Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What is a petard anyway?

It seems that I've always had an incorrect understanding of what this word really means.  As it turns out, a petard is basically a bomb made for blowing up gates or doorways.  A soldier would approach a fortification with their petard in hand, light the fuse, and then run like hell.  According to the mighty Wikipedia, "Petard comes from the Middle French peter, to break wind, from pet expulsion of intestinal gas".  How awesome is that?  We basically have a fancy way of referring to a fart bomb.

Unfortunately, things didn't always go according to plan, and we are probably most familiar with this word from Shakespeare's Hamlet, where he referred to the possibility of an individual being "hoisted with his own petard", or launched into the air by a bomb of one's own making, at least in a figurative sense.  Sometimes things just don't go the way you expected them to, and the results can be a bit unpleasant.

With that sort of unexpected result in mind, I made a chart that we named PETARD.  This was intended to show what the Ravens might expect from one of their draft picks, when it comes to the percentage of games started in their first four years in the NFL, depending on when the player was selected.  While individual results will vary, based on numerous factors such as actual ability (though this probably matters less than you would hope), I just wanted to get a sense of what the average result for a player might be.  With this, we can get some rough idea as to what the Ravens' management is expecting from a player, and how close a player came to meeting these expectations.

While many people may try to grade a team's draft class, based on their own subjective opinions, the degree to which we should pay attention to any of this jibber-jabber is highly debatable.  Like many other people, I have my own views on these things, but there's no reason for anyone to take the opinion of a dilettante of NFL statistics, such as myself, too seriously.  In the end, it is really just a question of whether the players appear to be meeting the team's expectations, which I want to examine.

So, what I decided to do is to calculate the total number of games we should expect a player to start in their first four years, and find the cumulative total for each draft class, and then see how close the entire class actually came to this projected average result.  Whether the player is arguably any good, really doesn't matter to me.  If the team wants to start a player, despite that player performing horrendously, is entirely up to them.  Take Gino Gradkowski, for example.  According to PETARD, Gradkowski would have been projected to start 17.5 games in his first 4 years, based on where he was drafted.  So far, he has started 16 games, performing quite horribly according to most people's accounts.  If the Ravens choose to continue giving him starts, that is up to them, though it seems unlikely that this will happen.

If, in a given year, PETARD projects that a draft class should generate a hypothetical 140 total starts over a four year span, we are simply seeing how close that class came to meeting this expectation.  If a draft class accumulates the 140 projected games started, PETARD would give this a result of 100% efficiency.  This wouldn't necessarily mean that a draft class was good, it merely means that a particular draft class fully reached the average expectations the team might have had for it.  The total number of projected starts will obviously vary from year to year.

The number of draft picks that a team has in a given year, and how high those draft picks happen to be, really makes very little difference.  A team could just as easily have one draft pick in the 7th round, and still be judged to be quite respectable in the eyes of PETARD.  For example, if this solitary and imaginary late round prospect was chosen with the 238th pick, we would only expect this player to start 4.35% of all games within their first four years, or just 2.78 games in total.  If this imaginary player started this insignificant number of games, PETARD would still view this draft class as having met expectations, and give it a grade of 100%.  If a draft class produced more starts than expected, the grade could easily rise above the 100% mark.

Now, since the Ravens are frequently viewed as a team that does quite well in the draft, I wanted to see how they have done over the course of time in meeting what appear to be their own expectations.  Since much of their reputation seems to stem from their notable successes from the late '90s to the mid 2000s, that was the period of time I chose to target for all of this.  The chart below shows how PETARD would evaluate their performance from the years 1999-2011.  The goals isn't to judge the Ravens, but instead, to let them judge themselves.  Basically, this is sort of like sending the Ravens' management to a Montessori school.  We can just sit back, and let the team hoist themselves on their own petard.

For the most part, you can just ignore the trendlines that are on the chart, as they are just there for a later discussion, which I may or may not end up pursuing.

Before we get much further into this, there is a minor adjustment I think we should make.  When we initially came up with our calculations for PETARD, we excluded a small handful of kickers, punters and fullbacks, since the expectations are clearly quite different for people who play at these positions.  In the above chart, you will see that the Ravens' result for the 2007 draft class is a rather insane 142%, which would suggest that they performed 42% above what we would consider to be the average expectation.  Unfortunately, a lot of that is driven by the inclusion of fullback Le'Ron McClain, who was selected in the 4th round with the 137th overall pick, which is about as high as you would normally expect a fullback to ever be taken.  Normally, we would only expect a player to start about 18.6% of all games in their first four years, if selected at that position, while McClain actually started 84.375% of all games.

Since the inclusion of such a strange player, at such an arguably peculiar position,  produces rather disturbing results, I thought I would also include an alternative chart for this same time period, that excludes Le'Ron McClain from the equation.  I think this might present a more sensible picture of the situation, but you can make up your own mind about this issue.

The Ravens have had their ups and downs, just like any team, but it does seem to be quite clear that from 1999 to 2007 they almost always managed to draft players who succeeded in meeting their expectations, at least in a cumulative sense.  This doesn't mean that I fully endorse all of the decisions the team made during this period of time, but they certainly appear to have been at their best during this period.  The only major blip on their radar was their horrific performance during the 2004 draft, where their selections produced practically nothing while under their rookie contracts.  On the other hand, in 6 out of these 9 years their draft classes fully met expectations, and frequently exceed them by a rather good margin.  The average result during this period would have been about 103.5%.

Sadly, once we start looking at the years after 2007, things seem to have hit a bump in the road.  From that point forward, the team seems to have consistently fallen a bit short of the mark, with their best results only managing to measure up with what might have been viewed as a rather disappointing result in their better days, with an average outcome of around 84.8%, during the 2008-2011 period.

Technically, I really shouldn't be including the 2011 draft class in any of this, as they haven't completed their fourth year yet.  Still, it's fairly simple after three years to project things forward a bit, and see that they too will probably fall a bit short of expectations.  While their result for now is projected to be about 90%, I actually suspect it might end up being perhaps 1-2% higher.  A lot of this projected grade hinges on Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith starting 32 combined games in the upcoming 2014 season, and injuries can obviously have a huge impact on this.  According to PETARD, the 8 players that the Ravens selected in 2011 were projected to generate 127.6 cumulative games started.  So far, after their first 3 years in the league, they have produced 83 games started.  With just one year remaining, that leaves them 44.6 games below expectation.  Now, if Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith both start all 16 games this season, that reduces the 2011 draft class' debt to 12.6 games that would still need to be picked up, or 2.1 games started per player, for the six other prospects that were taken in 2011.

