Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I Was Bored: The Amp & Preamp

I've been feeling very, very bored.  It hasn't helped, that Reilly has been a bit grumpy with me lately, and hasn't seen fit to discuss his thoughts on the steroid fueled sociopaths which normally are the topics of our mindless prattling.  Reilly's silence has left a bit of a void in my life.  So, I thought I would briefly branch off into a different subject that interests me.

Over the years, I've gradually had to accept the idea that most of the subjects that draw my attention are rather tedious, pointless, and perhaps less than ideal for maintaining my mental stability.  My OCD tends to steer me in directions that probably serve no practical or useful purpose, yet I can spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to better understand the subjects that pique my curiosity.  I have an unfortunately large number of these sorts of hobbies, and while they are all superficially quite different, I think they are all united by an underlying need to drive myself crazy.

One of these areas of obsessiveness is the subject of somewhat exotic home stereo equipment.  I think this fascination all started when I was a wee lad, and a friend of mine dragged me around to some of the more bizarre shops in my town, exposing me to the dreaded realm of the audiofools.  It's a strange world, that is heavily driven by outrageous marketing, targeted at fart-sniffing jazz aficionados who think that Citroen makes respectable automobiles.  Almost certainly, 90% of it is pure bullshit, but the remaining 10% can be quite nifty.  Like many of the things that interest me, there are frequent uses of the saying "it is more of an art, than a science", when describing why one piece of equipment was supposedly better than another.  That's an attitude that always irritates me, and probably launched me in a rather questionable direction, trying to better understand how these gadgets actually work.

After building an impractical number of speakers, fiddling with the design of crossovers, and discovering an irrational love of soldering, it seemed like it was time to add some new and unnecessary complications to my life.  I thought I would start mucking about with amplifiers.  In retrospect, this all seems a bit foolish, since I only own one CD, which is just a collection of Hawaiian crooner Don Ho's greatest hits, but sometimes you really need Tiny Bubbles to sound its absolute best.  Yes, this song is constantly playing on repeat at my house.  It is absolute perfection.

For one of my more recent projects, I was really feeling drawn to the idea of building an amplifier that used lateral MOSFETs in the output stage.  Santa Claus probably finds himself perpetually bombarded with children expressing their passion and desire for lateral MOSFET transistors.  They really make an ideal stocking stuffer.  While these output devices have their strengths and weaknesses, I have to admit that my main reason for going in this direction was that the available supply of these types of transistors is gradually becoming more and more difficult to get a hold of, so there was no time like the present to build something that utilized them.  When hospitals stop administering electro-shock therapy, I'll probably be the first in line to experience that too, before the opportunity is gone.  That's just how I operate.

Since Rod Elliott (ESP) offers PCBs for his P101, which is designed around a lateral MOSFET output stage, this simplified things quite a bit.  After fiddling with his design in SPICE, the design of his boards seemed to be capable of providing good results, and appeared to offer the ability to make additional modifications further down the road.  So, another adventure began, to build a simple class AB two channel amplifier.  (Sorry for the quality of the pictures, but photography isn't one of my skills).

Okey-dokey, let's talk about some of the technical nonsense that will probably only interest maybe 3 people (that's probably optimistic).  The power supply in this amp consists of an 800 VA toroidal transformer, with 40 volt AC secondaries.  This gets fed through dual rectifiers, followed by a capacitor bank that has 27,200 μF of capacitance per rail, after which it is putting out about 57 volts +/- DC.  Some people like to get excited about truly obscene amounts of capacitance in their power supplies, but I haven't been convinced of the benefits of this so far, and feel the amount of capacitance here is already more than adequate.  It's biased to about 30 mA, though I occasionally screw with this for no apparent reason.  The DC offset on each channel is about 4-8 mV.

As things currently stand, it should be putting out about 130 watts/channel into an 8 ohm speaker, with a fair bit more available into 4 ohm speakers, somewhat depending on the amp's ability to remain cool.  So far, overheating has never been an issue, and it has only gotten slightly warm even after a fair bit of abuse.  That amount of wattage may not sound like much after browsing the aisles at Best Buy, but I can comfortably say that the typical Marantz, Sony, Denon or Yamaha receiver that claims to put out 100 watts per channel is in fact probably only putting out about 1/3 to 1/2 of their claimed power in reality.  Plus, this amp has the advantage of being heavy enough to be used as a rather deadly projectile, if that is ever required.

Actually, if we are going to talk about overkill, the transformer in this amp is way more powerful than is really necessary.  The only reason why I did this is because I plan to eventually add more output transistors, for more current carrying capability.  At this point, there are four Exicon lateral MOSFETS per channel. but I'm contemplating doubling that in the near future.  It won't have a significant effect on total output power into 8 ohms, but it will increase the amps ability to deal with extremely low impedance speakers, not that it currently has run into any problems in this area.  These plans for possible, and largely unnecessary upgrades, are also why the heat sinks are a bit larger than they probably need to be.  Because of the size of this transformer, the amplifier also requires a soft start circuit (also from ESP), which is powered by a separate 10 VA transformer which is tucked away in the corner, in order to avoid tripping the circuit breaker in the basement.  There is also a separate circuit for protecting the speakers from any accidental 'Oopsies!', that is mounted on the rear wall of the case.

While there is a passive volume control built into the amp (which was ripped out of an old Marantz receiver which I brilliantly blew up while doing some tinkering), this can be bypassed by a couple of toggle switches (because toggle switches are cool!).  This allows me to have the option of controlling the amp with a separate preamp, which leads us to....

There really isn't much to say about the preamp.  It's an extremely simple P-88 (again, a design of Mr. Elliott's), that revolves around two Texas Instruments OPA2134 op-amps, with DIP switches to adjust the level of gain that the devices produce.  The preamp will also adjust balance, and switch between 4 different pairs of RCA inputs, though I put these in with the intention that they can be reassigned for other purposes later down the road.

The power supply is a simple 30 VA transformer, with 9,400 μF per rail, and held to a steady 15 volts DC +/- by LM317/337 voltage regulators (mounted on adorably tiny heat sinks).  Again, it's very simple, while simultaneously being significantly more than is required in almost every conceivable way.  While there's a fair bit of space left inside of the case, some of that should eventually get filed with additional pointless gadgetry, most likely a tuner.  Yes, I set this space aside for future bouts of boredom.

The volume control is a 10k logarithmic dual gang potentiometer made by PEC.  Most people will say that dual gang logarithmic pots can be troublesome, because of potential matching errors between the two channels.  I can't really disagree with this, because it did have some annoying irregularities when I first tested it.  Still, after a fair bit of tinkering, I managed to get the output of the left and right channel matched to within 3%, which is about as good as I think I could realistically hope for, at least without building a stepped attenuator.

With both the amplifier and the preamplifer, the main body of their cases are made of ipe wood, which was left over from work on my father's deck.  If you have never worked with this type of wood, it is just about one of the hardest woods you are likely to encounter, and is nearly indestructible.  One of the advantages of this is that I didn't need to seal the wood in any way, in order to protect it.  Compared to the amp, I probably gave slightly more thought to the woodworking in the preamp, and joined that together with 3/32" finger joints.  Honestly, the cases took significantly more time to construct than the actual electronics, even without any serious attempt at making them particularly attractive (though I do like their appearance).  Some of the other odds and ends, such as the knobs, were made from random bits of oak, walnut, or cherry.  If a random bit of wood was lying around from an old project, I tossed it in there.

The lids for both cases were made of 0.220" thick polycarbonate sheets, primarily because I thought it would be a shame to hide the guts away from view.  While drilling the holes in this, in order to provide some ventilation, I quickly discovered what an exciting material this really is, particularly when it explodes, sending dense pieces of high velocity shrapnel flying in unpredictable directions.  You live and learn...hopefully.

I can also say that my local community contributed something to these projects, even if they are currently unaware of having done so....

Yes, the aluminum sheeting used for the base in the amp and preamp came from a nearby roadwork sign that read "Speed Hump Ahead".  I ran across it one night while walking Reilly, and thought that the thickness of the metal was perfectly suited for the project, promptly liberated it, and cut it down into smaller pieces.  So, some of your tax dollars may have gone into something that actually works, which I think is probably a more positive outcome than you can normally expect.

Was it all worth the effort?  Hmm, that's a bit debatable.  None of this is a particularly sensible way to spend your time when you really think about it.  On the other hand, these sorts of projects tend to be surprisingly inexpensive, and the real cost tends to come in the number of hours you spend trapped in your basement/torture chamber.  Since I tend to spend a lot of time down there anyway, that wasn't a huge inconvenience.

How well do they perform?  I'd say that I am quite happy with them, not that this will stop me from tampering with them in the future.  The preamp performs flawlessly, though that's not surprising since it's job isn't terribly challenging.  As for the amp, it reminds me somewhat of my old Hafler DH-200 (which I also blew up in the past year, through an act of s̶t̶u̶p̶i̶d̶i̶t̶y̶  bold exploration, and then had to rebuild).  The new amp is more powerful than the Hafler, perhaps a bit cleaner sounding, and maybe has a few more bells and whistles, but I wouldn't say that the differences are particularly shocking.  I guess, in the end, I don't really subscribe to the idea that amplifiers are capable of performing magical feats of wonder, though I do think some speakers do benefit from certain types of amps.  They're simply devices for providing increased levels of voltage and current, hopefully without introducing noise (they aren't made with unicorn blood).  This amplifier does that rather well.

