carrier 75.3 238 4.50 1.57 1.948 1.142
Kelvin Benjamin 77 240 4.61 1.65 0.956 -1.624
Mike Evans 76.75 231 4.46 1.60 1.408 -0.550

For a player of his size, Carrier's athletic ability is absolutely freakish  His Kangaroo Score puts him at a level where only a very small handful of players like Calvin Johnnson or Vincent Jackson have scored better.  When it comes to his Agility Score, his results are insanely good for a large receiver.  I normally have such low expectations of large wide receivers doing well on their Agility Scores, that I somewhat ignore these results.  As long as a large sized receiver comes in around -0.500, I'm usually pretty satisfied, even if that is a fairly mediocre result.  Big guys just don't tend to do very well in this are, so I cut them some slack, because they tend to make up for it in other areas.  In Carrier's case, he didn't just do okay.  No grudging allowances needed to be made.  He simply knocked it out of the park when it came to his Agility Score.  So, when it comes to physical potential, he seems to stack up just fine.  Physically, he is a monster.

This leaves us with an extremely productive player (though we can question how his production compares to players from tougher programs) with insanely good athletic ability.  It seems like a reasonable recipe for success.  Despite all of that, I have to admit I never really expected to hear his name mentioned again, after I initially considered him back in 2012.  Why?  Well, I don't know really.  Maybe I can't shake the whole Beloit thing.  There's also my general lack of faith in NFL teams, and the limited opportunities they give to weird undrafted prospects like this.  Then you have to consider the fact that he's been asked to play tight end, which is a bit of a position switch to deal with.  Oh...oh...that's right!  There's also the little fact that I've never actually seen this guy play before.  How did I forget to mention that?  Yup, never seen him play a single snap...umm...ever.

Like many players who come from weird places like Beloit, getting an opportunity (Hello, Youtube!) to watch thesm on the field is pretty difficult to come by.  Every year, I run the numbers on hundreds of draft prospects, and honestly, I'm not going to watch a lick of game tape for most of them, unless the computer tells me there is a reason to do so.  I've got Hummel figurines to polish.  My record collection needs to be alphabetized, and I still haven't finished knitting pajamas for Reilly.  These things all take a fair bit of my time.  Inevitably, this leads to speculating on someone who I have never actually seen play.  Yes, I should probably feel guilty about this, but considering that my main competition is only the expertise of every single scout employed by an NFL team, it still feels a bit safe to slack off from time to time.

Now, despite this admission of laziness, I have to say that I probably would have watched clips of Carrier, if I had been able to find any.  Again, playing at Beloit creates weird issues here.  I would have been curious to see what he actually looked like in a game.  Maybe there was something terribly wrong with him, which would have become apparent.  I really can't say.  Then again, I can't claim to have any great eye for talent.  I just look for pegacorns, in the simplest most objective way that I can, by the numbers.  Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes a prospective pegacorn disappears, never to be heard from again.  It's something I've gotten used to.  Other times, a prospective pegacorn returns from out of nowhere, gets a measly 41 receiving yards on 3 receptions, and I go "Ah, that's right.  I almost forgot about him", and the optimism returns.  It's such a little thing, but it stokes the fires, and makes you wonder once again, "Could this guy actually be pretty good?"  Honestly, I still fully expect Derek Carrier to disappear again, possibly forever.   At the same time, I'm feeling tempted by the possibilities he presents.  41 yards, man!  Have you ever seen something so spectacular?

Like I said at the beginning, this is all quite crazy.

Friday, September 5, 2014

WR Size Matters (that's what she said)

The Browns' somewhat recent release of wide receiver Charles Johnson has left me feeling sad and despondent.  I had such great plans for him, and now...well...I guess I'll just get drunk and listen to The Cure.  Robert Smith understands my pain.  My hopes have been dashed against the rocks that are the skulls of the Browns' brain-trust, and there's nothing I can do.

I have no real issue with the Browns.  I may live in Baltimore, but I can't say that I have any real allegiance to my local team (or any team), or any hatred for their rivals.  Yes, I think the Browns organization may be run by  individuals who are riding the short bus, but that doesn't necessarily mean I have a lower opinion of them than I do of the 31 other teams.  It's just that in this particular case, I am completely confounded as to what their plan might be at the wide receiver position.  What's the deal with all of those midget receivers that they seem to be clinging to, at the expense of my Chosen One?  Yes, I'm looking at you Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel.  Your diminutive stature confuses me.

I'm not saying that these sorts of guys can't be good, but I do tend to believe that the odds aren't in their favor.  They're not just small; they're really really really small.  They're so small, that they ask their wives to reach things that are on high shelves.  They're so small that calling them 'cute' or 'adorable' seems kind of like a fitting description.  Nobody calls Demaryius Thomas or Calvin Johnson cute.  No, they're too terrifying and huge for that.

Instead of doing my regular ranting about the degree to which combine data and statistical production in college may be able to predict success (to some degree), let's just make this a ridiculously simple discussion about physical mass.  I'm going to present 2 lists.  The first list will show all of the wide receivers who are under 190 pounds, who have managed to rank in the top 25 for receiving yards during the last five years.  The second list will show all of the receivers who weigh 214 pounds or more, who have managed to rank in the top 25 in receiving yards during the last five years.  Choosing 214 pounds as the cutoff point may seem like a random number, but there is a reason for it, which we'll get to a bit later.  Regardless, this is all intended to look at the two extreme ends of the bell curve when it comes to one very simple measurement, weight.  I couldn't make this simpler if I tried.

Besides listing where the players ranked in NFL receiving yards (just among wide receivers, since we want to exclude tight ends and running backs), we will also list where they ranked in the the NFL when it came to receiving touchdowns.  I should also mention that these players have their height listed in inches, and their weight is based on their current listed weight, rather than their combine weigh in.  Okey dokey, let's get to the list.