That would seem like a fairly easy goal to achieve, but it probably isn't.  Tandon Doss and Anthony Allen aren't even on the team anymore, and seem unlikely to start for their current teams (which Ozzie would still get credit for).  Tyrod Taylor, as a backup quarterback, also would appear unlikely to see any action.  This increases the debt that each of the 3 remaining players would have to make up for from 2.1 games started/player, to 4.2 games started/player.  Considering that this debt falls on the shoulders of Jah Reid, Chykie Brown and Pernell McPhee, I think it is safe to say that the goal will most likely not be reached.

When we consider the 2012 draft class, things don't seem to improve very much.  So far, the bulk of the heavy lifting being done by the 2012 class is coming from Courtney Upshaw and Kelechi Osemele.  While Upshaw has started 68.75% of his games so far, his shortcomings seem to have been a likely factor in the team's decision to sign the veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil to split snaps with him.  It's not exactly a ringing endorsement of your top pick when a team is making those sorts of moves after a player has been in the league for just one year.  Still, it's way too early to assign a grade to this class.  Nonetheless, I have some concerns about this group.

I realize that some people won't like the idea of judging a draft class based on how many "starts" it produces relative to a weird idea of "expectation".  All I can really say is that I prefer to keep things fairly simple.  At some point, a team has to find/produce starting caliber players, or else they are likely to run into problems down the road.  There's plenty of room to debate certain aspects of this.  Sometimes a player manages to emerge a bit later in their career, even if they weren't a starter in their first few seasons.  The problem with that is a player's long term contributions probably shouldn't be a deciding factor in evaluating a draft pick.  One of the primary values of a draft pick is the relative affordability of their rookie contracts.  The draft isn't really about acquiring talent.  It is about acquiring cheap talent.  If they're not getting on the field fairly early, a team really isn't getting much value out of their investment.  It also means that the team will have to compensate for this by signing/starting veteran players, who are more likely to be expensive, while also limiting their ability to evaluate whether the youngsters have anything to offer.

People might also point to the Ravens' fairly successful run during the past 5 seasons, where they have frequently managed to make it to the playoffs.  Of course we could argue that a lot of the foundation of those successful teams was probably built during the drafts of the late '90s and early 2000s, with selection like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Jonathan Ogden, Marshal Yanda, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, etc.  As these players get older and retire (which some have already done), does it appear that the team has really found replacements of a similar caliber?  Or, will the team start to decline, as the draftees of the past 7 years are forced to become the new faces of the franchise?  I may end up posting something a bit later that relates to this, but much like the popular opinion you hear on this subject, I do think it generally takes about 3-4 years for the full effects of a draft to be felt, whether they are positive or negative.  If the Ravens are going to go into a decline, I wouldn't be surprised if the consequences of recent drafts only start to show up right about now.  Perhaps this is already occurring based on their relatively poor performance in 2013.

There is one other factor in all of this that I can't dismiss.  There is always the possibility, no matter how unlikely I personally find it to be, that a team can simply shift its philosophy towards giving playing time to young players, which could affect their PETARD results.  So, what happened in 2008, that might explain the team's apparent decline in draft efficiency?  The obvious answer might be the hiring of John Harbaugh, who happened to arrive in 2008, right when PETARD seems to suggest things really went downhill.  Whether Harbaugh is hesitant to start young players, or whether the young players have failed to meet his expectations, is a difficult question to answer.  Either way, the result is the same.  It all ends up amounting to a reduced lack of value coming out of the team's draft picks.

While none of this can truly say how the Ravens have performed in comparison to other teams, I do think it points to the possibility that whatever magic or luck guided the team in the past may have begun to fizzle.  Perhaps, much like the way that fans refer to Ozzie Newsome as The Wizard of Oz, he is really just a mere mortal hiding behind a curtain, madly pulling levers in a desperate attempt to keep the citizens of the Emerald City content.  If I only I had a brain, I might be able to answer these questions a bit better, but for now, I remain pessimistic about the team's immediate future.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Let's Make Broad Generalizations!

This is only going to cause me trouble.

I'm about to make what is probably a huge mistake, by diving into a subject that I find interesting, but which I suspect is only going to cause me a fair bit of annoyance.  Fortunately, I can be a bit of an idiot, and am not very good at avoiding foolish behavior.  So, here's the question that's currently rattling around in my head.

What should we realistically expect out of a draft pick?  Or, to what degree does being picked highly influence the path of a player's career, for better or for worse?

I realize that a number of people have tinkered around with this sort of question.  A lot of the attention nowadays seems to be directed towards running regressions that compare CarAV(or Approximate Value) to where a player was selected in the draft.  The results of some of these examinations can be interesting....but I just can't fully jump aboard the CarAV train.  I'm not saying that CarAV is a bad statistic, it's just that I have some qualms about committing to it at this point in time.  As these sorts of geeky stats go, I just think it might be trying to do a bit too much.

I think my main problem with CarAV is that many people seem to be using it as a measure of a player's performance or contribution to a team.  Some people seem to be using CarAV as a qualitative measure, when I think it is probably more of a quantitative statistic.  It does a fine job of saying whether a player is getting on the field, but suspect it doesn't say much about what someone does once they are allowed to play.  I'm just not sure we are at the point where we have a "one ring to rule them all" statistic, to easily sum up such a potentially complex question as to whether a player is "good" or not.  Instead, I think CarAV might be more of a 'perceived performance' or 'perceived contribution' estimate, which is a very different sort of idea.  It might tell us who the coaches have some confidence in, but not whether the coaches are right to feel this way.

A player who is on a particularly effective unit (offensive line, defensive line or whatever) probably has a clear advantage in building up their CarAV results.  It tends to be a very end result oriented statistic.  If your team/unit does well, you get graded well, even if you might have been the weakest link in the chain.  Getting selected for Pro Bowls and All Pro teams also has a significant effect on CarAV, and those selections can often be popularity contests that might favor high draft picks over a comparable player who was drafted later.  The single biggest factor in CarAV is probably a player's ability to simply get on the field in the first place, where high draft picks will always have the edge, almost regardless of their actual performance.  I just feel that CarAV might be weighted with some confirmation bias regarding high draft picks.