At this point, one of the next projects is probably going to be to throw together another two channel amp based on the Texas Instruments LM4780.  That should end up putting out about 120 watts/channel into a 4 ohm speaker, and about half of that into an 8 ohm speaker.  That would be quite a bit less power than my other amps, but still perfectly reasonable for most purposes.  I'm not sure why I would need to construct this, but I suppose I've interpreted my current failure to electrocute myself as a sign from above that I need to try harder.

While I'd say that these kinds of projects can probably outperform much of the equipment that can be found on store shelves, the extent to which that would matter to most people is probably miniscule.  Still, as hobbies go, it's not a bad way to distract yourself.  If there is a real benefit to doing these sorts of things, it probably lies in one of two areas.  For one, if my house is ever burglarized, none of my electronics will probably be deemed to be worth stealing.  Secondly, there is a reasonable possibility that something I constructed could live on after I have died, and eventually burn down some stranger's home, which is a thought that I find oddly amusing.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The 2015 Ozzie Newsome Challenge

Because of some annoying distractions at home, and the unpleasant realities of everyday life, Reilly and I have been a bit slow updating the bloooooog after the draft.  I also have to admit that this year's draft struck us as one of the most boring ones in recent memory, which somewhat diminished our enthusiasm.  There just weren't many prospects, or much wildly unexpected bits of drama, that caused us to feel overly excited this year.  All of this combined to make us want to spend the past couple weeks taking a long nap.

Still, it is time to post the results from this year's Ozzie Newsome Challenge, just like we have done in the past.  This is where we set ourselves up for failure and ridicule, and reveal the degree to which Reilly and I might actually be idiots.  I have to admit that I have rather strong doubts about whether our picks for this year will produce the sort of immediate results that Ozzie's early selections will probably offer.  This year's crop of Kangaroos might just require a little more patience.  This also might have been a good year to switch the title of this post to the Doug Whaley Challenge, or perhaps the David Gettleman Challenge.  Regardless, with a little luck, I suspect our players will end up performing rather well, if they are given an opportunity, though some of the teams our players landed with were possibly less than ideal.

Reilly and I are feeling slightly intimidated by the selections that the Ravens made with their first 3 picks.  The path to early playing time is much clearer for some of Ozzie's early selections, which should give him a bit of an advantage.  While we have some concerns about these prospects individually, what they might offer in combination could be more interesting than the sum of their parts.  We can't be too critical of the Breshad Perriman pick, because the computer did think he presented a reasonable likelihood of becoming at least an average wide receiver.  While we still think he has some potentially significant flaws which would have worried us, as an immediate drop in replacement for the departed Torrey Smith he should do fine.  The Ravens' use of the Pass Interference Offense seems likely to continue.  Whether Perriman will end up justifying his selection in the 1st round, and whether he will become the sort of receiver that makes the team want to commit to him when it is time for a 2nd contract, is a very different question. 

With Maxx Williams, we had very different concerns.  Athletically he was a very average/unimpressive prospect, which isn't something we generally like to bet on.  On the other hand, his production in college was reasonably impressive, and he does appear to possess some reliable hands.  In the end though, he just didn't check off enough boxes to make us feel incredibly confident of an exceptional outcome.  We do think Williams should benefit from the Ravens sending Perriman deep, leaving a fairly wide open area underneath, where he should be able to produce respectable results, even if we wouldn't bet on him being spectacular.  Our main gripe with Williams related to the question of whether he was likely to outperform some of the TEs that could have been acquired in free agency, as well as the question of how high of a ceiling he might possess.  When we looked at tight end production in 2014 (adjusting the data a bit to account for missed games), the average starting tight end produced about  586 receiving yards and 4.4 TDs.  Even the rather affordable former Ravens' tight end, Owen Daniels, was on pace for 562 yards and 4.2 TDs, if we adjust things for the one game he missed.  In 2005, only 9 tight ends appeared to reach or surpass that yardage mark, while in 2014 there could have been as many as 16 (again, when adjusted for missed games).  It seems to be easier than ever for players at this position to put up seemingly impressive numbers.  Unfortunately, I think this all sort of devalues what would have been seen as a rather good year for a tight end a decade ago, and raises the standards for what we should expect from such a relatively high pick like Maxx Williams.  So, yes, we wouldn't be shocked if Williams is productive, but will he be exceptional, or able to justify a 2nd round pick?  It seems debatable, though we certainly wouldn't expect him to become a bust.

The interesting thing with these first two picks, is that it largely tosses the Ravens' repeated claims of taking the 'best player available' into the garbage bin, though these sorts of claims are almost always nonsense.  These were clearly selections based on need.

Then we come to the selection of Carl Davis, whom we also selected for Team Kangaroo.  When we were discussing defensive tackles, we said that if he fell to the 3rd round we would probably be interested in selecting him, though we were somewhat surprised that it actually worked out this way.  We think the Ravens probably made a rather solid pick here.  Unfortunately, from the 4th round onwards, the rest of the team's selections struck us as highly questionable, except for some minor interest we might have in Javorius Allen.  The rest of their late round picks seem destined to become forgettable bozos, though most people don't seem to care about squandering late round selections as much as we probably do.  With almost all of these late round picks there was no clear argument for why the team would have desired these players at all.  If given a chance to compete, I'd probably have to bet on their undrafted free agent acquisition DeAndre Carter to outperform all of the Ravens' picks from the 4th round or later, though the obstacles to this outcome are significant. because of biases related to draft status.

If we were only concerned with making this a silly game of one-upping the Ravens, we could have simply chosen to mirror their selections for the first 3 rounds.  It would have pretty much eliminated the bulk of the risk for us, as those were the only picks they made that the computer felt had a reasonable chance of performing to a respectable level.  That tactic struck us as a bit boring and cowardly.  It also would have reduced the fun of presenting more of an entertaining 'What if....." scenario, even if this increased our chances of looking stupid.  Maybe things will work out for us, or maybe they won't.  Like I said, I do expect the Ravens have a reasonably good shot at getting some immediate results from some of their top picks.  So, perhaps this year we should set our sights on hopefully just doing better than some of the other NFL teams.  It shouldn't be that hard, since there were certainly some very questionable decisions being made in this year's draft.

Now, on to our results for this year.

Team Kangaroo Team Ozzie
Round 1

Pick #26 Jake Fisher, OT Breshad Perriman, WR

Round 2

Pick #55 We Don't Trade Up Maxx Williams, TE

Pick #58 Trey Flowers, DE Ravens Traded Up

Round 3

Pick #90 Carl Davis, DT Carl Davis, DT

Round 4

Pick#122 Tre McBride, WR Za'Darius Smith, DE

Pick #125 Mark Glowinski, OG Javorius Allen, RB

Pick #136 Cedric Thompson, FS/SS Tray Walker, CB

Round 5

Pick #158 Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT Ravens Traded Up

Pick #171 Darryl Roberts, CB Nick Boyle, TE

Pick #176 Quayshawne Buckley, DT Robert Myers, OG

Round 6
Pick #204 Austin Reiter, C Darren Waller, WR

The computer felt that this year's crop of defensive tackles and offensive linemen was rather interesting, so we sort of loaded up on these positions.  We still think Jake Fisher has a rather strong likelihood of eventually outperforming several of the offensive tackles that were chosen ahead of him, including Cedric Ogbuehi who was also chosen by the Bengals with their 1st round pick, but we might need to wait a bit before we see him get an opportunity to play.  Rakeem Nunez-Roches was a defensive tackle that we liked a fair bit, though landing in Kansas City's 3-4 defense was a bit of an unfortunate surprise.  We really thought he was destined for a team that used a 4-3.  Regardless, it was actually Quayshawne Buckley who was one of our favorite defensive tackle prospects, though he went undrafted before being picked up by the Buccaneers.  It will be very interesting to see whether he can overcome the challenges that this presents, but we think he should do well if given a chance.

Really, we have rather humble expectations for most of our higher draft picks.  Trey Flowers isn't really someone we expect to become a star.  We just view him as a solid run stopping defensive end.  Basically, we think he is probably a much better version of what the Ravens think they have in the underwhelming Courtney Upshaw.  Flowers' selection was more a product of our lack of interest in the other prospects who were projected to be selected in that portion of that draft, rather than a sign of our outrageous enthusiasm for him.  That he would actually fall to the beginning of the 4th round is probably fairly appropriate, and something we discussed as a more reasonable area of the draft in which to select someone with his skill set.  So, yes, this pick will be viewed as a a bit of a reach, but we don't really care too much about that.

It's really with our selections from the 4th round onwards, that we had the most fun.  Buried in this odd pile of late round prospects, are the players we actually probably enjoyed the most.  Obviously, the odds of success in that portion of the draft are rather long.  The role that draft status has on a player's ability to get on the field is huge, and generally dwarfs any consideration of actual ability.  Despite that, if someone we chose is going to emerge as a star, we suspect they might come from this oddball group. Whether a player gets an opportunity to compete can be tough to predict, so we just have to hope for the best.