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
Antonio Brown 70 186 110 1,499 8 2 13
DeSean Jackson 69 178 82 1,332 9 9 11
T.Y. Hilton 69 183 82 1,083 5 17 25
Harry Douglas 71 183 85 1,067 2 19 69


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
Wes Welker 69 185 118 1,354 6 8 26


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
Wes Welker 69 185 122 1,569 9 2 4
Antonio Brown 70 186 69 1,108 2 13 68
Nate Washington 73 183 74 1,023 7 16 18
Percy Harvin 71 184 87 967 6 19 26
DeSean Jackson 69 178 58 961 4 20 43


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
DeSean Jackson 69 178 47 1056 6 12 24
Johnny Knox 72 185 51 960 5 20 35
Mario Manningham 71 185 60 944 9 21 11
Anthony Armstrong 70 185 44 871 3 24 52
Percy Harvin 71 184 71 868 5 25 35


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
Wes Welker 69 185 123 1,348 4 2 37
DeSean Jackson 69 178 62 1,156 9 11 7
Chad Johnson 73 188 72 1047 9 18 7

So, out of 125 possible opportunities for a sub-190 pound receiver to make it into the NFL's top 25 for receiving yards (5 years times 25 possible slots, duh?), we seem to have 18 occasions where this actually happened.  This means that sub-190 pound receivers seem to appear in the top 25 about 14.4% of the time.  Whether this is actually a good result or not somewhat depends on how many sub-190 pound receivers there are in the league.  If, for example, only 10% of the receivers coming into the league are in the sub-190 pound range, appearing in the top 25 around 14.4% of the time might be a good result.  On the other hand, if significantly more than 14.4% of the receivers that come into the league are under 190 pounds, then perhaps these pipsqueaks aren't the best guys to bet on.

To answer this question I decided to look outside of my own database of players, and went to  I wanted to make sure that I was getting a fairly random sample of NFL Draft prospects, and their weights, since there was no way to determine if my own database of players wasn't biased.  In the end, it seems that 136 out of the 583 wide receiver prospects on fell into the sub-190 pound range.  That works out to 23.32% of the wide receiver draft pool.  To double check this, I compared it to my own database of players, where we got a result of 22.55% who fell into this weight range.  Either way, the results are pretty similar, and significantly more than the 14.4% that are making it into the list above.  So, it seems that sub-190 pound receivers are making it into the top 25 receiving yards list about 36-38% less often than we might expect, relative to the percentage of the NFL receiver population that they probably make up.

Now, we come to the receivers who weigh 214 pounds or more, and I guess I should explain why I chose 214 pounds as the cutoff point.  Initially, I was going to set the bar at 210 pounds, but this wound up with a larger pool of wide receivers than I really wanted.  When I moved the mark to 214 pounds, I ended up with a group that makes up a very similar portion of the NFL receiver population to what we find with the sub-190 pound players, only at the opposite end of the scale.  According to, players who weigh 214 pounds or more should make up about 20.96% of the NFL's receivers.  In my own database of players, they make up about 23.42% of the league's receivers.  So, about 21-23.4% should be 214 pounds or more, and about 22.5-23.3% should be under 190 pounds.  That seems close enough for government work, and should make our comparisons reasonably fair, as they both seem to occupy a similar portion of the league's receiver population.

Now, onto the list of receivers who weigh 214 pounds or more, who finished in the top 25 for receiving yards during the last 5 years.


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
Josh Gordon 75 225 87 1646 9 1 11
Calvin Johnson 77 236 84 1492 12 3 3
Demaryius Thomas 75 229 92 1430 14 4 1
Alshon Jeffery 75 216 89 1421 7 6 18
Andre Johnson 75 230 109 1407 5 7 25
Pierre Garcon 72 216 113 1346 5 8 25
Jordy Nelson 75 217 85 1314 8 10 13
Brandon Marshall 76 230 100 1295 12 11 3
Eric Decker 75 214 87 1288 11 12 5
Dez Bryant 74 220 93 1233 13 13 2
Vincent Jackson 77 230 78 1224 7 14 18
Anquan Boldin 73 220 85 1179 7 15 18
Michael Floyd 74 220 65 1041 5 22 25
Larry Fitzgerald 75 218 82 954 10 25 7


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
Calvin Johnson 77 236 122 1964 5 1 30
Andre Johnson 75 230 112 1598 4 2 40
Brandon Marshall 76 230 118 1508 11 3 4
Demaryius Thomas 75 229 94 1434 10 4 6
Vincent Jackson 77 230 72 1384 8 5 12
Dez Bryant 74 220 92 1382 12 6 3
Julio Jones 75 220 79 1198 10 11 6
Marques Colston 76 225 83 1154 10 13 6
Michael Crabtree 73 214 85 1105 9 14 10
Eric Decker 75 214 85 1064 13 17 2
Miles Austin 74 215 66 943 6 23 26
Anquan Boldin 73 220 65 921 4 24 40


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
Calvin Johnson 77 236 96 1681 16 1 1
Larry Fitzgerald 75 218 80 1411 8 4 9
Jordy Nelson 75 217 68 1263 15 7 2
Brandon Marshall 76 230 81 1214 6 8 26
Dwayne Bowe 74 221 81 1159 5 11 33
Marques Colston 76 225 80 1143 8 12 9
Vincent Jackson 77 230 60 1106 9 14 4
Dar. Heyward-Bey 74 219 64 975 4 18 43
Julio Jones 75 220 54 959 8 22 9
Pierre Garcon 72 216 70 947 6 24 26


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
Andre Johnson 75 230 86 1216 8 6 14
Dwayne Bowe 74 221 72 1162 15 7 1
Larry Fitzgerald 75 218 90 1137 6 8 24
Calvin Johnson 77 236 77 1120 12 9 2
Miles Austin 74 215 69 1041 7 14 17
Marques Colston 76 225 84 1023 7 15 17
Brandon Marshall 76 230 86 1014 3 16 52
Terrell Owens 75 224 72 983 9 17 11
Braylon Edwards 75 214 53 904 7 22 17


Player     Height     Weight     Rec.       Yards       TDs   Yrd/Rank  TD/Rank
Andre Johnson 75 230 101 1569 9 1 7
Miles Austin 74 215 81 1320 11 3 3
Vincent Jackson 77 230 68 1167 9 9 7
Brandon Marshall 76 230 101 1120 10 13 5
Larry Fitzgerald 75 218 97 1092 13 15 1
Marques Colston 76 225 70 1074 9 16 7
Anquan Boldin 73 220 84 1024 4 20 37
Calvin Johnson 77 236 67 984 5 21 28

Okay, let's get to it.  Out of 125 possible slots in the top 25, receivers who weigh 214 pounds or more have filled 53 of them.  That works out to 42.4% of the league's top 25 receiving years, in terms of yards, coming from a group that should only make up about 21-23.4% of the league's total pool of receivers.  It could be said that these bulkier receivers seem to be dominating the league at a rate that is perhaps 81-97% higher than what you might expect given the percentage of the league's receiver population that they occupy.  I guess this isn't exactly shocking, since this is sort of what we probably all expected, isn't it?