Over the first 6 years of his career, Evan Mathis' average annual Approximate Value result was a 2.  That's not a very good result, in the CarAV world.  Opportunity clearly plays a significant role in all of this, as he (a 3rd round pick) was only asked to start in 22 out of a potential 96 (22.91%) games during this time period.  In the last 3 years, when he was finally made a regular starter, his average annual Approximate Value was 8.66.  On the other hand, the generally mediocre Michael Oher, who was selected in the 1st round, had an annual average Approximate Value result of 8 in his first five seasons, and his results never dipped below 7 in any year.  Of course, Oher started every single one of the 80 games from the day he was drafted, despite wavering between an average to below average level of play.

Now, some people might argue that perhaps Evan Mathis improved over time, and I'm sure that his coaches would love to take credit for this improvement, but I just can't buy into that idea.  I think there were some fairly solid reasons to suspect that Mathis was always the more gifted player, as you can see in the post on the Lobotomy Line.  Does anybody believe that Michael Oher is a comparable/superior talent to Evan Mathis?  Or, is it just more likely that the challenge of exceeding/altering people's expectations of a player is a more difficult proposal when a team has invested less in a particular player in the first place?  Hope is a flame that constantly burns when it comes to high draft picks.  Hell, there are people still waiting for a Tim Tebow resurgence.

Now, I realize that this is just one peculiar example of a possible shortcoming in CarAV, and criticizing CarAV really isn't my goal.  CarAV has its uses.  All I'm trying to say is that there are some issues which cause me to have concerns about whether the best players are consistently being put on the field.  I have little doubt that the majority of high draft picks are reasonably talented, but assuming that the talent is there simply because they are high draft picks is a very different question.

Instead of looking at 'perceived performance' or hype, relative to where a player is selected in the draft, Reilly proposed that we ignore the talent/quality of performance issue altogether.  He was just curious about the degree to which a player's draft position relates to a team's willingness to give someone a starting role on the team.  More specifically, he suggested that we chart the percentage of potential games started during a player's first four years in the league.  A four year period was chosen since, with the exception of some 1st round draft picks, that is the typical length of a rookie contract, which is part of the real issue we're eventually going to try to figure out.  So, without further jibber-jabber, this is basically what the results look like.

We're going logarithmic, like an ALPS Blue Velvet potentiometer!

This chart is based on the Ravens' draft picks from 1996-2010.  Beyond being my home team, and the organization I am most familiar with, they really are a great team to run these experiments on.  Having one GM, Ozzie Newsome,  who has overseen such an extensive period of time running the team, eliminates some of the fickle fluctuations that might come with a more volatile organization.  For better or worse, their behavior should be relatively consistent, at least compared to teams with more turnover.

During this period of time 118 players were selected by the Ravens, though we did remove five of them from the discussion.  Since we are only doing this to look at the team's tendencies, behavior and biases, Reilly removed Sergio Kindle and Dan Cody from the list, because they were relatively high draft picks who never played due to injuries that were factors before a single game had even been played.  Remember, we're not trying to judge the team's performance or luck in the draft (not yet, but we will later), just their tendency to give "starts" to higher draft picks.  If a player was never healthy enough to play, the team never gets to make much of a decision in those cases.  We also removed any kickers, punters (Dave Zastudil)or fullbacks (Le'Ron McClain and Ovie Mughelli) who were selected before the 5th round.  These positions generally don't get credited with "starts" in the first place, so they just create a bit of chaos if they are included.  In reality, only Le'Ron McClain would have had a significant effect if he had been allowed to remain in this list, at least compared to Zastudil and Mughelli.  We also obviously can't include results from more recent drafts, because the four year time period for those players hasn't run out yet, though they will eventually be included.

The data could be tightened up and manipulated a little to produce a better R^2 value, but really, 0.5697 is rather adequate for our humble purposes.  I prefer simplicity over tidiness and perfection, since a better data fit could spark criticisms of nudging the results too much.  We're not trying to predict what percentage of potential games started that a player will have in their first 4 seasons.  Instead, we just want to figure out what an average result might be, relative to where a player was selected.  Why we're curious about this, is something we'll get into at a later point in time.  For now, we're just going to refer to the data from this chart as PETARD (because it makes me giggle like a little girl).  Eventually, we'll have to turn this into an amusing acronym to justify naming it this.  It should also be noted that once we get above the 5th pick in the first round, it becomes impossible to meet or exceed expectations, so we actually capped everybody at an average expectation of 100% of games started in their first four years, regardless of how insane that may be.

Like I said though, this isn't really about judging whether a player is good or not.  There are clearly numerous data points, particularly for mid-round players, that wildly diverge from the trendline, so individual outcomes can be fairly unpredictable.  Despite that, it seems reasonable to suspect that players who exceeded these average expectation for where they were selected were possibly doing something right, and vice versa, for players who failed to meet expectations.  You could say that we are simply looking to identify who the outliers are.  In the future we will explore the stories behind these players who produced surprising and unexpected results, in an attempt to better understand them.   I fully realize that many people aren't going to like the idea of using "percentage of potential games started" as a metric for making judgments (we're still working on the Moxie-Meter), but...you can't please everyone.  At the end of the day, I do think being a "starter" is more valuable than not being a starter, so we're not going to over-think this.  This is just meant to be a simple and reasonably objective way of gauging things, and some shortcomings are naturally going to exist in this process.

Really, there's probably not much in this post that should matter to anybody, but some of the issues I've been considering will refer back to this.  It was just easier to throw this out there in advance, rather than trying to fit it in later.  I think the more interesting discussion will come somewhere further down the road.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hubba, hubba, hubba! Money, money, money!

If you were going to pay a quarterback $126 million over the next 6 years, with $61 million of it guaranteed, who would you pay it to?  Let's blindly look at the cumulative 2012-2013 statistical production of two very different quarterbacks.  Yes, this is basically like the Dating Game.

      GS*      Comp. %         Yards          YPA   TD Rate      Int Rate      Sack Rate
QB #1 16 62.54% 4590 7.88 5.67% 1.20% 8.24%
QB #2 23 59.77% 5011 7.90 4.88% 1.73% 8.67%

*GS = Games Started

I'm not saying that there is necessarily a correct answer to this question, or that I even care about these sorts of  things.  I just find it interesting how casually teams throw about such obscene amounts of money, with little regard for the long term consequences.  It's especially amusing when one of these two quarterbacks was a rather highly drafted  prospect, while the other was a bit unheralded and couldn't even get his coach to commit to him as the team's starter.  Can you tell which player is which?  Who would you prefer to have on your team?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

C.J. Mosley: Are Your Fingers Crossed?