If there is one peculiar regret we had this year, it wasn't with the occasional reaches we made with our selections.  That sort of thing is inevitable, since we never really can tell where players will be selected.  No, the issue that still stings a bit was that we missed the opportunity to select cornerback Craig Mager.  There were only a small handful of corners we really desired in this year's draft class, and Mager was one that we were very interested in acquiring.  We seriously considered selecting Byron Jones or Eric Rowe in the 1st round, but at the end of the day we generally just don't place that much value on defensive backs.  So, we had been planning to grab Mager in the 3rd or 4th round, where many people projected he would still be available.  That the Chargers chose him before our selection in the 3rd round really caught us off guard, and somewhat screwed with our overall strategy for the draft.  It's hard to say whether he will become a quality player or not, but we like the potential value and upside he would have presented as a mid-round pick.

We also chose to pass on selecting Jake Waters, though we still think he is a rather interesting QB prospect.  It wasn't because of a lack of interest that we didn't select him, but more a lack of confidence in the idea that any other team would choose him, or give him an opportunity.  So, as things turned out, Team Kangaroo could have theoretically picked him up for free as an UDFA.  While we still doubt he will be given a real opportunity to compete, his signing by the Jaguars does put him into a position where his competition is highly questionable.  Honestly though, if we were going to actually select a QB in this draft, it would have been difficult to pass on the more conventionally acceptable Brett Hundley, who slid all the way to the 5th round.  At that price, his upside significantly outweighs his risks, and it remains a bit of a mystery why he was allowed to fall that far.

Since we feel a bit more pessimistic about this year's crop of players (even beyond our own selections), and have no control over how they are utilized or the opportunities they will be given, we're feeling much more inclined to cross our fingers and pray for some positive outcomes.  Despite that, we wanted to carry over last year's idea of having a theme song for this draft, and we think we've found just the right tune to capture our sense of confidence.

Oh well, I guess all we can do now is sit back and see what happens.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Year Two: Wahnsinn Und Blödheit

Well, we seem to have made it through another year, and the bloooog's anniversary has magically landed on the most holy of holy days.  Last year, we listed some of the search queries that had brought people into our dark corner of the internet, and I thought we would continue the tradition.  Here are some of my personal favorites from this past year.

1. midget kangaroo
2. spandex guys
3. chub chasers
4. chubby chasers 2
5. What is a petard?
6. women chubby chasers (there is definitely a theme emerging here)
7. mindless meditation
8. drunk giraffe picture
9. miniature wife
10. 8.75 x 40  (how mysterious!)

Hmm, you people really are fascinating.  I suppose this is an improvement over last year's collection of search queries where people were seeking information on dead prostitutes.  Still, there is a continuing not so subtle sexual theme to many of your searches, but at least the girls your are seeking now appear to be alive...and possibly very well fed.  Really, I am shocked and horrified that people would use the internet for such deviant purposes.

We're probably going to be fairly busy for the next couple days, but I sort of feel like I should be making a speech, or at least make some sort of mildly amusing statement on this grand occasion.  Unfortunately, I am already deeply into the alcohol and cookies regimen that will sustain me for the next 72 hours.  It may sound unhealthy, but I can assure you it is the diet of champions.  This sort of binging inevitably results in a kind of zen like state that improves our powers of draft prognostication, or at the very least will provide an excuse for some of our more stupid decisions.  It might sound like an unhealthy way to live, but it is really the only way to make it through the 3 day coma that is the NFL Draft.  3 DAYS OF SLOTH!  3 DAYS OF SLOTH!  3 DAYS OF SLOTH!  I can't see how this won't provide NFL GMs some slight advantage in our upcoming battle.

Still, there is one thing I would like request, as a sort of birthday gift.  While I know our circle of readers is extremely small (I prefer to think of you as elite), I still wonder who some of you are.  In particular, I have always wondered who one regular visitor is, that Google informs me comes from Abu Dhabi.  It's not that the rest of you aren't interesting as well, but come on, Abu Dhabi?  There has to be a story to this guy.  Either way, it would be interesting to hear who some of you bozos are, and how your life went so terribly wrong that you wound up here.  Of course, if you prefer to remain anonymous and are concerned that a visit to the comment section might reveal that you are indeed a chubby chaser, I would completely understand.  Just realize that this is a safe place, and we won't pass any judgements about you...unless you are the guy searching for drunk giraffe pictures.  That's just weird.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

More Last Minute Thoughts

I have to admit that I am impressed with the degree to which our local citizenry is showing excitement over the upcoming NFL Draft.  Wait a second...there's a riot going on?  Hmm, I might be losing touch with what is going on in the rest of the world.

Constant Doubts And Reshuffling Of the Board

During the past two seasons, when we have posted our Little Big Board, we've mentioned how we are constantly reshuffling how we rank these players, right up until the last second.  Doubts and paranoia creep into our empty heads, and eat at our brains like a worm in an apple.  This year in particular, we have some nagging concerns.

We're not really that worried about who we will select in the 1st round.  Finding an acceptable player here should be pretty simple.  We're also not very worried about rounds 4 through 7.  There are enough appealing oddballs in this class, so we should be able to grab a handful of players we like during that portion of the draft.  The area that is causing us some annoyance, is in the 2nd and 3rd round area.  We're not feeling too excited about our likely options here.

This has led to a fair bit of squabbling between me and Reilly.  I've been leaning towards taking a more conservative approach to this area of the draft.  Basically, we could take a couple reasonably solid prospects, even if they don't really excite us.  We could aim for someone like Trey Flowers, who we don't expect will become a star, but should be fairly solid.  There are quite a few players we could look at as similar, somewhat less stellar options.  Or, maybe one of the players we really like will slip in the draft, allowing us to get someone we really want at a nicely discounted price.

Reilly, on the other hand, has been arguing in favor of taking a much more aggressive approach in these two rounds.  He wants to say "screw it" to the conventional wisdom, and just reach for some of the players we actually desire, even if they are generally projected to be available later in the draft.  He would have us bump up some of the players we listed as targets for later rounds, by about a round, in order to give us some 2nd and 3rd round options we would find more satisfying.

I have to admit that I'm starting to agree with him, though I might want to wait and see how things look after the 1st round before committing to this.  Would we be willing to select someone like Tre McBride in the 2nd round?  Maybe.  We certainly think he is an interesting player, though the possibility of getting him in the 3rd round is obviously more appealing.  Would we be willing to take someone like Craig Mager or Mark Glowinski in the 3rd, even though most people would probably view this as a bit of a reach?  Hmm, yes, that probably wouldn't bother us as much as you might think.  At the end of the day, we just like some of the prospects who we have rated for selection in later rounds, quite a bit more than some of the players we have listed for selection in the front half of the draft.  Still, I really feel like trying to try to wait it out, and let our prospects fall to us, rather than chasing them.

I also can't deny that dealing with Reilly's wrath, if I oppose him, has got me feeling quite terrified.  So, I might crumble under the pressure of his constant badgering. We'll see what happens.

My Opponent

The more you look at the information that is available, the more it appears that the Ravens are going to target a running back and a cornerback, with some fairly high draft picks.  The team has been interviewing a lot of the top prospects at these two positions, and that probably says a lot about what their intentions might be.

I wouldn't criticize them for making a move at the cornerback position, depending on who they actually select.  They need some more depth at that position, and there are some very interesting prospects in this year's class.

On the other hand, I just don't get what the point would be in selecting a running back.  Yes, the likelihood that a highly drafted running back can produce immediate and obvious results is undeniable.  They do tend to produce numbers.  Still, I lean towards the idea that even a mediocre offensive or defensive lineman is probably a rarer and more valuable asset than an above average running back.  A running back would probably produce the sort of superficial results that would make it appear to be a successful draft pick, but it would strike us as a weak move.  I just think they should aim for rarer commodities, rather than addressing a position where you can probably manufacture similar rushing results by other means.

I also kind of wonder if the Ravens might be considering the possibility of trading up, though I'm not sure if I would support that idea either.  If the 2nd and 3rd rounds are going to be the minefield of fairly mediocre talent that I previously stated that we expect them to be, maybe the Ravens would be willing to part with the picks they have in this part of the draft.  If they traded away their 2nd round pick, they could theoretically move their 1st round pick up to somewhere around the 16th pick.  I don't really like that option, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did this.  If they did this, I suspect it would be part of an attempt to target a wide receiver.  A more interesting option might be trading away their 3rd round pick, to raise their 2nd round pick to something in the area of 44th selection.  Considering how many draft picks the team has this year, I would almost bet on them doing something like this.

More Dead Hookers In The Trunk

I saw that James Todd made some brief mention of this already, but I wanted to add some of my own hopes and prayers.  Has anybody been paying anybody been paying attention to the Chiefs wide receivers?  Outside of the recent Jeremy Maclin signing, there really isn't much standing between Da'Rick Rogers and potential stardom, other than his own personality defects (a seemingly insurmountable obstacle).  Are we really supposed to take Jason Avant, Junior Hemingway, or Armon Binns seriously?  I think not.  Yes, they have Albert Wilson, and he is a player we have some respect for based on last year's list of receivers that the computer found interesting, but we still wouldn't say that his ceiling is probably that high.