Let's consider something outside of the degree to which these players dominate in the receiving yards category.  Let's look at how they fare when it comes to producing touchdowns.  What if we examined the difference between each player's "TD/Rank" and their "Yrd/Rank"? Well, If we did that, sub-190 pound receivers' TD/Rank would fall between 14.05 to 10.5 slots lower than their Yrd/Rank, depending on whether we were looking at the average or median level of decline.  Small guys may get good yardage, but they don't tend to score a lot of touchdowns.  On the other hand, when we look at the receivers who weigh 214 pounds or more, their TD/Rank only falls between 3.09 to 2 slots, again depending on whether we are looking at the average or median level of decline.  I'd say that this minimal drop in TD/Rank is almost nonexistent, though touchdown catches can still always be a bit fluky.  So, not that this will come as any real surprise, the larger receivers not only dominate when it comes to appearances in the top 25 for receiving yards, but they also tend to rank much higher when it comes to producing touchdowns.  Yes, duh, duh duh.  Everybody knows this, or suspects it.  I'm just not sure that the Browns have figured it out yet.

Okay, so everybody kind of expects larger receivers to dominate.  Still, the degree to which this happens seems to get overlooked to some extent.  Among players in the top 25 in receiving yards, players who weigh 214 pounds make 2.94 times more appearances than sub-190 pound players.  Among players in the top 25 for touchdowns, we see players who weigh 214 pounds appearing 4.66 times as often as sub-190 pound players.  But what if we step things up a bit, and look at the top10 rather than the top 25?  When we do that, there are 4.8 times as many top 10 receiving yards appearances for players who weigh 214 pounds or more than there are for sub-190 pound players.  With top 10 appearances for receiving touchdowns, players who weigh 214 pounds or more show up 9.33 times more often than such appearances by sub-190 pound receivers.  The more demanding your expectations become, the more you seem to wander into the land of the plus sized receiver. 

And yet, the Browns felt it was vitally important to hold onto 3 rather miniscule wide receivers, while cutting my love child Charles Johnson.  Let's take a look at the evil hobgoblins who have been upsetting my dreams, and see how they compare to the sub-190 pound receivers who have made it in to the top 25 in the past five years.

Browns' Midgets        Height     Weight
Taylor Gabriel 68 167
Andrew Hawkins 67 180
Travis Benjamin 70 175

AVG Top 25 Midget 70.22 183.27

Even by the average standards of munchkin sized receivers, this trio of Browns' receivers appears to be surprisingly small.  Of course, whenever a team signs players like these guys fans start saying things like "This guy could be our Wes Welker/DeSean Jackson/AntonioBrown!".  Sure, that could happen, but the odds are that it won't.  Wes Welker, DeSean Jackson and Antonio Brown are somewhat peculiar players, and in no way do I wish to diminish their accomplishments.  They've been excellent.  Still, they are sort of the exceptions to the rule, and considering that only one of them was selected before the 6th round, it's not as if we can really trust the idea that NFL talent scouts have a great eye for these types of players.  These players are most likely the proverbial nut found by a blind squirrel.

Oddly enough, if there was one pint sized receiver on the Browns' roster that actually interests me, it might be Taylor Gabriel, who's the smallest of the lot.  At least he was reasonably productive in college, which is more than I can say for Travis Benjamin.  Hawkins is a bit more of a mystery, since he split time at cornerback while at Toledo, making his statistical profile a bit peculiar.  Still, the question remains, do they really need to hold onto three of these guys?  How many kick returner/slot receiver types of receivers does one team need?  Also, what do you do with a slot receiver, when you have practically nobody to 'slot' them between?  Are we really counting on Miles "Ouch, my hamstring" Austin to make it through a complete season uninjured?  It seems unlikely.

The real problem is that there appears to be a bit of a ceiling for munchkin receivers, that perhaps isn't there for the larger players.  Saying where an individual player's 'ceiling' and 'floor' exists, isn't something I would really like to do.  Yes, occasionally a little guy breaks through, and produces at a high level.  But is that a reason to horde these types of players just on the off chance of this happening?  So far, the 28 year old Hawkins has averaged 28.42 receiving yards per game played, with a total of 4 career receiving touchdowns.  Benjamin has averaged 18.31 receiving yards per game played, and 2 career receiving touchdowns.  Both fall a bit short of the 35 yards per game played that I generally consider to be an average result.  Oh, but Benjamin was drafted in the 3rd round, so the team can't possibly cut him...uggh.  Shoot me now.

Do we really think that the highly athletic 6'2" and 215# Charles Johnson's floor couldn't have at least equaled such mediocre production?  A mere 454 receiving yard season with 1 or 2 touchdowns would have been sufficient to exceed the output of these players, and his size alone should make him a much more viable red zone threat.  I would think that practically any halfway competent receiver could hit that mark if given a chance.

Maybe the Browns have some ingenious plan to join all three of these waifish receivers together to form something like Voltron.  That would certainly be awesome, and make my suffering worthwhile.  Maybe they will develop some insane offense that involves lateraling the ball from one pipsqueak to another and then to another.  Maybe the Browns will become the 'all kick return' team, and completely forgo having a passing offense.  Yeah, they might just catch everyone sleeping with their super secret special teams assault.  Maybe they are constructing some sort of wide receiver Russian nesting doll, and needed a few pipsqueaks for the inner layers.  I also really have to wonder if Browns' GM Ray Farmer has his house guarded by a swarming pack of chihuahuas, figuring that as a group they might accomplish the job of one rottweiler.

While I genuinely wish Cleveland fans the best, I have to admit that I'm not feeling terribly fond of their GM at this point.  You're killing my dreams Mr. Farmer!  There will be no Christmas gifts or birthday cards for you.  If you want to apologize, I'll just be lying here weeping into my pillow, and waiting for you to give Charles Johnson another look.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Yoyodyne: The Future Begins Tomorrow!