Last year, I wrote a little post expressing my reasons for concern regarding the Ravens' selection of Arthur Brown, in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft.  It probably didn't make me terribly popular amongst the local Ravens fans.  I was shunned by my family, and forced to flee the state of Maryland.  Actually, I doubt that anybody noticed my little rant.  While I can't say with any absolute certainty what will become of Brown, I have to take the Ravens' recent selection of C.J. Mosley, who plays the same position, as a bit of a sign that the team may now be hedging their bets a bit. 

Now, at the time that Arthur Brown was selected, there was certainly a fair bit of hype surrounding him.  On Yahoo Sports, an article discussed why Brown could be a defensive rookie of the year candidate, before he even played a single snap, and comparisons were made between Brown and Luke Kuechly.  The Baltimore Sun discussed how Brown was a player that the Ravens coveted, and compared him to Ray Lewis, again, before he played a single snap.  Maybe Brown will end meeting these expectations eventually, I really can't say, though I have my doubts.

This year, similar hyperbolic claims are being made about C.J. Mosley.  On Ravens 24x7, the Luke Kuechly comparisons surfaced.  On the Ravens' own website, comparisons to Ray Lewis were somewhat cautiously thrown around, as we probably should have expected.  Yes, there have even been rumblings about how Mosley is already a strong candidate for defensive rookie of the year.  Again, this chatter has come before he has even played a single NFL game.  What could possibly go wrong?

While I may think this sort of speculation is a bit ridiculous, and feel a bit more pessimistic about Mosley's chances of success, I can see where people are coming from with this insanity.  If a middle linebacker is selected in the 1st round there is pretty much only one outcome that can justify such a selection, which is if the player becomes an absolutely dominant defensive force.  Teams don't select players at this position, this high in the draft, with the expectation of acquiring a player that is only going to be "good" or, god forbid, just "average".  They are expecting something a bit more outrageous, which is exactly the sort of expectations they should have for the price they are paying.

Of course, judging the "success" of a draft pick can be a bit tricky.  While I tend to lean rather heavily on a player's physical measurables, as well as their statistical production in college, to come up with a hunch as to what sort of prospect they really are, there are more powerful predictors as to what will happen with a player.

Based on CarAV (or, on a year to year basis, simply Approximate Value), the single greatest predictor of success for middle linebackers is probably their draft position.  Unfortunately, this is also my biggest gripe with CarAV as a statistic.  For the most part, it is a statistic that is just weighing a player's ability to get on the field.  Obviously, teams are going to start high draft picks, almost regardless of whether they are really any good.  As predictive statistics go, CarAV is just saying that the best predictor of success...is being predicted for success.  CarAV has some value, but for the most part is just handing out the kind of "participation medals" I got for playing on my 3rd grade soccer team.  There is a weird and disturbing sort of circular reasoning to CarAV that bothers me.  It doesn't really give us much of an understanding as to why these highly drafted players might actually be better.

Whatever the truth may be (you can probably guess what I think), it creates a worrisome question as to whether the best players actually get on the field, or whether players just wind up playing because teams believe in them for some unknown, and perhaps difficult to justify reason.  The pattern that teams have established of continuing to give repeated opportunities to former 1st round picks, who failed for other teams, rather than giving opportunities to less heralded players, is pretty obvious.  How else would players like Darrius Heyward-Bey keep getting opportunities?  When Kyle Boller failed as the Ravens QB, three more teams were willing to give him another shot.  Hell, the Browns even brought in Vince Young recently, for one more shot at redemption.  Is there a reason for this, or do teams just have a hard time shaking off their initial appraisal that such-and-such player was "destined to be a star, baby!"?

Regardless, I expect C.J. Mosley to get on the field, much as I said that I expected Arthur Brown to eventually get on the field last year.  If they get to play, I expect them to accumulate stats.  If they accumulate stats, I expect the fans to adore them.  That doesn't, however, mean that they will be great.

While it's fine to have your own subjective opinion on a player, this tends to be a bit of an unreliable way to make decisions.  I, subjectively, think I am the most charming man in the world.  Most women seem to disagree with me on this point.  Personally, I can't say that watching C.J. Mosley play made much of an impression on me, either positively or negatively, but there is really no reason for you to care about my opinion.  Your views may differ.  Instead of quibbling over "what we feel", let's instead look at what we can measure.

First, let's look at C.J. Mosley's athletic ability (based upon his combine results), in comparison to all of the middle linebackers who have been taken in the 1st round, during the last 10 years.  I will list the players 40-time, as well as their 10-yard splits, which should be pretty straight forward.  I will also list the player's Kangaroo Score (our measure of lower body power), which is given in the form of how many standard deviations a player is away from the average result for someone in their position group.  Since these players are measured along with heavier defensive ends and OLBs, their Kangaroo Scores tend to get pushed down a fair bit.  So, it should be noted that an average result for these prospects would probably be about  -0.800 (not just 1st rounders in this case, but amongst all player's at this position), while the average result for Pro Bowl and All Pro MLBs is closer to -0.400 (a small, but significant improvement).  I will also list the player's Agility Score (based on the 3-cone and short shuttle drills), which is also given in the form of how many standard deviations they are away from the average result, though no adjustments need to be made for weight class this time.

NAME         Year      40 Yard     10 yard       Kangaroo         Agility
C.J. Mosley 2014 4.63 1.56 -0.748 -0.251
Luke Kuechly 2012 4.58 1.56 0.303 1.256
Dont'a Hightower 2012 4.62 1.58 0.335 -1.397
Rolando McClain 2010 4.68 1.62 -0.564 0.074
Brian Cushing 2009 4.64 1.53 -0.219 1.133
Keith Rivers 2008 4.54 1.56 1.011 -0.092
Jerod Mayo 2008 4.54 1.50 0.142 0.034
Patrick Willis 2007 4.51 1.53 0.217 -0.282
Lawrence Timmons 2007 4.66 1.50 -0.481 0.702
Jon Beason 2007 4.72 1.60                 N/A             N/A
AJ Hawk 2006 4.59 1.56 0.421 1.891
Derrick Johnson 2005 4.52 1.61 0.070 1.223
Jonathan Vilma 2004 4.61                ? -0.376 1.516

4.60 1.55 0.009 0.483
4.61 1.56 0.106 0.388

Who amongst these 13 players do you feel has been the most successful?  Feel free to make up your own mind.