Reiily and I are having a hard time letting go of our love for Rogers, though we have to admit that the NFL keeps kicking us in the teeth over this one.  We get it, he might be an asshole.  Is that really such a big deal?  Aren't most of these guys morons?  At least Da'Rick appears to have some real talent, so we'd really like to see the Chiefs get through the draft without selecting a serious challenger to Da'Rick's possible ascendance.  Whatever his issues may be, we still think he's probably a better player than at least 90% of this year's wide receiver prospects.

Yeah, I don't really expect to ever hear from Rogers again, but I can hope.

I'm probably mentally imbalanced.

Our interest in what the Chiefs will do, seems to have several peculiar angles.

It's probably a bad sign that almost nothing fascinated me more during free agency than seeing Rodney Hudson signed by the Raiders.  While his 5 year, $44.5 million deal was a bit astounding, that didn't matter much to me.  Honestly, I have serious doubts about whether Hudson is a particularly good center, but if teams want to spend their money this way, that's not going to impact my life.  No, Reilly and I don't particularly care about Hudson very much, one way or another.

The only reason this matters to us, is that it suddenly opens up a path for Eric Kush to become the starting center for the Kansas City Chiefs.  That interests us very much, because we've been waiting for this day for the past couple years, and genuinely think he could turn out to be a special player.  That really has to be a sign of sickness, when you are obsessively watching the career of another team's backup center, who was drafted in the 6th round.  That's just how we roll, and I doubt there is a medication designed for this particular sort of disorder.

Now, we're stuck waiting for the outcome of the draft, hoping that the Chiefs won't select any centers (or wide receivers).  We particularly don't want them to select a center with a pick in the first couple of rounds, because a player with that sort of draft status could easily doom Kush's chances of getting the opportunity we so desperately want him to receive.  As we've probably said a million times, draft status probably matters just as much as actual ability, and Kush probably only has the latter of these two attributes.  Actually, we'd probably say that draft status might matter more than ability.  So, while you are all praying for your teams to strike gold in the 1st round, say a little prayer for this weird center prospect.  Otherwise, I'm going to have to spend the next year complaining about some center that nobody appears to care about.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The 2015 Little Big Board

Well, we're down to the last week before the 2015 NFL Draft, so that means we are busy preparing for our annual game of delusional egomania, the Ozzie Newsome Challenge.  For this year's Little Big Board, we've narrowed down our preferred draft targets to 56 prospects, which is coincidentally the same number that we had last year.  It's just like before, only different.

The hardest part of this annual process, is the challenge of coming to some sort of agreement with Reilly over who we should include in the final list.  In the end, Reilly probably wins in most of our arguments over which prospects to consider, but we do tend reach a common ground fairly frequently.  It's almost as if we have developed some sort of mind meld, making it very difficult to tell us apart from one another.

We're sort of like a very poor man's Voltron.

We're never really satisfied with any list we end up making, and keep wanting to rearrange things.  As we have done in the past, we've left out some prospects we might be interested in, simply because we felt it was incredibly unlikely that they would fall to a point in the draft that we would be comfortable/capable of selecting them.  We also end up having to include a fair number of 'filler' players, who we might not really want, simply because we want to have some fallback options.  Regardless, this is where we are at for now, though we'll undoubtedly change our minds in the next five minutes.

1st Round
Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon*
Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA* 
Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut* 
Eric Rowe, CB, Utah* 
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Cameron Erving, OT/OG/C, Florida

2nd Round
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest  
Preston Smith DE, Mississippi St.
Stephone Anthony, ILB, Clemson
Ali Marpet, OG, Hobart
Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas
Xavier Cooper, DT, Memphis 
T.J. Clemmings, OT/OG, Pittsburgh

3rd Round
Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary*  
Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson
Carl Davis, DT/NT, Iowa
Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Southern Miss.*
Henry Anderson, DT/DE, Stanford 
Adrian Amos, FS, Penn State

4th Round
Mark Glowinski, OG, West Virginia*  
Mitch Morse, OG/C, Missouri 
Ben Heeney, ILB, Kansas 
Craig Mager, CB, Texas State* 
Cedric Thompson, SS/FS, Minnesota*  
Darryl Roberts, CB, Marshall 
Quayshawne Buckley, DT, Idaho*
Clayton Geathers, SS, UCF
Steven Nelson, CB, Oregon State
Ibraheim Campbell, SS, Northwestern
Alex Carter, CB/S, Stanford

5th Round
Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan
Austin Reiter, C, USF* 
Bobby McCain, CB, Memphis 
Justin Coleman, CB, Tennessee
Kyle Emanuel, DE/OLB North Dakota State
Corey Grant, RB, Auburn
Shaq Riddick, DE/OLB, West Virginia
Davis Tull, DE/OLB, Chattanooga
Casey Pierce, TE, Kent State

6th Round
DeAndre Carter, WR, Sacremento St.* 
Geremy Davis, WR, Connecticut 
Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State* 
Brian Suite, FS, Utah St.
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Louis Trinca-Pasat, DT, Iowa
Jarvis Harrison, OG, Texas A&M 
Terrell Watson, RB, Azusa Pacific

7th Round
Dreamius Smith, RB, West Virginia 
Brian Parker, TE, Albany
Micheal Liedtke, OG, Illinois State
Ryan Murphy, SS, Oregon State
Brian Mihalik, DT/OT, Boston College
Kristjan Sokoli, DT, Buffalo
Laurence Gibson, OT, Virginia Tech
Frank Clark, DE/OLB, Michigan
Cameron Ontko, LB/SS, Cal Poly

We actually had a fairly difficult time cobbling together our shopping list for this year.  Part of the problem was that we don't think this year's crop of players is really that exceptional, which makes it difficult to feel comfortable with using a high draft pick on many of the prospects.  As we roll through the upcoming week, we'll probably reshuffle this list a fair bit, and maybe add some new names, but for now we're just trying to make up our mind as to how we would use up our 10 draft picks. 

Since we have to weigh our own opinions against the general perception of where players are likely to be selected, this forces us to elevate many prospects higher than where we feel they probably deserve to be selected.  This is a very tricky problem.  On the one hand, we don't have a problem with the idea that the hive mind is probably a fairly accurate predictor of where players will be chosen.  It tends to be reasonably accurate from year to year, particularly in the first few rounds.  Perhaps even more important than selecting a player based on their abilities, we are really forced to take the 'popularity contest' aspect of the draft into consideration.  So, when we are picking, we aren't necessarily trying to choose the best player, as much as we are trying to choose the best player who we think won't be available at our next pick.  That's a very different sort of problem to solve, and it causes us a great deal of annoyance.

After all, when most people are projecting that Florida State defensive tackle, Eddie Goldman, is going to be a 1st round pick, this creates some confusion for us.  We don't think he's the least bit interesting, but we sort of have to embrace the lunacy that suggests he is highly regarded, though we wouldn't take him even if he fell to the 7th round.  Honestly, we think here is likely to be a much higher bust rate this year among the players projected to be taken in the first two rounds, at least relative to an average draft.  So, is the public's perception of the draft off the mark this year?  Or, are teams really going to be taking a lot of potentially foolish gambles?  It's hard to say, but we have to approach this as if a lot of madness is going to unfold, and adjust our rankings accordingly.

The plan, so far, is to play things a bit safe in the first 3 rounds.  Then, from the 4th round on, we're probably going to start pursuing a lot of prospects who frequently aren't even projected to be drafted.  It will be interesting to see how this works out.  Either way, it all start with the 1st round, so here are some of the options we are currently considering.

The Boring And Conservative Pick, Jake Fisher
Among the players who will likely be available at the 26th pick, Jake Fisher is probably one of the safest possible choices.  The odds that he won't become at least an adequate right tackle seem fairly slim.  In fact, we suspect he will probably end up becoming a better player than half of the people who will be selected before him, assuming that the general projections of where his peers will be picked is correct.

The problem is that we are simply getting tired of choosing offensive linemen, and it just isn't a pressing need for Team Kangaroo.  We would really prefer to aim for a different position, to help round out our roster, even if it means taking a bit more of a risk.  In the end, however, we might be forced to select Fisher, simply because the odds are so strongly in his favor, relative to the other prospects who will be available when it is our turn to pick.  It would be a boring pick, but slow and steady wins the race.

Another Cowardly Option, Eric Kendricks
Taking an inside linebacker probably wouldn't sell a lot of tickets for Team Kangaroo, but this is a pick that wouldn't make us the least bit uncomfortable.  Yes, non-pass rushing linebackers aren't a terribly valuable commodity.  Yes, Kendricks is sometimes criticized for being a slightly smaller prospect than some of his peers.  Yes, finding a linebacker isn't a huge pressing concern for our imaginary roster.  Despite all of that, we still like him quite a bit compared to the other prospects who might be available to us at the 26th pick, and think he has a pretty good chance of becoming the best linebacker in this draft class.  Choosing Kendricks might not be exciting, but he doesn't strike us as a player that would keep us up at night feeling regret over his selection.