Everybody can probably remember what it was like to be a small child waiting for Christmas morning.  Time moves much more slowly when you are young, and it slows down even more on Christmas Eve.  Now, imagine what it would be like if you ran downstairs to the Christmas tree and unwrapped the brand new bicycle that you had wished for, only to find that it was completely disassembled.  Your father, a man with no mechanical skills, promises to "get right to it", meaning that it should only take about three months for him to put it all together.  To be fair, my father did lose both of his hands in a bizarre meatloaf related accident, and had to have hams sewn onto the ends of his arms to take their place.  Of course, this also doesn't take into account the additional months of waiting, when your cautious mother ships the assembled bicycle off to the Underwriters Laboratory for safety testing, to ensure that her precious baby boy won't be killed on this mechanical death-trap.

Under these circumstances, you would probably start to have very mixed feelings about Christmas.  A more deprived life in an orphanage might even start to seem like an appealing option.  I don't know.  I guess I was a fairly impatient kid.  Maybe it all balances out in the end, when you get to put your parents in a nursing home (Who's going to be laughing then, Mom and Dad?).

Now, I'm not a child anymore (supposedly), and perhaps I have exaggerated the way in which my parents operate.  Either way, I am older now, and I have hair growing out of my nose, and my expectations for immediate gratification have been somewhat subdued.  I know that the world doesn't move as quickly as I would like, or else we would already have jet-packs (or Japanese robot butts).  You have to learn to be patient, even if waiting can be extremely frustrating at times.

One of the most annoying aspects of speculating about NFL Draft (football Christmas) prospects is the endless waiting.  It's particularly bad when you have a hunch that a late round draft pick might be pretty good, but nobody else really seems to care.  It's even worse when your interests are drawn to some of the less glamorous positions like that of the NFL center.  Try having a serious discussion about NFL centers with a friend, and watch how quickly people begin to fall asleep.  Yet, for some reason, I find this subject endlessly fascinating.  I should I put this...a bit of a dork about such things.  Unfortunately, once the draft is over, all I can really do is sit around and wait...and wait...and wait...just to see if the players I am interested in will ever get an opportunity to play.  Sometimes it takes years for all of this to play out, and even then we sometimes don't get a real chance to judge a player's skills, simply because they may never be given an opportunity.

Normally, I have somewhat mixed feelings about Pro Football Focus, and their methods for grading players.  Sometimes I ignore what they have to say....and sometimes they agree with me and I make sure to mention it here.  Yes, I can be a bit of an inconsistent ass in that way.  Either way, I do find what they are attempting to do quite interesting, even if I sometimes have some differences of opinion with them.  This morning, however, they posted an article that had me howling in delight.

When they posted their grades for the top performers in the 2014 NFL preseason, a stupid smile began to spread across my face.  According to their numbers, the top rated center in the preseason has been Eric Kush of the Chiefs, with a grade of +4.7 cheeseburgers.  Okay, they don't really grade people on a 'cheeseburger scale', but the methods by which they evaluate people can sometimes be a bit mysterious, so I sometimes make up meanings for their numbers.  Either way, Eric Kush scored more cheeseburgers than any other center, at least so far, in the 2014 preseason.

This is particularly funny because PFF has been busy trashing the rest of the Chiefs offensive line, so it doesn't appear as if Kush is likely to be benefiting from an abundance of surrounding talent.  This is all very exciting to me, because Eric Kush was our favorite center prospect from the 2013 draft, although he wasn't selected until the 6th round.  Seeing some signs that things might actually work out for this strange little prospect of ours is sending me into a bit of a tizzy, especially since he is somebody we selected in our ongoing battle versus Ozzie Newsome.  I have to admit that I have the horrible feeling that even mentioning any of this will end up jinxing things for Kush.

Then, things got even weirder...

Among the other centers that PFF had ranked in their top 5, along with established names like Alex Mack and Nick Mangold, was another somewhat peculiar fellow.  Tied for 3rd place on their list, with a score of +3.7 cheeseburgers, was Corey Linsley who the Packers drafted this year in the 5th round.  While there were a handful of people that we considered to be interesting center prospects in the 2014 draft, we finally settled on Linsley as our favorite overall center candidate.  All things considered, I think that projection is starting to look fairly good, considering that we probably spent a whopping 2-3 minutes actually watching him play, and based this hunch almost entirely on his physical measurables.  Our deranged fascination with the short shuttle times of center prospects seems to again be paying some dividends, even if it is a remarkably simple-minded way of doing things.  Yes, Reilly and I do factor in other results besides short shuttle times, when judging centers, but it still remains our favorite score for that position.

Obviously, none of this necessarily means that much.  There's still plenty of time for these players to turn around and make our little projections look incredibly stupid.  For the moment, however, I just want to savor the possibility that maybe...just maybe...we don't have our heads firmly lodged in our buttocks.  In no way am I claiming that these two players are Canton bound, but for the moment, there do appear to be some promising signs of competence.  Even if they were to merely become average/serviceable players, I think that would still be a rather positive outcome, considering how little was invested in them.  My fingers are crossed.

Of course, there is a bit of a catch in all of this.  Eric Kush is still listed as a backup, and I suspect there is a good chance he won't really see the field until 2015, when starting center Rodney Hudson's contract runs out.  I may personally believe that Kush is a much better prospect than Hudson ever was, but that's where PETARD comes back into play.  Hudson was a 2nd round draft pick.  Short of a complete and undeniable failure on his part, the team is likely to give him the starting job, instead of Kush.  Since the same questionable "trust your eyeballs, and not the numbers" type of evaluation goes into assessing NFL players, that also goes into choosing who to draft, it's entirely possible that the Chiefs will squander another year of Kush's career, having him sit on the bench.  How annoyed am I with this situation?  Extremely.

Linsley, on the other hand, appears poised to become a starter this year, even though I don't personally think he is as exciting a prospect as Kush probably is.  Don't get me wrong.  I do think Linsley could be quite good, but I just that think Kush could be really exceptional.  I'm sure Linsley will struggle at times, and there will be ample opportunities to question his abilities, but that is sort of to be expected with all inexperienced offensive linemen.  Still, I generally support the sink or swim approach, of tossing players into games early, and figuring that a few screw-ups will be more educational than they will be harmful.  Hopefully it all works out for the Packers.  Again, I'll have my fingers crossed for a positive outcome here.