When it comes to speed, everybody in this group produced fairly good results when it came to their 40-yard dash and 10-yard splits.  Only Jon Beason and Rolando McClain fell somewhat below the average results for 1st round middle linebackers.  I should probably note that Patrick Willis did run a rather stunning 4.37 second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, though I am trying to limit this to combine results.  While Mosley's speed seems to line up with the average and median result for players in this group, there doesn't appear to be anything exceptional here for us to get excited about

When it comes to the Agility Score, you will probably notice that the majority of these players did quite well. Six, out of the thirteen players shown here, produced an Agility Score that was at least 0.500 standard deviations above average.  Five of them went well past even that mark, with results over 1.000 standard deviations above average.  None of them, with the exception of Dont'a Hightower, fell below Patrick Willis' result of -0.282, which is still basically an acceptably average outcome.  When it comes to agility, C.J. Mosley produced the 3rd worst result, though this is still close enough to average that I wouldn't write him off just yet.. 

Now we come to the Kangaroo Score, and its measure of lower body power.  While people might be surprised to see the celebrated Patrick Willis having such a mediocre Agility Score,  I would argue that he makes up for this with his Kangaroo Score.  Willis' result of 0.217 might not initially seem too impressive, but you have to remember that these players are being weighed against some larger defensive players up to 280#.  When we compare Willis' to the previously mentioned estimated average of -0.800, we find that he is actually about 1.017 standard deviations above average.  Even if compared directly to a larger defensive end, Willis' lower body power would still be somewhat above average, and when compared to his lighter weight linebacker brethren, he is truly exceptional.  As I said before, the average Kangaroo Score for Pro Bowl and All Pro middle linebackers is approximately -0.400.  With the exception of Rolando McClain and C.J. Mosley, every player in this list seemed to meet or exceed this mark.  Mosley, obviously, easily did the worst of anybody in this group.

Amongst the players in this group, it is probably pretty easy to agree that Dont'a Hightower, Rolando McClain and Keith Rivers have probably been the most disappointing, relative to where they were selected.  That Hightower and McClain were among the least athletic in the group is something we probably shouldn't ignore.  As for the physically gifted Rivers, we'll get around to him in a moment.

So, despite the claims of Mosley's above average athleticism, there's really very little evidence to back this up.  On paper, he appears to be a rather average athlete in every category.  If your views regarding the relative quality of these players coincide with my own, I think we would agree that the most successful players on this list did generally demonstrate some significant physical advantages when it came to measured athletic ability.  Already, there seem to be some reasons to be a bit wary of C.J. Mosley's actual upside.

Of course, athleticism isn't everything, so let's look at Mosley's statistical production compared to his peers.  While all of these players have become middle linebackers (though Rivers might be an exception), some of them were used as outside linebackers in college, which would effect their statistical production to some degree.  Regardless, what we are going to do is list each of these players' statistics from their final year in college, but we will adjust all of their numbers to a 13 game per season standard, to level the playing field a bit.

Player           GP         TKL         TFL        Sack         PBU          INT            FF
C.J. Mosley 13 108 9 0 5 0 1
Luke Kuechly 13 206.9 13 0 3.3 3.3 0
Dont'a Hightower 13 85 11 4 3 1 1
Rolando McClain 13 97.5 13.4 3.7 3.7 1.9 0.9
Brian Cushing 13 73 10.5 3 6 1 1
Keith Rivers 13 84.5 5.4 0 4.3 0 1.1
Jerod Mayo 13 130 7.8 1.4 2.8 0.9 0.9
Patrick Willis 13 148.4 12.4 3.2 7.6 0 2.2
Lawrence Timmons 13 79 18 5 6 1 0
Jon Beason 13 99.6 10.3 2.7 1.1 0 0
AJ Hawk 13 131.1 18.3 10 2.4 1.2 2.4
Derrick Johnson 13 140.8 20.5 2.2 8.7 1.1 9.7

115.3 12.5 2.9 4.5 0.9 1.7
103.8 11.7 2.9 4 1 1

While these results can appear to be all over the map, certain things do stand out.  For one, there is pretty much no statistical category in which Mosley produced anything that would fall significantly outside of the average range.  On the other hand, most of the more accomplished players in this list (at least highly accomplished during their college years), such as Kuechly, Mayo, Willis, Hawk and Johnson, did seem to show statistical production that rose significantly above the average in numerous areas.  Even if we leave out Kuechly's obscene tackle numbers, the remaining 4 players averaged 137.5 tackles in their final year which is 21.6% more than Mosley's result.  Some of the other highly accomplished players, like Lawrence Timmons and Brian Cushing, might have had a lower number of tackles than the average result, but brought a stronger resume when it came to high impact plays such as tackles for a loss, sacks, passes broken up, and interceptions.

I realize that many people don't like the idea of judging players based on their statistical production.  "The stats don't tell the whole story," you shout while gazing lovingly at your poster of Rocky Balboa, the eternal symbol of determination over quantifiable data.  Still, as Brian Burke of Advanced Football Analytics suggests when discussing his Tackle Factor statistic, there is something to be said for a player who frequently just shows up to make even a simple tackle.  Particularly with middle linebackers, who tend to be the greatest accumulators of raw statistical production due to their positioning on the field, it is something I wouldn't want to overlook.  While great statistical production may not ensure that a player will excel in the NFL, it is reassuring when a player has it on their resume.

You can also rather simply just crosscheck these two lists, and figure out whether a player was perhaps drafted due to significant athletic strengths (suggestive of potential upside) or due to their proven statistical production.  Players who did well in both areas, generally became rather high caliber players in the NFL.  Players who measured up poorly in both the athletic and statistical realms, generally appear to have become mediocrities.

Whatever your personal feelings are on C.J. Mosley, are entirely your own concern.  The question I want to ask is simple.  If Mosley is in fact just an average athlete, with a statistical history of performing at a rather average level, then what sense does it really make to expect him to become a dominant force when he moves to a higher level of competition?  If we discard our subjective feelings about Mosley, and just weigh him on the objective facts, how would we appraise him?  Personally, I would have a hard time betting on him turning out to be anything better than just an average player, and this is before we even discuss his injury history or the recent and dismal performances of over-hyped draft prospects from Alabama.

But...but...everyone says C.J. Mosley was the best middle linebacker in the 2014 draft, so I must be wrong about all of this, correct?  Maybe that's true.  I can certainly name some players that the computer had a low opinion of, yet managed to become quite good.  There are also a number of players that had very promising athletic and statistical profiles that failed to perform to my expectations.  Despite all of that, I have to go with what they odds say gives us the best chance of success.  To be perfectly honest, I'm not really sure that it matters whether C.J. Mosley becomes a success or not.  The real question that I think we should be asking is something very different.