The Gamble On Potential, Byron Jones & Eric Rowe
Depending on what the Ravens choose to do, and how foolish their selection ends up being, we might be willing to do something that the computer feels is a bit riskier by choosing Jones or Rowe.  We have very mixed feelings about this option.

In the end, we still don't think either of these players deserve to be selected before the late 2nd or maybe 3rd round.  Reilly and I view them both as potentially better gambles than last year's Phillip Gaines (who we also liked), who was selected in the beginning of the 3rd round, but there is still a limit on how highly we would value them.  Like Gaines, Jones and Rowe are mostly interesting because of their physical potential, with some lingering concerns about their experience and the quality of the opponents they faced.  We also don't generally place as much value on cornerbacks as many people do, and feel this is a bit of an overrated position.

Despite all of that, this is a position that we are going to have to address at some point, and the market seems to be shifting to where we feel it is increasingly unlikely that either of these players will be available at our 2nd pick.  So, we might need to reach a bit.  We also can't deny that the history of how teams give starting opportunities to cornerbacks plays a role in this possible decision.  If a corner isn't selected in the first 2 rounds, it can become quite a bit more unlikely that a team will demonstrate much faith in them, or give them a real opportunity.  It's very frustrating.

The drawback to being cautious, and passing on both of them, is that there probably won't be any other cornerbacks available who have nearly the same upside.  With both of these players, it is all about potential, of which they have an abundance.  They both possess an ideal combination of size, speed, power, agility and explosiveness that puts them in an excellent position to succeed.  When it comes to making a play on the ball, we think Jones has the edge.  We think Rowe is probably the better tackler, and of the two of them has a better shot at moving to safety, if playing at corner doesn't work out.  While we're not thrilled with the way these players' draft projections are being pushed higher and higher, we'd probably be willing to take a shot on them at the end of the 1st round, if the Ravens themselves do something that we feel is overly risky.

Late Round Madness
While we feel a fair bit of pessimism about many of the players who are projected to be high draft picks this year, we wouldn't say that this is a bad draft class.  We just think it is maybe a bit average.  Overall, we're not thrilled with the fact that this is the year in which we have 10 draft picks to spend, though we do think there are a fair number of interesting mid-to-late round picks that are potentially as interesting as some of the higher selections.  This is where we could start to behave very recklessly.

The tricky thing here is that some of the players we find to be the most interesting, might not get drafted at all.  That's a huge concern for us.  Should we use our late round picks on players that we expect will get drafted, even if we don't feel as strongly about them?  There is a good argument for this, since those sorts of players are more likely to get an opportunity, even if they will eventually fizzle and disappear.  Or, should we aim for the players that the computer believes have legitimate ability and upside, even if it doesn't appear that they are likely to get as much of a chance to play?  Right now, we are kind of leaning towards the second option, even though we realize that this could severely hurt our chances of success.  We would just have to hope that the players' talents eventually shine through and get them noticed in training camp.

Take Quayshawne Buckley, for example.  Most sites rank him as a player who is unlikely to be selected before the end of the draft, if he even gets selected at all.  While there are some aspects to Buckley that worry us, the computer still thinks he is potentially one of the 5 most interesting defensive tackle prospects in this year's class, and is conceivably worth a 3rd or 4th round pick.  If we chose him that high in the draft, it would probably be viewed as a massive reach, and a waste of draft capital.  At the same time, if he is even half the player we think he could be, it would seem foolish to ignore the possibility that some other team isn't giving him greater consideration than many people might suspect.  Should we just trust what the data suggests, and make the pick?  Or should we count on the possibility that teams could be overlooking him?  While we will try to resist the urge to do something stupid here, we can't make any promises.

Jake Waters and Austin Reiter are some other players that fall into a similar position.  Most people don't seem to expect them to get drafted at all.  The computer thinks they are probably among the five most interesting prospects at their respective positions. Should we select them, or should we simply aim for a player for whom we suspect NFL teams currently have a high opinion?  While I might think that players such as Bryce Petty and Reese Dismukes, who play the same positions as these less talked about prospects, will have a much greater likelihood of getting an opportunity, I don't really have any confidence that they won't be disappointments in the long run.  In the end, I suspect we are going to spend a lot of our draft picks on players that don't make much sense to many people.  That's why we are very fortunate that so few people actually read anything that we write.  The possibility for embarrassment and criticism is greatly reduced by our insignificance.

That's where things stand for now.  Anybody who wants to make an argument for the inclusion of another prospect, or to promote/demote one of the players in our list, is welcome to make suggestions.  This week is your final chance to convince us to change our minds, before we do something stupid.  We're not feeling terribly excited about this year's draft anyway, so we're definitely open to some last minute ideas.

As we suggested last year, if anybody ends up feeling like doing their own version of the Ozzie Newsome Challenge, with whatever team interests them, we'd be curious about seeing your results.  So, feel free to email us the outcome, or post the results in the comments section.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jake Waters: The Foundling

Reilly and I generally don't have much to say about quarterbacks.  It's not just because this is one of the more difficult positions to predict success for.  It's also because having thoughts about this subject can be rather pointless.

Let's face the facts here.  If a quarterback isn't selected in the first couple of rounds in the draft, they are unlikely to be treated with much respect, or given any real opportunity to compete.  If a quarterback is selected in the first few rounds, mediocrity will be celebrated as a sign of potential, and actual greatness is a rare outcome.  The best predictor of quarterback success, or at least playing time, is merely being an individual who was predicted for success in the first place.  So, any interest I might have in Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters is unlikely to ever amount to anything, since he is generally viewed as a late round prospect at best.

Admittedly, I've always preferred quarterbacks like Kyle Orton, who are generally treated like disposable bozos.  Pay a guy like him about $3 million per year, toss together a quality offensive line, and watch as he performs to pretty much the same level as most of the league's average quarterbacks.  But who is going to want to buy Orton jerseys, am I right?  No, that approach is clearly unthinkable.  We want unfulfilled promise and potential.  The fans want a Cutler.  The fans want a Kaepernick.  The fans want a Stafford, Dalton or Flacco.  The teams clearly don't feel much differently than the fans, and are apparently willing to shell out $14-20 million per year for these types of players.  While your team could attempt to gamble on someone in the 3rd round, and watch him perform in a perfectly respectable manner, they will inevitably proceed to trade this player to St. Louis for a gimp and a ham sandwich.  The people demand someone that they can call a 'franchise quarterback', as if this means anything more than an individual who has financially taken your team hostage.

So, why are we still interested in Jake Waters, when we don't really expect that he will ever play?  Well, I guess that is because Reilly and I have been playing around with some potentially foolish ideas about what relates to success at the quarterback position.  Instead of looking for players who were 'winners', who led talented teams to great success, we decided to look for something different.  We didn't care about championships.  We didn't care about prestigious college programs.  We went looking for the guy who kept getting knocked down, and kept getting up again.  I mean this quite literally.

I'm not sure what you can say about a player who goes through college rarely getting hit by his opponents.  Maybe they possess some great ability for sensing oncoming pressure, and compensating for it, like Peyton Manning.  That's an interesting possibility, and something we're going to discuss in the future, but for the most part we think this is a fairly rare and difficult trait to measure.  The other possibility, is that a player has just never had to deal with adversity, which could be a problem.  So, we went on a search for quarterbacks who were knocked on their ass fairly frequently, and ran some regressions to see how this affected their overall passing performance.  Again and again, this kept leading us back to Jake Waters.

In 2013, Waters was sacked on 8.12% of his passing attempts, which is a rather high result compared to most of the players who will be selected ahead of him.  Despite that, he still completed 61.2% of his passes, for an impressive YPA of 9.5, and a touchdown to interception ratio of 2:1.  Yes, his interception rate was a bit higher than we would like, at 3.46%, but this was his first season starting as an FBS quarterback.  In 2014, that interception rate would drop to a much more impressive 1.76%, so he did appear to be making progress, even though he was still getting sacked on 7.24% of his passing attempts.  Waters would similarly improve his completion percentage in this season to 66% as well as boosting his touchdown to interception ratio to a hair over 3:1. Whether it was do to a slight improvement in the frequency with which he was getting hit, or just a product of added experience, he appeared to be making significant progress.  Imagine what his results could have been if Waters was only getting sacked 5 or 6 percent of the time, like many of this years more hyped prospects.

Maybe the credit for Waters improvement from 2013 to 2014 should go to Kansas States' offensive line.  Maybe Waters is overly dependent on the protection he receives from his linemen.  It's a possibility, though we really saw almost no significant statistical correlation between Waters game to game passing efficiency and the rate at which he was getting sacked.  Either way, the majority of the league's quarterbacks are somewhat dependent on getting good protection, and improving a team's offensive line shouldn't be a  terribly difficult obstacle to overcome, even though many organizations seem to neglect doing so.  In fact, simply avoiding a negative correlation between a player's passing efficiency, and their sack rate, could be more of a positive than you might suspect.  The only real correlation we could find between Waters good games, and his bad ones, was that he occasionally threw more interceptions when his team faced a significantly superior opponent   Even then, his failures rarely outweighed his successes.  In 2014, he only had two games where his touchdown to interception ration dipped to 2:1 or worse, and these games were against Auburn and West Virginia, though only the Auburn game would probably have been viewed by most people as a poor performance.