Because I haven't said anything negative about the Ravens yet (a requirement), I figured I should tack this on at the end.  In the past year, the Ravens have traded for two veteran centers (Shipley and Zuttah), while starting one of the league's most abysmally poor centers in Gino Gradkowski, in 2013 (who was selected in the 4th round in 2012).  While I suspect Zuttah will inevitably turn out to be an improvement over the performance we saw from Gradkowski (with a fairly pleasing 4.54 second short shuttle time coming from Zuttah), you still have to wonder if all of this scrambling around to address the center position was really necessary or economically sound.  Anytime you sign a veteran player, you are getting somebody who is both older and more costly than what you could have acquired in the draft.  It's still too early to say whether Kush or Linsley will pan out, but if they do, and if the signs that pointed to success were relatively apparent to our Banana 6000 data thresher, then why weren't they apparent to the Ravens?

However this all plays out, I'll just be sitting here waiting.  Like the slogan of Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems says,"The Future Begins Tomorrow", and the NFL has taught me just how true this statement is.  I just find it a bit frustrating how often I see teams with well known areas of weakness spending their preseason games trotting out the same tired players on the field, while giving fewer opportunities to some of the lesser known guys who are buried on their rosters.  The idea of shaking things up, and trying to reevaluate some of the lesser known talents in the league, seems to always take a back seat to simply making decisions based on where someone was drafted.  So I keep waiting...and waiting...and waiting...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The PETARD Hall Of The Reasonably Productive

The eventual death of this blog will most likely be a product of how few positive things I generally have to say.  I suspect people are much more interested in hearing good news rather than bad news.  Unfortunately, I come from the school of thought that says "If you don't have something negative to say, don't say anything at all".  It's not that I don't want to be more optimistic regarding the careers of NFL players, it's just that it feels a bit pointless to state the obvious, simply for the sake of being upbeat.  That's why we have Jon Gruden, after all.  We all know that Aaron Rodgers is good.   Jimmy Graham?  Well, he seems to be doing quite well.  What's really left to say about those sorts of players?  I'm much more interested in why certain draft picks fail to meet our expectations, and to what degree such disappointment might be avoidable.

Still, when Reilly and I recently got back from our annual expedition to Bohemian Grove, we were feeling a bit more buoyant than usual.  A weekend of peeing in the woods and sacrificing goats in the Owl Shrine with our nation's overlords just has that sort of effect on us.  So, with a more chipper outlook, I thought we would examine some of the players who have had somewhat surprisingly positive outcomes to their careers, at least relative to where they were drafted.  It's time to give the Ravens credit for their draft picks that seemed to have done well for the team.

We'll do this the same way that we did with the players in the previous post, where we examined the players who fell short of our expectations.  As always, we will be using PETARD to define what the average number of games started would be for a player (in their first 4 NFL seasons), depending on where they were selected in the draft.  We will list the number of games that the player actually started, as well as the number of games that PETARD would have projected for them to start.  When we examined the players who failed to meet PETARD's expectations, we were only looking at players who were selected in the first 100 picks of the draft.  This time, when we examine the "successes", we will only be looking at players who were taken with the 90th pick of the draft, or later.  Undrafted players will not be included in this list.  Since teams seem to be a bit overly exuberant in their confidence when it comes to high draft picks, and frequently give them opportunities almost regardless of their actual performance, drawing a line at the 90th pick should help restrict our attention to players for whom the team probably didn't have enormous expectations.  Basically, if these players got on the field, they probably earned their playing time, rather than just being the products of draft hype.

Since we're trying to see if there is a pattern to who succeeds, versus who fails, we'll generally make a note of the player's physical attributes, and perhaps a little bit about their statistical production in college.  Sometimes pieces of this information just aren't available, but we'll do the best that we can with what we have.  As for the physical data, we will generally just refer to a player's Kangaroo Score (our measure of lower body power and explosiveness), and the Agility Score (based on the short shuttle and 3-cone drill).  These scores are given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is above or below the average result for someone in their position group.  So, the results for a linebacker, for example, shouldn't be directly compared to those of a wide receiver.  In the end, we just want to see if there were signs related to a player's physical traits or statistical production, which would have helped us to differentiate them from some of their less successful peers.

Seeing as how none of these players will have been selected before the 3rd round, it is unlikely that we are going to run across any players of the Calvin Johnson or J.J. Watt type of physical freakishness.  Players of that sort are generally so obvious that they don't get overlooked by NFL teams very often.  Still, even if these players are likely to be of a somewhat lesser caliber, we're just looking to see if the objective facts seemed to point more towards a good argument for their selection.

There is one final note that I should mention.  As I've mentioned before, fullback Le'Ron McClain has generally presented some issues for PETARD.  Because of the nature of the fullback position, it is hard to treat his extraordinarily high PETARD result very seriously.  As things stand, we would be forced to say that no Ravens' selection has exceeded their PETARD projection as much as McClain has, but I think this is more a result of him playing at an unusual position, that has a very different set of expectations placed upon it.  Being selected in the 4th round is about as high as you ever see a fullback taken, and when such a pick is made, the player is probably more comparable to a more highly drafted player, at a more conventional position.  So, for now, we are going to leave Le'Ron McClain out of this discussion.

Now, let's get on to the list...

Ed Mulitalo, G, 129th pick in 1999  Actual # GS:  53   PETARD Proj. GS: 12.9
It's a bit unfortunate that we have to start this list with Edwin Mulitalo, because I really don't have a great explanation for his career.  Since offensive linemen lack traditional stats when they come out of college, we have to rely on their combine performance to a much larger degree.  With a -1.089 Kangaroo Score and a -0.487 Agility Score, I have to admit that there was nothing here that I would have found intriguing at all.  No matter what angle I come from, I would have had a hard time seeing Mulitalo as an interesting prospect, based on the data that was available at the time.

How good was he in reality?  I really can't say.  He did manage to start 128 games over his career, and though he never struck me as anything amazing, that is still quite an accomplishment for a 4th round pick.  Maybe he was just a fairly pedestrian guard, who survived at a position that just draws less attention?  Or, perhaps he's just an oddball exception to my normal rules?  I'm really not sure.  Either way, having him head this list at least shows that we're not trying to unfairly tilt the conversation in a particular direction.  There are always going to be guys like this who exceed my expectations, and it's just a part of life that we have to accept.