Instead of criticizing the player, I really just want to criticize the thought process that went into selecting him.  If a team drafts enough players, with profiles that don't normally fit the conventional model of success, eventually some of them will turn out to be pretty good.  Eventually everyone gets lucky (though it will be suggested that it is skill rather than luck).  When the Ravens selected Arthur Brown in 2013, they clearly made this decision based on a purely subjective analysis, as there was little objective data to suggest that Brown was a terribly strong prospect (though the computer likes Brown just a tad bit more than Mosley).  Then, in 2014, they basically made the exact same decision about Mosley.  In many ways, the differences between the profiles of C.J. Mosley and Arthur Brown are virtually nonexistent.  By taking two such players, with relatively low probabilities of being highly successful, the team has probably slightly increased their chances of at least one of them being an outlier, who might be pretty good.  Despite that extremely small bit of deranged optimism, it seems to me that their odds of success would have been much more greatly enhanced by selecting someone who better fits the mold of historically successful players, and giving more weight to objective data rather than their scout's instincts.

Like I said already, I fully expect Mosley to get playing time.  Whether we, or the team, can accurately judge his performance once he is on the field, is going to be a bit debatable.  If the team analyzes their own players performance the same way they do draft prospects, in a rather subjective manner, it is doubtful that their ability to gauge these things is terribly reliable.  They will also be operating under the weight of confirmation bias, believing in Mosley's potential greatness, regardless of whatever may actually occur. 

If there's an upside to the gamble that the Ravens have taken on C.J. Mosley, it is that even if he fails to become "great", there will undoubtedly be teams interested in giving Mosley a second chance elsewhere.  After all, he was a 1st round pick, and all the evidence seems to support the idea that NFL teams never get tired of recycling players with a high draft status.  The Ravens even brought in Rolando McClain last year, after he disappointed the Raiders.  Second chances abound for these sorts of players, while later draft picks rarely ever get much of an opportunity.  Why bother giving some less heralded prospect a chance, when you can just place your faith in the general consensus as to who should become a star?  What could possibly go wrong with trusting someone else's opinion, rather than judging things for yourself?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Charles Johnson: No, The Other One

Argghh!  I wrote this a couple of days ago, and it is already outdated due to today's Miles Austin signing.  Oh well, I'm posting it anyway.

I have to admit, that the possible year long suspension of Josh Gordon strikes me as hilarious.  How he could possibly be facing this sort of punishment for smoking marijuana, while Ray Rice will probably only miss a handful of games (if he is suspended at all) for knocking his fiancee out cold, is beyond insane.  I realize that Gordon's prior behavior factors into this, but at this point in time do any of us really care about a football player smoking weed?  Of course, being a jazz musician who grew up in the 1930's probably has an effect on my views of this subject.

Leaving aside my perhaps unpopular thoughts on pot persecution, this leads to an interesting and obvious question.  Who would fill the Josh Gordon void, for the Cleveland Browns?  Somebody is going to have to catch the ball, but who is it going to be?  To answer that question, let's first make a list of every wide receiver who is currently on the Browns' roster, and examine their physical characteristics.

While there are numerous other physical factors we could consider, I want to keep this as simple and straightforward as possible.  The Browns' receivers will be listed in descending order, according to their weight.  Beside their name, I will list their 40-time, Kangaroo Score and Agility Score.  The Kangaroo Score (our measure of lower body power) and the Agility Score, will be 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, simply put, we are just looking for speed, power and agility.

NAME     Height      Weight      40-yard     Kangaroo          Agility
Greg Little 6' 2.5" 231 4.51 2.300 0.313
Tori Gurley 6' 4" 216 4.53 0.027 -0.441
Charles Johnson 6' 2" 215 4.39 1.470 -0.629
Nate Burleson 6' 0.5" 197 4.51 0.749 0.109
Conner Vernon 6' 0.25" 196 4.54 -0.773 -0.034
Willie Snead 5' 11" 195 4.62 -1.067 -1.284
Josh Cooper 5' 11" 190 4.65 -1.499 -0.968
Jonathan Krause 5' 11" 187 4.37 -0.396 0.592
Chandler Jones 5' 8.5" 183 4.34 -1.466 -0.209
Andrew Hawkins 5' 7" 182 4.34 -1.001 0.946
Kenny Shaw 5' 11" 174 4.56 -1.840 0.543
Travis Benjamin 5' 10" 172 4.36 -1.327 0.073

Okay, so what do we really have here?  Well, the Browns do appear to have some rather fast, but tiny, receivers in Benjamin, Hawkins, Jones, and Krause.  While these four are all lacking significant power, that is fairly typical amongst small receivers.  Amongst the pipsqueaks, only Hawkins and Krause really catch my eye though, as their Agility Score at least suggests the possibility of some sort of elusiveness, which seems like a good thing for a small underpowered player to have.  Of course, small speedy receivers tend to play more of a complementary role in today's NFL, and don't tend to be the primary target for most offenses.

When we shift our attention to the bigger receivers, Greg Little and Charles Johnson are probably the players who will create the most interest.  Physically, they both exhibit the measurable traits we are generally seeking to find when looking at large receivers, namely power (Kangaroo Score) and at least passable speed.  Though their Agility Scores are just average, at best, this is a rather typical outcome amongst larger receivers, and not necessarily a huge concern.  As for Tori Gurley, well, he is quite large, but there's nothing to suggest that he possesses any exceptional physical traits within his large frame.

A couple players, like Nate Burleson and Conner Vernon, fall somewhere in the middle, in terms of size.  While Burleson has fairly nice physical characteristics, with results that fall into the average to above average range in most areas, he has also recently broken his arm, which doesn't bode well for the immediate future.  He is also a soon to be 33 year old wide receiver, who has generally had statistical production of the "average to good" variety, which seems unlikely to change at this point in his career.  Conner Vernon, on the other hand, was a moderately interesting college prospect, but probably lacks the athletic ability to be anything more than a possession receiver.

Still, these sorts of physical traits can't tell the whole story.  At some point you need to know if a player can actually produce, and hold onto the ball.  Instead of listing the player's Stat Scores, the way I normally do, I wanted to do something a bit simpler.  This time, we're just going to look at what percentage of their team's offense that each player was responsible for generating in their final two years in college.  The average result for a player in their final college season is 17.75%.  In their next to last season, the average result is 15.34%.  These averages are based only on drafted receivers (or, players who were expected to be drafted), so the real averages would obviously be a bit lower if we included all college receivers.  With these results, we are just hoping to get a glimpse into how heavily a team 'leaned on' a player.  While some players may be underutilized in college, and blossom later in their NFL careers, this doesn't tend to happen very frequently.  Instead, it tends to be a safer bet to keep your attention focused on players with a proven track record of success. 