Of course, people always seem to want to come back to a more subjective evaluation of a players abilities, rather than just relying on the numbers a player brings with them.  It's hard to say what real value there is in this, since this approach more often than not produces 1st round picks like Johnny Manziel, Blaine Gabbert, E.J. Manuel, Christian Ponder and Brandon Weeden.  Clearly, somebody watched these guys play, and had a high opinion of them, for all of the good that accomplished.  Still, I will say that Waters was arguably one of the most enjoyable quarterbacks I have watched this season.  All I will say, is that I think there is a vaguely Tony Romo-ish improvisational vibe to Waters' play.  Of course, my opinion isn't really worth anything, so maybe you should watch him play for yourself and make up your own mind.

Do I think that Waters is going to become a Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady?  No, I'm not a complete idiot.  I also don't think whatever quarterback your team might select in the first round is likely to become that caliber of player either.  The question for me is whether I think Waters can be a respectably average NFL quarterback, who might even end up surprising people.  To that I would say yes, I think Waters could be capable of doing this, if he is given a chance...which almost certainly won't happen.  At just 6'1" tall, and about 210 pounds, NFL teams are most likely going to ignore Waters.  They would much rather select someone who is probably inferior, but conforms to the 6'5" and 230 pound mold, even if that player is absolutely wretched at actually throwing the ball.

In the end, if events unfold the way they have in the past, the majority of this year's highly drafted quarterbacks will end up becoming serious disappointments.  That won't stop them from starting a lot of games, signing lucrative second contracts, and lingering around the league for a decade.  That's just the way things are, and always has been.  So, I'll just be sitting here, waiting for the possibility of glimpsing Waters in the 4th quarter of some preseason game, because that may be the last we ever see of him.  Meanwhile, we can all enjoy the eventual evolution of either the Crab Thief, Chip Kelly's love child, or Brett Hundley along their inevitable path towards becoming a mere journeyman quarterback.  It's bound to happen to at least one of them.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kangaroo Court: The 2015 Wide Receivers

When the computer looked at the wide receiver prospects in 2013, it had some serious doubts about the majority of the top selections.  Then, in 2014, the computer generally agreed with the mainstream view that the top wide receiver prospects were a rather interesting group of players.  This year, Reilly and I were actually somewhat tempted to not to make this list at all.  There were just so many gray areas to so many of this year's top prospects, that we really started to feel a bit uncomfortable.

It's not that this year's prospects are bad.  They aren't.  In fact, there were more wide receivers who passed through our filters this year, than in any year in recent memory.  Despite that, it was hard to say that there were many wide receivers who we would confidently argue were clearly destined for greatness.  Instead, we found a lot of players whom the computer just projected to be good...maybe.  With the expectations for where a lot of these players are supposedly going to be selected, this led us to feel a bit more worried about the potential value of this year's crop.  In the end, someone is almost certainly going to emerge as a future star, but this just feels like a draft class where a lot of the top prospects might be more likely to become good number 2 receivers, rather than the terrifying monsters that their draft status might lead you to hope they would be.  More than we would normally like to see, this group feels much more vulnerable to the unknown factor of what team they end up playing for.

So, as we have done before, we will contemplate every wide receiver prospect who managed to produce both a Stat Score and an Athletic Score, that was no worse than -0.100 standard deviations below average.  The receivers will be divided into two groups, one for players that are over 200# (the 'Big' receivers), and those who are under 210# (the 'Small' receivers).  For players who fit in both groups (players who are between 200 and 210 pounds), we'll test them in both groups to see where they might fit best.  For 'Small' receivers, the computer puts more of an emphasis on speed and agility when forming their Athletic Score, and their Stat Scores is more demanding of multiple seasons of solid statistical production.  For the 'Big' receivers, the computer places more of an emphasis on power (the dreaded Kangaroo Score), and their Stat Score is somewhat less demanding.  We'll also filter out any 'Big' receivers with 40-times below 4.60 seconds, as well as filtering out 'Small' receivers with 40-times below 4.50 seconds.

Big Receiver            Stat Score    Athletics Score
Devante Davis -0.013 0.397
Jaelen Strong 0.426 1.192
Kevin White 0.201 0.584
Breshad Perriman 0.481 0.773
Deontay Greenberry 0.166 0.198
DeVante Parker 0.191 0.267
Jordan Taylor -0.083 -0.084
Da'Ron Brown -0.070 0.156
R.J. Harris 0.966 0.098
Geremy Davis 0.113 0.616

Small Receiver            Stat Score    Athletics Score
Tre McBride 0.415 0.628
Tyrell Williams 0.484 0.504
DeAndre Carter 0.726 0.518
Amari Cooper 0.462 0.517
Nelson Agholor 0.428 -0.023

Just to be clear, these filters are only intended to identify the players that the computer thinks have the best chance of becoming 'average' NFL receivers.  Our definition of average is a player that can produce 35 receiving yards per game played over the course of their career (or a modest 560 receiving yards over 16 games), so our standards are fairly low.  If we raised our standards to players who averaged at least 45 receiving yards per games played, it really becomes quite rare for a player not to pass both of these statistical hurdles.  We wouldn't take the scores listed above too seriously, as they are really scores that are built upon many smaller scores, which frequently matter even more.  This is just how we start the weeding out process, to determine which players we want to focus our attention on.  In reality, we always end up having to veto some of the computer's recommendations for various reasons, which we will try to describe as we go along.  Unfortunately, our own worthless and subjective opinion does come into play a bit more on these vetoes.

In last year's post, we also mentioned that we were intending to make some changes to our filters, that we hoped would improve the accuracy of our hunches.  Mainly, we wanted to make agility measurements a more significant factor for Big receivers.  We've also been thinking about tweaking some of the numbers for small receivers, because we tend to be a overly bit harsh with with those guys.  Unfortunately, umm, we kind of forgot to get around to doing this.  So, at least for this year, our filters have largely remained the same, though I suppose that gives us something to do in the upcoming season.

There is one other thing that we should probably mention.  While it doesn't get discussed very much, there is a wide receiver in this draft class who is named Jazz King, who played at Marshall.  The computer doesn't find him very appealing, but I think a good argument can be made that this is the type of name that merits a 1st round pick.  I mean, if I can pick horses for the Preakness based on their names, I don't see why that wouldn't work for wide receivers.  It's worth giving this some thought.

Because of the way that data slowly becomes available, I will continue to modify and adjust some of these results as new information becomes available.

Kevin White, WR, West Virginia  Ht: 6' 2.5"  Wt: 215
40 Time: 4.35  Kangaroo Score: 0.456  Agility Score: 0.267
It seems pretty obvious that White will be gone long before Team Kangaroo would ever need to seriously contemplate selecting him.  I'm not sure that this really bothers me.  I think it's going to be a common theme this year, for me to say that a "player is nice, but we're not necessarily willing to pay the price".  Of all the different athletic traits that a wide receiver can possess, raw speed probably interests me the least.  I generally prefer explosiveness/power or exceptional agility, since I generally figure that will get a player open more frequently than simply trying to outrun his opponent.  Now, Kevin White doesn't do badly in those areas, but he isn't exactly an unusual prospect either.  He struck us a fairly tough and dependable wide receiver, though he often seems to play more like a running back.  It was his effort after the catch which seemed like his strongest attribute.  I am obligated (by our Dark Lord Hard Drive) to say that he will probably become a respectable receiver, but I don't know if I really believe that his ceiling is high enough to merit the top 10 pick he is supposedly going to be.

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama  Ht: 6' 0.75"  Wt: 209
40 Time: 4.42  Kangaroo Score: -0.200  Agility Score: 1.349
I seem to run across a lot of people who compare Amari Cooper to A.J. Green.  To some extent, I get this, since neither player really has amazing lower body power, but I'm still not sure if this is a great comparison.  Really, I find it hard to come up with someone who is quite in the same athletic mold as Cooper.  In some ways, he actually compares better to players like Odell Beckham or Cecil Shorts, who although they are somewhat smaller, both possess a similar sort of rare agility, and just average lower body power..  While Cooper probably isn't as explosive as Beckham, his 10" mitts appear to be more dependable than those of Shorts.  Among the somewhat larger receivers, I really can't find a player who possesses similar athletic traits, as well as the sort of statistical production that Cooper brings to the table.  This both worries me, and fascinates me.  This is why running Cooper through the computer at his pro day weight of 209 pounds matters, as it allows him to be judged against the Small receivers.  Last year, we discussed how Jordan Matthews was sort of like a small receiver in a big receivers body, and Cooper seems like a much more extreme example of the same idea.  While I have no doubt that Cooper's agility can help him get separation from some of the league's average corners, I do have to wonder what will happen when people try to jam him.  For some reason, his college opponents almost always gave him a fairly clean release which seems insanely stupid, at least in retrospect.  Regardless of all that nitpicking, yes, I like Amari Cooper, but I do have some doubts about whether he is the receiver that some people present him as.

DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville  Ht: 6' 2.5"  Wt: 209
40 Time: 4.45  Kangaroo Score:  0.422  Agility Score: ?
Just to be clear, Parker's Stat Score would be significantly higher if we adjusted it for the games he missed due to injury.  It just wasn't necessary to do this, as he met our marks despite that handicap.  As far as his athletic ability is concerned, he seems like a nice all around athlete, though he didn't really excel in any particular area.  He has slightly above average power, but not so much that I would view him as a real threat to abuse anyone.  His speed and quickness are good.  We can only speculate about what his Agility Score would be, though I tend to place much less weight on this for larger receivers.  He has solid hands, and is quite good at going up for the ball, but I wouldn't say that he creates a ton of separation, or has unusual explosiveness.  While we are obviously missing some data, and he only played 6 games in his final season, there do seem to be some interesting reasons to suspect that Parker might have just been starting to emerge as one of the more interesting wide receivers in this draft class.  In those 6 games, there was only one time in which he was responsible for less than 31% of his team's total offense, which is astounding.  Or, if you want to think about in terms of his share of the team's receiving yards, he never dipped below 36% in any single game.  In total, he wound up with 33.7% of his team's total offense, and 51.1% of the team's receiving yards during this period, which are truly ridiculous results.  While his results in prior seasons were significantly less exceptional, it's entirely possible that Parker was just starting to hit his stride.  Without his agility results, we might project that his upside could be similar to what we see with DeAndre Hopkins, while his downside might be similar to Michael Jenkins.  We probably lean more towards the former, rather than the latter of these two outcomes.  Where Parker winds up playing will undoubtedly have a huge influence over his eventual production, but in the end we find it hard to imagine that he won't become a good number 2 receiver, at the very least.  He strikes me as one of the more interesting and enigmatic wide receiver prospects, among the ones projected to be taken in the 1st round.

Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona St.  Ht: 6' 2.3"  Wt: 217
40 Time: 4.44  Kangaroo Score:  1.606  Agility Score: -0.915
Jaelen Strong might end up being an interesting test case for how much agility matters for a big powerful receiver.  Normally, we don't worry about this too much, and just look to see if a player's strengths outweigh their potential weaknesses.  With Strong, we really have to wonder if having a cutoff for certain results might make more sense.  The interesting thing about his agility results is the somewhat lopsided nature of his scores.  In the short shuttle, he produced a result that was respectably average, and 0.176 standard deviations above average.  In the 3-cone drill, which we normally associate with upper body flexibility, Strong's result was an abysmal -2.008 standard deviations below average.  It's very peculiar.  Was it an anomaly, or is it something to be concerned with?  While his overall results bear some similarity to a player like Dez Bryant, Dez's career is a bit of an outlier when it comes to the upside potential of large receivers with horrific agility results.  Another possible comparison, and perhaps a more likely outcome, is that of Jonathan Badlwin.  Baldwin actually wasn't quite as stiff as Strong, but is still rather similar, in a general sort of way.  Also, while we often hear people describing Strong's hands as being exceptionally reliable, his somewhat small 9" mitts only struck me as being a bit average.  The most disturbing thing we saw with Strong, was probably the game against Oregon State, where he faced off against the 5'10" cornerback Steven Nelson.  Strong seemed to have a surprisingly difficult time dealing with somebody he really should have been able to step on like a bug.  The whole reason we lust after big powerful receivers, is that we expect them to fling players like this out of their way, yet Strong didn't appear terribly inclined to do so, which somewhat negates his best selling point.  While we think Strong has some jump ball potential, and can sometimes be dangerous after the catch, we have a hard time imagining him becoming the terror we might be hoping for.  Instead, we suspect he might just become a fairly average receiver, with some red zone potential.  The main reasons we don't want to entirely write him off, is that he is still one of the younger receivers in this class, and if he could learn to direct his power towards violence, he might still turn out to be something interesting.

Nelson Agholar, WR, USC.  Ht:  6'   Wt: 198
40 Time: 4.42  Kangaroo Score:  -0.102  Agility Score: -0.223
In many ways, the computer views Agholar as a slightly faster, but potentially less nimble, version of his former teammate Marqise Lee, for whom we also had somewhat modest expectations.  The main thing Agholar has going for him is his speed, where his 2nd Gear Score of 0.17 suggests that his deep speed is significantly more impressive than his already very good 40 time might suggest.  The way he accelerates from the 10 yard split, to the 20 yard split, and finally to the 40 yard mark, almost qualifies him for our Midget class of speedy receivers, where you find people like DeSean Jackson and T.Y. Hilton, but he doesn't quite fit there.  Most Midget type receivers tend to be incredibly small and lightly built players (hence the politically incorrect name for them), so it's fairly odd that Agholar was even able to come close to this group when it came to how he accelerates.  Personally, we thought Agholar was a fairly respectable receiver, even if he isn't quite as nimble as we would like him to be, and he probably has some real value as a deep threat and kick returner.  We also might even commit ourselves to saying that we somewhat prefer him to Marqise Lee.  Despite that, we don't tend to place a lot of value on small speedy receivers, so even at his generally projected cost of a 2nd round pick, I'm not sure if we would pursue him.

Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF.  Ht: 6' 2"  Wt: 212
40 Time: 4.27  Kangaroo Score:  0.636  Agility Score: ?
Do you like Kevin White, but think you need someone much faster and possibly less dependable?  Honestly, I don't think his hands are nearly as bad as some people say, but he can be a bit erratic and unpredictable about dropping the ball.  While his Kangaroo Score isn't much more impressive than many of the other top rated receivers, his score from the broad jump produced a Kangaroo Score that was 0.962 standard deviations above average, and suggests slightly more promising potential than some of these other players.  In the end, I have to admit that I think he has legitimate number 1 wide receiver potential, but he also might have an equally good chance of being an enormous disappointment.  When you consider how much of his production came against rather mediocre competition, how many games he seemed to disappear in, and the possibility that he might be a bit of a dim bulb, you really would need balls of steel to select him with as high of a pick as some team is probably going to use.  It seems safer just to stand back, and let some other team take the gamble on this one.

Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary  Ht: 6' 0.25"  Wt: 210
40 Time: 4.41  Kangaroo Score:  0.595  Agility Score: 0.398
This is where we come to what the computer thinks might be the sweet spot in the draft.  Do we have some concerns with the idea of drafting an FCS wide receiver who has never surpassed the 900 receiving yards mark even once in the past three years?  Sure we do.  At the same time, if McBride continues to be viewed as just a 3rd round prospect, his potential value aligns with the cost of acquiring him much better than it does with some of the more highly touted prospects.  While his Agility Score isn't remarkable, it is somewhat weighed down by his very average 3-cone drill, but his short shuttle result was 0.956 standard deviations above average.  As far as statistical production, things become a bit murkier.  On the surface, his stat sheet isn't as flashy as many of these other players.  Still, within the context of his team's offense, he carried a respectable share of his team's load, and did so consistently for three years.  When his team faced more challenging competition, like Virginia Tech, West Virginia, or Maryland, it didn't appear to slow McBride down in the least, as he continued to successfully produce positive results.  Based on what we have seen of him, McBride appears to be a very competent player, with above average hands, and from a purely subjective standpoint we rather enjoyed watching him play.  If you watch McBride play, and then compare him to some of the more highly rated prospect, it's hard to say that he isn't as impressive as at least half of them.  Maybe he will become a star, maybe he won't.  Maybe he'll just become a good player.  Either way, I would say that McBride could very easily end up being at least 80% of the player that some of the 1st rounders are, for about half the price.  We would start to consider McBride in the area of the 3rd round.

DeAndre Carter, WR, Sacremento St.  Ht: 5' 8.5"  Wt: 192
40 Time: 4.44  Kangaroo Score:  -0.075  Agility Score:  2.194
Small speedy receivers with some degree of shiftiness aren't exactly in short supply.  There are tons of them in this draft, just like every year, and each one has his fair share of supporters.  You have Tyler Lockett, Kenny Bell, Devin Smith, Rashad Greene, Nelson Agholar, Stefon Diggs, Phillip Dorsett, etc.. Each of these players has his own list of pros and cons.  Some were highly productive players in college.  Some are highly gifted athletes.  Still, there are very few who checked off both of these boxes.  While we have our own subjective opinions and preferences regarding these players, and wouldn't be surprised if one or two of them end up performing quite well in the NFL, we suspect that the majority of them will end up becoming disappointments.  Even among the ones who do succeed, you also have to consider the potentially limited payoff that these sorts of receivers tend to offer.  So, yes, while somebody will end up being correct in their fanatical support for one of these players, the odds still aren't terribly favorable.  With DeAndre Carter, on the other hand, the computer feels a bit more optimistic.  Athletically, he passes through our filters quite comfortably.  Despite his smaller size, he surprisingly appears to have at least average lower body power.  He also possesses good, but not necessarily terrifying speed.  His 10 yard split of 1.45 seconds, and 2nd Gear Score of 0.01, suggest he is probably quicker than he is fast, though in now way are we saying that he is slow.  Max Mulitz and I have sort of discussed the possibility that Carter might be more of an Edelman/Welker type of receiver, rather than a T.Y. Hilton.  Perhaps more importantly, Carter also possesses excellent agility, which should not only assist him in getting open, but also help him to avoid get beaten to a pulp.  When it comes to his statistical production, the computer also gives him high marks, even if he competed at a lower level of competition, because he did appear to dominate his opponents quite convincingly.  Considering that the cost of acquiring him will probably be no more than a 6th round pick, and he may not get drafted at all, there is really very little risk involved here.