Dawan Landry, SS, 146th pick in 2006  Actual # GS:  48   PETARD Proj. GS: 10.89
With Dawan Landry, I think we have an imperfect, but still rather interesting prospect.  That's about the best you can reasonably hope to find in the 5th round of the draft.  His 4.64 second 40-yard dash (which he improved upon slightly at his pro day), along with an Agility Score of -0.588, doesn't suggest a lot of speed or gracefulness.  Still, when it comes to strong safety prospects, I'm usually willing to be a bit more flexible about agility than I would be with cornerbacks or free safeties, and generally have a cutoff in the -0.400 to -0.600 range, which barely lets Landry slip past inspection.  Of course, making such an exception would depend on whether other areas check out okay.  When we look at his exceptional Kangaroo Score of 2.322, we start to see some real reasons to get excited.  Anytime a player has a Kangaroo score that is over two standard deviations higher than his average peer, I pay attention.  That is precisely the sort of lower body power and explosiveness that we might hope to find in an in-the-box hard hitting safety.  But how did he actually perform in college?

        Year         TKL         TFL       Sacks         PBU           Int            FF
2005 76 4.5 0 5 4 0
2004 81 10 3 2 1 1
2003 85 4.5 0 2 2 0

Now, I could easily come up with a list of players that have gaudier college stat sheets, but I think Landry's results would still be viewed by most people as quite solid.  That he produced these results over the course of several seasons, and showed a reliable above average steadiness to his performance, also minimizes any concerns about the flukiness of these sorts of things.  There are few things I hate worse than a "one year wonder".  While Landry might not be a perfectly designed safety, it would have been difficult to argue that he didn't appear to be worth taking a shot at in the 5th round.  With reasonably impressive physical potential, and proven production, I would have to say that his relative success shouldn't be terribly surprising, even if he is perhaps never going to be much more than an 'in the box' type of safety.

Ed Hartwell, LB, 126th pick in 2001   Actual # GS:  46   PETARD Proj. GS: 13.33
With Ed Hartwell, I think we have another fairly interesting prospect.  Athletically he was a bit of a mixed bag of results, though we can't really expect many dominating physical freaks to last until the end of the 4th round.  You gradually have to lower your expectations as the draft rolls on.  His Agility Score of -1.349 is clearly not very good, and might have suggested some potential problems dropping into coverage, but this wouldn't necessarily rule him out as a capable middle linebacker, intended to simply stop opponents from running up the middle.  It's when we look at his Kangaroo Score of -0.025, that we begin to see some of this potential.  Yes, -0.025 might not look like a good result, but since I weigh middle linebackers on the same scale as the larger OLBs and DEs, the results for middle linebackers tend to get pushed down a tad.  As I've said before, I generally view -0.800 to be an average result for the somewhat lighter middle linebacker prospects, with Pro Bowl and All Pro middle linebackers averaging about -0.400.  So, in comparison to those results, Hartwell actually comes out looking quite nice, and well into the range where we find a lot of All Pro/Pro Bowl MLBs, and with a result that is actually about 0.825 standard deviations better than his average peer.  Still, with that said, I probably would have expected him to be a fairly one dimensional player, which he probably was.

When we move past these measurable athletic traits, the picture becomes even more interesting.  While I have been unable to find his college statistics prior to his senior year, that one season of play seems to be worth taking a real look at.

      Year        TKL   Solo TKL       TFL      Sacks         PBU        Int         FF
2000 184 117 12 5 3 1 2

I would have to call that an extremely productive season.  In fact, even if we compared this production to all of the middle linebackers taken in the first round during the past decade, I would say Hartwell appears to measure up quite nicely.  While injuries appear to largely be to blame for the derailing of Hartwell's career (a not unusual case of Exploding Knee Syndrome), that shouldn't diminish what he accomplished early in his first few NFL seasons.  Would I have picked Hartwell in the 4th round?  I'm not sure.  In the end, it would have been a question of whether I felt his exceptional statistical production and lower body power balanced out his poor Agility Score.  I probably wouldn't have bet against him though, and for a mere mid-to-late-round pick, the price was probably right for a guy like Hartwell.

Jason Brown, C,124th pick in 2005   Actual # GS:  45   PETARD Proj. GS: 13.6
Say what you will about Jason Brown's disappearing act once he joined the St. Louis Rams, he still appeared to be quite a good center during his time with the Ravens.  His Kangaroo Score of 0.437 was a fairly good result relative to other offensive linemen, but particularly exceptional when compared to other centers.  When I was recently looking at all of the starting centers from the 2013 season, the average Kangaroo Score was -0.324, so centers do tend to have the least lower body power along the offensive line, at least on average.  Brown was somewhat unusual in this area, at about 0.761 standard deviations above that average starting center's result.  Perhaps more importantly, he had an Agility Score of 0.656, which includes a short shuttle time of 4.52 seconds.  That short shuttle time places him 1.110 standard deviations above the average results for an offensive lineman, and is the number one trait I look for in a starting center prospect.  At least from my perspective, he was precisely the sort of prospect I would expect to see thriving at the center position, and for a period of time, he appeared to do exactly that.  For the price of a mere 4th round pick, the payoff seems to have been quite reasonable, though not terribly surprising when you consider his physical advantages.

I'm going to skip past Derek Anderson at this point, though he did manage to start more games than PETARD would have expected of him.  Since we're mainly looking at the degree to which athletic measurables could have predicted these outcomes, quarterbacks sort of fall outside of the scope of this examination.  Still, Anderson is the only quarterback that the Ravens have ever drafted, who wound up going to a Pro Bowl, which is sort of a funny bit of (depressing) trivia.

Jeff Mitchell, C, 134th pick in 1997   Actual # GS:  40   PETARD Proj. GS: 12.31
When you go back to 1997, it becomes nearly impossible to find combine results for most players.  A fractured leg in November of his final college season also increases the likelihood that he never would have participated in the NFL Combine or his college's Pro Day.  Since offensive linemen also accumulate no stats, at least of a conventional variety, it is even more difficult to say how I would have viewed Mitchell as a prospect.  Either way, he had a relatively long career, and started a total of 118 games, so by the typical standards of what you expect from a 5th round pick, he was quite productive.  If anybody can fill in some of the blanks here, feel free to let me know.  I have to admit that I would really love to know his short shuttle time, in particular.  I have a peculiar and unhealthy interest in such things. 