So, here are these same 12 receivers, roughly sorted according to how heavily their college offenses relied upon them.

NAME     % Offense Year 1   % Offense Year 2
Nate Burleson 14.76 31.22
Willie Snead 19.31 24.45
Charles Johnson 20.02 22.97
Conner Vernon 21.75 20.06
Chandler Jones 11.91 22.90
Greg Little 3.49 18.09
Jonathan Krause 1.39 14.98
Travis Benjamin 13.56 13.43
Kenny Shaw 8.08 12.83
Josh Cooper 10.88 10.07
Tori Gurley 9.74 8.45
Andrew Hawkins                            N/A                          N/A

Typically, I wouldn't pay much attention to players with results lower than what we see with Chandler Jones or Greg Little.  It's not that a player with lesser results can't succeed, it's just that it becomes much less likely.  As for Andrew Hawkins, who has had some limited success in the NFL, it is difficult to come to any real conclusion, as he was actually a cornerback in college, so no statistical data exists for him as a receiver.

Perhaps it's not surprising, that Nate Burleson has what is easily the best single year result of any player in this list, producing 31.22% of his team's offensive yards in his final college season.  Still, as I've said already, there is probably little remaining upside to Burleson at this point in his career.  Greg Little, while possessing rather strong athletic traits, appears to have had college production that was merely just average to below average, which could perhaps be linked to his current issues with actually catching the ball.  Willie Snead, while appearing to be quite productive in college, still suffers from the question of how much you want to place your faith in a small receiver who ran a 4.62 forty yard dash.  The history of players like Snead finding success just isn't so hot.

So, who does that really leave us with, except Charles Johnson?  Athletically, he is superb, possessing the size, speed, and power to potentially become a rather dangerous receiving threat.  His production in college, was above average, though it obviously came at a lower level of competition (Grand Valley State University).  While some of you may not have heard of him before, I can assure you that every draft geek, who is into examining the numbers, is keenly aware of Johnson and his intriguing potential.  I even made him a 6th round pick in our 2013 Ozzie Newsome Challenge (since he was one of the computer's favorite receiver prospects in the 2013 draft class), so you can bet that I am hoping that things work out for him.

Of course, Johnson is still a longshot.  Opportunities don't come easily to late round draft picks, especially when they come from rather goofy college programs.  It is entirely possible that the Browns will trade for a receiver, or pick one up when teams start cutting players later in the summer.  In fact, I would almost bet on this happening (I jinxed myself).  But if they don't?  Well, then suddenly Charles Johnson would have a very valuable opportunity to perhaps surprise some people.  If you have ever wondered how some teams stumble into a late-round-/undrafted prospect like Victor Cruz, Miles Austin, or Marques Colston, this is pretty much how it happens.  All three of these players were somewhat similarly gifted athletes, with proven production, who just happened to play at lesser programs like UMass, Monmouth, and Hofstra.  Maybe history will repeat itself with Charles Johnson, or maybe it won't (damn you, Miles Austin!).

One of the drawbacks to getting excited about a player like Charles Johnson, is that you pretty much have to blindly trust the numbers, as there are very few video clips of him for us to watch.  Forming a subjective opinion of his skills is somewhat impossible for me.  This is one of the few examples I have been able to come across, which really only gives us a brief glimpse of what he may really be like as a player.

Perhaps there is something fundamentally wrong with Johnson, which the numbers don't show.  Maybe he leans a bit in the direction of Greg Little, when it comes to catching the ball.  It is hard to say, without more data.  To claim that Johnson can single-handedly replace the 1,646 receiving yards that Josh Gordon produced last year would be irresponsible and idiotic.  All I can say is that people who fit Johnson''s profile have a surprisingly strong history of turning into at least adequate players, even if they were initially overlooked by most teams.  Sometimes, perhaps more often than you might suspect,  they even turn out to be great.  At this point, I'm just hoping that the Browns organization sees his potential, and doesn't prematurely dismiss him as "just another disposable late round draft pick", and that they give him a real chance to compete for a role on their offense.  The potential rewards for giving him such an opportunity could be enormous.

Update: So, the Browns have now signed Miles Austin.  This obviously forces me to pull my voodoo doll out of the closet and stick needles in its knees, in hopes of getting Johnson an opportunity.  Oh, nevermind, Austin is bound to injure himself without my help.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The 2014 Ozzie Newsome Challenge

Well, the madness of the 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone, and frankly I'm quite glad that it is all over.  The amount of time I have spent over the last few months obsessing over the outcome of this event was most likely quite insane.  At this point, I am really looking forward to spending some time where I won't have to give any additional thought to the strange workings of the NFL.  The commissioner has left the podium, so Reilly and I can finally take a brief nap. 

Reilly Goodell

At this point, there is only one thing left to do, which is to post our results in the 2014 Ozzie Newsome Challenge.  I should have put this up earlier, but honestly I was too burnt out from the draft.  It also takes some time to photoshop my dog's head onto Roger Goodell's body, which was something we obviously needed to do.

The concept of the Ozzie Newsome Challenge is simple.  When the Baltimore Ravens are "on the clock", as they say, so is Team Kangaroo.  When Ozzie Newsome selects a player for the Ravens, we make our own selection as to who we would take instead.  Over the course of time, we are hoping to see whether the picks made by professional scouts and GMs, will actually outperform the selections made by my dog/spiritual advisor, Reilly, who runs the show at Team Kangaroo.  For those who are curious, you can look at the results of the 2013 Ozzie Newsome Challenge for an example of how this has gone in the past.  Overall, I'm quite pleased with the early returns from our 2013 selections, and think things could get even better for some of those players in the near future.  Then again, they might not.  Who really knows?

Either way, there are some things which I should mention about this fool's errand we have embarked upon.  When we make our selections for Team Kangaroo, we have no idea where the player will actually wind up, or in some cases, what position they might be asked to play.  This tends to make us a bit more cautious about who we will select.  If there is a cornerback, who we think might be better off playing as a safety, we are pretty much forced to 'pass' on such a player, due to the risk that they might be misused and have their talent squandered.  It is unfortunate, but there is nothing we can do about this.  Instead, we have to focus solely on players who we feel have an above average chance of succeeding, regardless of what team they may wind up playing for.  This can be a surprisingly tricky issue to contend with.