Jordan Taylor, WR, Rice  Ht: 6' 4.5"  Wt: 209
40 Time: 4.52  Kangaroo Score:  0.317  Agility Score: -0.302
Like a couple of other players on this list, Taylor just sneaks past our filters, without really excelling in any one area.  While there's nothing shocking about Taylor when examining his athletic traits, there is something we find a bit worrisome.  His BMI results are -1.342 standard deviations below average, which puts him in a class of players where we really start to worry about their risk of injury.  Somebody might want to start feeding this guy some cheeseburgers.  Still, we're not his parents, and his physical welfare isn't going to keep us up at night.  While we wouldn't say that Taylor is an exceptional prospect, or somebody that we would seriously pursue, we do think he could be an interesting red zone threat because of his height, and he does appear to have some rather exceptional and reliable hands that could serve him well in this role.

Geremy Davis, WR, Connecticut  Ht: 6' 2.3"  Wt: 216
40 Time: 4.48*  Kangaroo Score:  0.720  Agility Score:  0.272
What should you do if you like Tre McBride, but feel like being a cheapskate?  Well, you could set your sights on Geremy Davis.  The two receivers really have a lot in common.  They're both somewhat underrated and comparable athletes.  They both played in rather terrible offenses, with horrible quarterbacks, which probably reduced their statistical production.  They also both seem to have rather reliable and consistent hands.  Unfortunately, Davis doesn't seem to be as fast or explosive as McBride, and he is also a full year older.  We probably wouldn't expect Davis to become a terrifying number one receiver, but we wouldn't be surprised in the least if he becomes a solid and respectable secondary target.  We currently seem to see people projecting that Davis will only be a 7th round to UDFA type of prospect, but we think Davis could be an interesting target, maybe starting somewhere around the 5th or 6th round.

Now, this is the point where the computer starts spitting out names of players for whom we have significantly less confidence.  So, bear that in mind, as you continue reading.

Devante Davis, WR, UNLV  Ht: 6' 2.75"  Wt: 220
40 Time: 4.57  Kangaroo Score:  0.577*  Agility Score: -0.471
While his Stat Score appears to be very unimpressive, it starts to look much better when we adjust things to account for the games he missed due to injury.  Still, he manages to get past our minimal requirements even without this adjustment, so we'll ignore this.  While his Kangaroo Score suggests that he has somewhat above average lower body power, his result is a bit less impressive than you would expect for a player of his size.  His agility results are a bit below average, but not unusual for a bigger bodied receiver.  When it comes to speed, his 2nd Gear Score of 0.02 suggests that his fairly pedestrian 40 time is an accurate gauge of his deep speed, and that he probably isn't a significant deep threat.  Overall, he seems like a fairly commonplace possession receiver.  His hands generally appear to be reliable, and we certainly don't think he is a bad player, but in the end we probably wouldn't feel terribly interested in spending a draft pick on him.

Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston  Ht: 6' 1"  Wt: 211
40 Time: 4.52  Kangaroo Score:  0.044  Agility Score: -1.046
We felt very tempted to cut this player from our list.  Once again, you can see how the computer largely disregards agility for Big receivers.  Unfortunately, Greenberry also lacks the sort of lower body and explosiveness that we are normally looking for in these types of prospects.  It's really a bit of a mystery to us how he was so productive in college, though playing in a spread offense against fairly mediocre opponents probably helped quite a bit.  He struck us as wildly inconsistent, making a spectacular catch one moment, and then disappearing for long stretches, or simply dropping a pass he should have caught.  If it wasn't for his productive 2013 season, we probably wouldn't be paying attention to him at all, and even in that year his production was just good, and not really amazing.

Da'Ron Brown, WR, Northern Illinois  Ht: 6'  Wt: 205
40 Time: 4.54  Kangaroo Score:  0.134  Agility Score:  0.078
Because of where he falls when it comes to weight, Brown could have been treated as either a Big or a Small receiver.  Unfortunately, his statistical production didn't pass the more difficult filters of the Small receiver group.  As a Big receiver, he faces a different sort of problem, which is that he appears to lack anything more than just average athletic traits, especially when it comes to his lower body power.  He kind of squeaks by, despite falling somewhere in between our mold for either a Big receiver or a Small one.  Still, in the little we have seen of him, he actually appears to be a surprisingly respectable and reliable target.  Considering his lower level of competition, and shortage of exceptional traits that we crave, we probably wouldn't pursue Brown in the draft, but that's probably not a huge problem, since most people seem to expect him to go undrafted.  That he will be 24 years old in September, also sort of weighs his stock down a fair bit.  Despite that, as an UDFA we could definitely have some interest in DaRon Brown.

R.J. Harris, WR, New Hampshire  Ht: 6'  Wt: 200
40 Time: 4.51  Kangaroo Score:  0.206  Agility Score:  -0.706
Harris kind of sneaks through the cracks, on some odd technicalities.  Because of his average size, you would think he would be compared to smaller receivers, but he doesn't pass the computer's filter here because of his low agility (though there were some wild inconsistencies with his results here) and mediocre speed.  Oddly, the computer finds him to be a more interesting, but not thrilling prospect, as a Big receiver.  His speed is adequate for that group, and he does have some explosiveness and average power.  If he weighed just one pound less, we wouldn't even be discussing him.  Harris has squeezed through a weird loophole.  While his level of competition is an obvious concern, he did perform at a fairly dominant level, and appeared to have rather good hands.  Still, I don't really see the sort of exceptional athletic traits that are likely to let him get much separation in the NFL, so I would probably ignore him.

Tyrell Williams, WR, Western Oregon  Ht: 6'3.5"  Wt: 204
40 Time: 4.43  Kangaroo Score:  0.701  Agility Score:  0.602
First of all, don't confuse him with Tyler Williams, the wide receiver from Akron.  Williams is just somebody we view as a bit of a lottery ticket type of player.  Athletically, he is a pretty interesting specimen, with fairly impressive speed, power and agility.  His main physical drawback is his low BMI result (-1.366 standard deviations below average), which puts him into a group of players where injury becomes a much greater concern.  This is another candidate for the all cheeseburger diet plan.  As for his production, well, he technically hits our marks, but it's a bit more complicated in his case.  First of all, he was playing against a much lower level of competition, so we really would have preferred to see him dominate his opponents a bit more than he did.  He was also operating out of a spread offense, that typically allowed him some ridiculous opportunities to just blow past people.  These are factors for which the computer doesn't make adjustments.  We would also say that his hands would probably be described as 'adequate' at best, which might explain why he wasn't a more dominant college player.  We just find him to be mildly interesting as a potential UDFA.

One of the frustrating issues that we run into, is that there are occasionally players who we really like, that the computer simply won't allow us to pick.  This is highly annoying, but in the end we think sticking to a rigid system should work out over the long run.

One example of this sort of restriction is with the Tyler Lockett, from Kansas State.  Here we have a highly entertaining and productive player, that we actually want to draft, but the computer says that we aren't allowed to.  Lockett has respectable speed, good agility, and was highly productive, all of which is very promising.  The problem comes with his lack of mass, since he is only 182 pounds.  When a player is that light, the computer starts to become very demanding of a prospect to demonstrate truly remarkable speed and agility, to compensate for their potential lack of power.  While Lockett's overall results were good, they were just a tad short of where they needed to be in order for us to be allowed to select him.  The computer was also a bit disturbed by Lockett's rather small 8.375" hands.  I really wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being one of the players who exceeds the computer's expectations.

Max Mulitz would probably kill me if I also didn't make some mention of his adopted son Bud Sasser, from Missouri.  Athletically, Sasser passes all of our filters to qualify as a rather interesting Big receiver.  The problem is that Sasser just didn't produce enough prior to 2014 to qualify when it came to his Stat Score, though he didn't miss the mark by much.  It's entirely possible that is the result of a failing on the part of his coaches, and they just didn't recognize his talent.  It's also possible that an older and more physically mature Sasser was just beating up on younger less fully developed opponents in his final year in college.  It's hard to say.  The interesting thing about Sasser is that the computer does think there is a potentially good argument that he might be a better prospect than his former teammate the troubled Dorial Green-Beckham, who is likely to be selected in the 2nd round.  Considering the possibility that Sasser will probably only be a late round pick, he could be an interesting player to pick up.

Last, but not least, we have Cameron Meredith, from Illinois State.  Athletically, he might be one of the more interesting prospects on this list, and almost everything we would want to see in a 6'3" and 207 pound receiver.  He has perfectly good speed, with a 40 time of 4.49 seconds.  He has some fairly good power, with a 0.775 Kangaroo Score.  He also has pretty good agility, with a result of 0.853.  The problem is that his statistical production just doesn't meet our standards, though this might have something to do with the fact that he is a quarterback who was converted to the wide receiver position just 2 seasons ago.  Regardless, in the little we were able to see of him, we actually thought he looked surprisingly good, and made some rather impressive plays.  It seems unlikely that anyone is going to draft him, but he really might be one of our favorite UDFA prospects