Terry Jones, TE, 155th pick in 2002  Actual # GS:  35   PETARD Proj. GS: 9.9
Perhaps this is a somewhat similar situation to what we have with Le'Ron McClain.  On paper, there was nothing about Terry Jones that struck me as exceptional in any way.  When he was on the field for the Ravens, there was similarly very little to get excited about.  He mainly seemed to serve as a blocking tight end, who rarely contributed much in the passing game.  In what was perhaps his most productive season, at least from a statistical standpoint, he accumulated 159 receiving yards on 20 receptions, with 3 touchdowns.  It seems highly probable that his role as a blocking tight end put him in a position somewhat similar to what we find with our Le'Ron McClain fullback dilemma, as a peculiar role player, which may have allowed him to get on the field a bit more than PETARD might have expected. 

Adalius Thomas, DE/OLB, 186th pick in 2000  Actual # GS:  26   PETARD Proj. GS: 6.87
This is probably going to be one of my favorite late round oddball picks that the Ravens made.  From the perspective of pure physical potential, Adalius Thomas was a rather stunning prospect.  At 270 pounds, running a 4.56 second 40-yard dash, while also displaying an extremely good 1.573 Kangaroo Score, Thomas was quite the physical specimen.  His only minor shortcoming was a slightly below average -0.306 Agility Score, though this never stopped the Ravens from dropping him into coverage (though I never felt he excelled in this area).  Thomas clearly had the sort of physical ability that teams shouldn't have ignored, though he still slipped to the 6th round.  Maybe his on-the-field performance in college just didn't live up to the these physical traits?

      Year         TKL        TFL      Sacks         PBU            Int         FF
1999 67 16 9 0 0 1
1998 71 20 12.5 5               ?           ?
1997 65 15 9 10 1           ?

Umm...nope...that doesn't appear to clarify things at all.  His college stats actually appear to be exceptionally strong.  In fact, it only makes his late round status more of a mystery.  If I employed my normal methods for determining where a pass rushing prospect should be selected, as shown in the post on Explosive Pass Rushers, Thomas would actually come out with a 1st round grade.  I suspect most people would view that as a bit of a reach, since Thomas was probably a 'very good' but not necessarily 'great' type of NFL player.  Still, I would say that the computer's view of Thomas' potential was probably a bit more accurate than the view most NFL teams seemed to have of him at the time.  In retrospect, I think he probably performed at a level that would have made a 2nd round pick seem like a fairly reasonable price to pay.

Jermaine Lewis, WR/KR, 153rd pick in 1996  Actual # GS:  27   PETARD Proj. GS: 10.11
What I can say about Jermaine Lewis as a draft prospect, is somewhat limited.  When you go back as far as the 1996 NFL Draft, finding combine data gets to be a bit difficult.  While a good portion of my hunches typically rely on that information, we can still look at his statistical production at Maryland. 

In 1995, his final college season, Lewis had 66 receptions for 937 yards.  That would have been good for 26.8% of his teams total offense, and significantly above the 17.75% mark that we consider to be an average result for a draft prospect.  In his Junior season, Lewis had 45 receptions for 692 yards.  That would have been good for 16.98% of his team's total offense, and slightly above the 15.34% mark that we consider an average result.  Now, normally, I don't mention much about a receiver's sophomore season, but in this case I will.  In Lewis' sophomore year, he had 52 receptions for 957 yards.  This would have been good for 19.69% of his team's total offense, and clearly an above average result.  It should also be noted that there were 3 games in his sophomore year that Lewis didn't even get to start, so his results could have been even higher if we adjusted for this factor.

So, while we may not know how he measured up at the combine, there's really no denying that his actual college performance did merit some serious attention.  I'm not usually a fan of drafting small receivers (Lewis was about 5'7", and 183 pounds) but it's also clearly much easier to justify a move like this later in the draft.  Lewis was primarily known for his skills as a kick/punt returner, and was selected for 2 Pro Bowls, as well as 2 All Pro teams, though he also produced 2,129 career receiving yards and 17 receiving TDs.  All in all, not a bad result for a 5th round receiver, but also not terribly shocking considering the information that we have about how he performed in college.

Tony Pashos, OT, 173rd pick in 2003  Actual # GS:  23   PETARD Proj. GS: 8.07
I don't think that anyone would claim that Tony Pashos was a star, but as I mentioned in the post about the Lobotomy Line, I think we could argue that there is probably minimal difference between Pashos and the more heralded and hyped Michael Oher.  It's one of those unfortunately familiar cases where the perception of the difference between two players seems to hinge upon their draft status (Oher was selected in the 1st round, Pashos in the 5th), regardless of any actual differences in their performance.  Sadly, I can't really say much about how I would have viewed Pashos' athletic ability, as there seems to be practically no data available on this subject.

Arthur Jones, DT, 157th pick in 2010  Actual # GS:  20   PETARD Proj. GS: 9.68
Due to an injury in his final college season, there is no combine information to help clarify some of the questions we might have about Arthur Jones.  If we ignore his final injury plagued college season, and instead look at his performance prior to that point, we see that he had 13 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks in 2008.  In 2007, he produced 17.5 tackles for a loss, and 1 sack.  Yes, his sack totals may not have been outrageous, but he was clearly producing a lot of tackles behind the line of scrimmage for an interior linemen, and I put a fair bit of stock in that.  All in all, I would say those results are extremely encouraging signs of a prospect's potential, and might have warranted a fairly high draft pick if we could have filled in some of the blanks about his physical abilities.  Still, without any combine data, I probably would have been afraid to pull the trigger on a player like Jones, even if the limited data we have is fairly exceptional.  In the end, things worked out reasonably well for the Ravens with this pick.  It's just a shame that we'll probably never know where he would have measured up athletically.