There is also the issue of how to deal with traded draft picks.  Our answer to this is simple.  If Ozzie Newsome trades draft picks with another team, Team Kangaroo can either accept or decline the opportunity to do the same.  Team Kangaroo can't initiate trades, but can only choose to go along with what the Ravens choose to do, or we can choose to stand pat.  For the most part, we will never agree to trade up, and almost always agree to trade down.  Being able to determine playing time, playing position, and whether or not to make a trade, gives Ozzie Newsome, and GMs in general, several significant advantages over Team Kangaroo.  There's really nothing we can do to level the playing field in this sense, but I think it is worth noting.

While our selections are somewhat influenced by the 'needs' that we feel the Ravens should address, the needs of Team Kangaroo are actually somewhat different.  Starting with last year's draft, Team Kangaroo is branching off on a somewhat different timeline, as to how things 'could have been'.  Our picks this year, will somewhat reflect the players we selected last year.  Rather than treating each draft as a reset, we are trying to take into consideration which positions we feel we have already addressed in previous drafts.  I realize that some people won't like this approach, but I find it more amusing, and more challenging to do things in this way.  To be perfectly honest though, even if we were doing this as a 'one off' type of affair, I doubt our selections this year would have been terribly different.  Maybe one or two picks would have changed, but that's about it.

Oh well, that's enough of my rambling.  Let's post the results, with fingers crossed, and pray that the people we selected don't make us look terribly stupid in the near future.

                                       Team Kangaroo                         Team Ozzie
Round 1
Pick #17                         Joel Bitonio, OT/OG                    C.J. Mosley, ILB

Round 2
Pick #48                         Cody Latimer, WR                       Timmy Jernigan, DT

Round 3
Pick #79                         Kareem Martin, DE                      Terrence Brooks, FS

Pick #99                         Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB                Crockett Gilmore, TE

Round 4
Pick #134                       Lache Seastrunk, RB                    Brent Urban, DT

Pick #138                       Bennett Jackson, CB                    Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB

Round 5
Pick #175                       Garrett Scott, OT                         John Urschel, OG

Round 6
Pick #194                       Jackson Jeffcoat, DE/OLB           Keith Wenning, QB

Round 7
Pick #218                       Michael Campanaro, WR            Mike Campanaro, WR

Are there some selections we made, that leave me feeling a bit nervous?  Yup.  I normally would have taken a more cautious path with some of our selections, and gambled less on 'upside'.  In the end, it was really the decisions that the Ravens were making, that allowed us to gamble a bit more.  So few of the Ravens choices fit the mold of players that the computer views as having a high probability of success, that we ended up feeling a bit more willing to take some gambles ourselves.  In the end, the question we are trying to answer is whether a team would be better off making decisions based on the more objective data that comes from a computer, or whether the more subjective views of NFL scouts appears to work better.  We'll just have to wait and see what happens, as there is a long road ahead of us.  For the most part, I'm just happy to only have one of our selections go undrafted this year, when we had five such players last year (though our undrafted players still did pretty well for themselves).

Despite my pessimism about a number of the Ravens selections, I wouldn't say that I disapproved of all of them.  In particular, I rather liked their selections of John Urschel and Michael Campanaro, though it is hard to say how many opportunities they will get early on in their careers.  Just as much as talent and motivation might determine success, draft status is probably just as important.  Regardless of what skills a player brings to the table, overcoming the bias of being a late round pick is a significant obstacle.  Several of Team Kangaroos most successful players last year came from the late rounds, though the teams they played for only gave them opportunities when forced to, often due to injuries to other players.  It appears to be an unfortunate reality, that high draft picks will always be given more of an opportunity, almost regardless of who is actually playing better.

I should also mention the weird circumstances that led to both Ozzie Newsome and Team Kangaroo selecting Michael Campanaro in the 7th round.  I wasn't really prepared to make a pick at that point, as the Ravens didn't initially have a 7th round pick.  When the Ravens traded a future 6th round pick to the Browns to acquire a 7th round pick this year, I was a bit conflicted about what to do.  Normally I would never trade away future picks, just like I would normally never trade up in the draft.  Still, I felt that if I declined this trade, and maintained a claim on our 6th round pick for next year, it might make our imaginary game too complicated, and rub some people the wrong way.  A similar argument could have led to us claiming that Team Kangaroo should have an additional 4th, 5th and 7th round pick in this draft, since those picks were lost in trades for Eugene Monroe and A.Q. Shipley, who play positions that we feel Team Kangaroo may have already addressed (or at least potentially addressed with Terron Armstead and Eric Kush).  I just didn't feel like pursuing this argument, though I will probably continue to harp upon the number of draft picks that Ozzie's decisions have cost us.  I also kind of like Campanaro, so for once, Ozzie and I agreed on a pick.

At this point, it is out of our hands.  I don't know what will happen at this point, but I think Frank Sinatra did a fairly good job of capturing my thoughts at this point in time:

Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

But, perhaps Gary Oldman can demonstrate this sentiment a bit better.

Yes, that's much better.  Gary really captures our drunken buffoonery much better.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day 3: Completely Stumped

It's because of trying times like this, that I generally post my thoughts a day after an event has occurred.  I find it is best to get a good night's sleep to clear my head before going off on some rant about how a team is being run by REDACTED REDACTED individuals.  The last thing I want is for my temper to cause me to say something that I will regret about some REDACTED questionable decisions that the Ravens, or any other team, may have made. 

Still, I really have to wonder what the Ravens have been thinking during the past couple of days.  The idea that they employ an 'Analytics Department' strikes me as laughably REDACTED.  Out of the nine players they selected in the 2014 draft, there were only two that I think have a significant chance of performing at a reasonably high level.  No, I'm definitely not talking about C.J. Mosley or Timmy Jernigan.  The players that they chose which interest me most are John Urschel and Michael Campanaro, who the team selected with two of their last three selections.  So, maybe Ravens fans have that to look forward to in three years when they are finally given a chance to play.  You didn't really think that competing for a starting job in training camp was a real thing did you?  No, the starting jobs will almost always go to the highest drafted players, regardless of whether they deserve them or not.

The saddest, and possibly most cover up story, from this draft may end up being the Ravens decision to exploit cheap third-world labor, to fill out their roster.  Drafting Canadian born John Urschel and Brent Urban, suggests a potentially disturbing collapse of ethics on the part of the Ravens organization.  I can understand how being able to dangle the threat of deportation over these young players, and the dread they must feel about returning home to slave away in cold poutine mines, might give a player added motivation to perform, but it just doesn't seem right to me.  Hopefully whatever wealth these players can scrape together will go towards buying their families' way out of the harsh Canadian gulags that they undoubtedly dwell in.  Oh, we want our ham (that's bacon, for our north of the border readers), but we don't want to know where it comes from.  Personally, I find this exploitation of a simple backwoods people to be deplorable.