Casey Rabach, C,  92nd pick in 2001  Actual # GS:  23   PETARD Proj. GS: 18.55
It's really unfortunate that acquiring combine results prior the the early 2000s is sometimes so difficult to find.  This leaves us with a somewhat incomplete picture of Casey Rabach.  While we are missing several bits of data about Rabach, I am particularly disappointed to not have his short shuttle time.  Nevertheless, the one piece of measurable data we do have is his vertical jump.  This one sliver of information gives him a Vertical Kangaroo Score of 1.284 standard deviations above his offensive linemen peers, which is quite an exceptional result.  Typically, I find that centers have the lowest Kangaroo Scores of all of the offensive linemen, with results that frequently go into into the negative range.  They often seem to make up for this with quickness and agility.  In Rabach's case, it seems safe to say that his lower body power did not appear to be an area of weakness, but instead an area of surprising strength.  While I wish we had more to go on, this alone would be an extremely encouraging start towards any explanation of Rabach's rather solid career, where he would have 118 total career starts.

But wait...the Ravens must have had numerous other late round surprises, right? really.  Answering questions such as this is going to make it rather difficult for me to maintain the illusion of optimistically supporting the beliefs people wish to hold about the Ravens.  For the most part, the rest of the players that the Ravens have selected in the late rounds of the draft have contributed at a level that is rather close to what PETARD would have expected of them.  Just for the sake of argument, let's look at some of the players that people might suspect were much more beneficial to the team, relative to where they were drafted.

Jarret Johnson, DE/OLB, 109th pick in 2003   Actual # GS:  15   PETARD Proj. GS: 15.73
While I've never thought Johnson was a particularly exceptional player, he has turned into a fairly useful OLB/DE, who has his positive moments from time to time.  Still, he only started 15 games in his first four years, when PETARD would have predicted an average outcome of 15.73 games started for a player who was selected with the 109th overall pick.  Whatever the fans may think of Johnson's ability, the team clearly didn't exhibit much enthusiasm about getting him onto the field, at least while he was operating under his rookie contract.  Basically, the team got out of Johnson, exactly what we would typically expect them to get out of any player taken with the 109th pick. 

Brandon Stokley, WR, 105th pick in 1999   Actual # GS:  11   PETARD Proj. GS: 16.35
Brandon Stokley has always been a bit of an enigma.  Still, many Ravens' fans probably still view grabbing Stokley in the 4th round, as a bit of a steal.  In reality, Stokley would start about 5 fewer games than PETARD would consider to be the average result for a player chosen with the 105th overall pick.  Stokley's only real value seemed to emerge when he went to the Colts, and got to play with Peyton Manning (surprise!).  Prior to that, I think we could argue that he did no more, and perhaps slightly less, than a typical player who the Ravens would have selected at the same point in the draft.

Dennis Pitta, TE, 114th pick in 2010   Actual # GS:  8   PETARD Proj. GS: 14.9
If I haven't made it clear in the past, I really like Dennis Pitta.  Unfortunately, the Ravens seemed to have been less enamored with Pitta than they were with Ed Dickson, as I discussed in an earlier post.  Come hell or high water, the Ravens were going to give the starts to Ed Dickson, no matter how often he dropped the ball.  In the end, this created a situation where Pitta saw the field even less than you would have expected of someone taken with the 114th overall pick.  Ed Dickson, on the other hand, actually started 44 games, when PETARD would have only expected him to start 23.08 games.  This seems like a good time to start asking questions about how much faith you really have in your team's management and decision making abilities, since the only apparent reason for Dickson's edge in this area was probably due to being selected one round ahead of Pitta, in the same draft.  Let the players compete on a level playing field for a starting job, regardless of when they were drafted, you say?  Hahahaaahaaha.  That's hilarious.

Chester Taylor, RB, 207th pick in 2002  Actual # GS:  8   PETARD Proj. GS: 5.1
I've always had a soft spot for Chester Taylor, and think he perhaps got screwed over by landing on teams that had players like Jamal Lewis and Adrian Peterson installed ahead of him on the depth charts.  If given a chance, I think he could have done fairly well as a team's primary running back.  Nonetheless, Petard only projected him to start 5.1 games in his first four years, and he ended up actually starting just 8.  Yes, that was more than the computer projected, but not so much more as to really matter.

Okay, now for some final thoughts on all of this.

Despite the fact that numerous players on this list have incomplete sets of data, we have to do the best that we can with the information that is available to us.  All we can really do is try to weigh their individual pros and cons, and see what sort of picture emerges from all of this.

First of all, amongst the players for whom statistical information is available and relevant, the picture seems quite clear.  For Dawan Landry, Edgerton Hartwell, Adalius Thomas, Jermaine Lewis, and Arthur Jones, their statistical production in college at least matched an average player's results, and frequently exceeded it by a fairly large margin.  Compared to the players in the previous post, who fell short of their PETARD expectation, the differences in this area should be pretty clear.  It seems to make sense to invest in players that ave a history of dominating statistical production, which should come as no real surprise, though team's can be surprisingly erratic in giving this any real consideration.

Secondly, while our data related to these player's physical traits is frequently incomplete, particularly for drafts from the more distant past, the bits of data that we do have almost invariably seems to point to this being a rather important factor too.  Even when only a few bits of data are available, these small glimpses into their potential seem to point towards these players having strong physical gifts.  Particularly for Dawan Landry, Edgerton Hartwell, Jason Brown, Adalius Thomas, and Casey Rabach there did appear to be signs of some physical superiority.  Particularly in the area of lower body power and explosiveness (the dreaded Kangaroo Score), these players seemed to do exceptionally well.  Again, when we look to the players who fell short of their PETARD projections, the differences in this area become a bit more stark.  The players who were disappointment in the eyes of PETARD tended to be a bit below average/horrible when it came to their measured athletic ability.

Does it look like focusing a team's attention on physically superior players, with a history of solid statistical production, might be a good idea?  I certainly think so.  Still, this is not meant to suggest that such players are ever a sure thing.  There will always be players who end up succeeding, where I never would have bet on such an outcome.  Likewise, there will be physical freaks with goods stats, who end up becoming disappointments.  Human beings always have an annoying ability to surprise us in that way (my robot army will solve this problem).  All I'm trying to suggest is that the trend tends to point in a fairly obvious direction.  When a team has multiple draft picks at their disposal, it just seems to make sense to focus them on players who have provided the most objective evidence for why they should succeed.  Over the course of time, such repeated investments do appear to work out better, and put the odds a bit more in your favor.