Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Paul Worrilow: Neglected Hen

Using a statistical approach to finding middle linebackers can be a bit sketchy.  With other positions you can kind of look at a players physical traits, and see how they will compare to his opponent.  How does a particular wide receiver compare physically to the average cornerback?  How does this pass rusher compare to the average offensive tackle?  Over time, and enough plays, a player with a physical advantage should produce results.

Middle linebackers, as well as safeties, are exceedingly peculiar in this way.  They don't necessarily have one guy they will be matched up against.  On one play an MLB could be chasing a tight end, on the next a running back or wide receiver.  It's also not necessarily predetermined who the match up will be, but likely something that won't be known until the ball is snapped.  So, decision making comes into the equation.  That is something subjective, which everyone has to judge for themselves.

Still, certain baselines physical traits do exist, as well as a few somewhat reliable trends.  For one, the majority of MLBs who achieve high levels of success are running sub 4.7 second forties, and often into the 4.5 range.  Secondly, a player's agility score (based on the short shuttle and 3-cone drill) does appear to have a significant relationship to their ability to drop into coverage.  Thirdly, just like OLBs and defensive ends, a good Kangaroo Score has a positive correlation to their likelihood of being a good blitzer.  Nothing is set in stone, these are just the way things tend to go on average.

Being too rigid about what you are looking for here can be a problem.  Not many MLBs are going to be great at everything.  Some are good run stoppers.  Some are good in coverage.  Some are good blitzers.  Some run stoppers are only good against inside runs, while some are better at getting to the sidelines.  It's a mad world!  The only ones worth paying serious attention to, in my opinion, are the guys who can pretty much do it all, but they almost always get drafted before the end of the second round.

Despite being undrafted, and being a Blue Hen, Paul Worrilow actually compares rather favorably to some of the better MLBs in the league.  He's been picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Falcons, and despite the odds, I'm wagering (my ego, not my money) that people will start hearing his name in the next couple years.  Here's how he compares to some of his peers.

Player                               40 time         Bench           Kangaroo Score       Agility Score
Paul Worrilow 4.59 30 -0.302 2.480
Derrick Johnson 4.52              N/A 0.070 1.223
Brian Urlacher 4.59 27 0.458 1.051
Brian Cushing 4.64 30 -0.219 1.133
Patrick Willis 4.51 22 0.217 -0.282
DeMeco Ryans 4.65 23 0.463 0.569
Lawrence Timmons 4.66 25 -0.481 0.702
Lavonte David 4.57 19 -0.547 0.285
Luke Kuechly 4.58 27 0.303 1.256
Sean Lee 4.72 24 -0.219 1.203
Jonathan Vilma 4.61 23 -0.376 1.516
Paul Posluszny 4.70 22 -0.406 0.996

If the Kangaroo scores seem a bit lower in general, this is because these players are graded with all the OLBs and defensive ends who throw off the curve for the other MLBs.  The average result for middle linebackers is probably closer to -0.800 (for now, use that as the baseline for judging these Kangaroo Scores), so all of these players would be above average for their position.  The average Kangaroo Score for Pro Bowl or All Pro MLBs would be -0.362.  I realize that this makes things look a bit odd, compared to a baseline of 0, but I'm sure you will survive.  Scores are shown as the number of standard deviations above or below average that a player is for his position group.

What you will hopefully notice about Paul Worrilow is his shocking agility score that is 2.480 standard deviations above average for his peer group.  He might have the highest agility score of any linebacker currently in the NFL.  The closest current NFL players I can find are A.J. Hawk (1.891) or Von Miller (1.846).  Worrilow also had one of the better 40 times in the 2013 linebacker class, as well as an excellent bench press of 30 repetitions. 

So, what did he actually accomplish in his time at Delaware?
              Tackles       TFL       Sacks       Pass Def.      Int.      FF       Fumbles Rec.
2012          107           9             3                2               -          1            -
2011           97           11             1               2               1          -            1
2010          113          9.5            2               3               -          2            2
2009           60            4             0                1               -          -            2

Now, I'm not claiming that he is going to be the next Brian Urlacher or Ray Lewis.  I'm just saying that he is a very athletic guy, who showed steady and solid production in college.  The most interesting stat to me is his number of tackles for a loss.  This is always one of my favorite stats, since I think it really says something about a player's aggressiveness to go after the play, rather than just letting it come to him.  In this regard, and many others, Worrilow does as well or better than players like Arthur Brown, Manti Teo, or Kevin Minter who were all taken well ahead of him (since everybody was taken ahead of him).

Still, you might wonder if he actually looks like he can play...

He might disappear, never to be heard from again.  In a league where so few middle linebackers are actually worth very much, I would find it to be a shame if Paul Worrilow didn't get a real shot.  Teams seem more interested in recycling a mediocre talent like Rolando McClain.  So how does Paul compare to the overrated McClain, who is being given yet another chance despite accomplishing nothing beyond being a former first round pick?

Player                            40 time       Bench                 Kangaroo Score           Agility Score
Rolando McClain             4.68               24                         -0.564                           0.074

Yup, Rolando was pretty much just average across the board, but somehow people are surprised that he failed.  Paul pretty much crushes him.  However it all plays out, it's always fun to bet on a somewhat odd prospect like Worrilow, even if he does come from an a place that is just a puffed up sandbar.

Oh, one other thing I wanted to make a note of is the annual "he's an undersized linebacker" nonsense that the commentators spout about anyone under 6' 4" and 250 pounds.  The average height and weight, of the 17 Pro Bowl and All Pro middle linebackers that I have numbers for, is 6' 1.2" and 239 pounds (Worrilow is 6'2" and 238#).  People used to always say that Ray Lewis was undersized, when it seems he was very much the typical build for an MLB.  So, maybe, people should shut up about this stuff.


  1. Meh...... Just because your a good athelete and post good numbers in college doesn't man sh** you gotta have the mental part of the game (peyton manning vs. Ryan leaf) Don't get me wrong the athletic/physical part is very imporant but the mental part is much more important.

  2. I wouldn't disagree with the idea that the mental part of the game matters. Unfortunately, I don't know of any reliable method of judging/measuring that. I also don't see much reason to believe that NFL teams have figured out this problem either. In some cases, it is true, that the character issues are obvious, but often they aren't. After all, Ryan Leaf was still selected with the 2nd overall pick.

    1. Actually there is watching any scandals the player is involved with wonderlic score (sometimes this isn't accurate but eh worth looking into) what his coaches say about him (his teammates as well). What the media says (don't listen to this for the most part but sometimes there right about players andrew luck,RG3) The hype of a player. All of these things put together can help you identify his mentality (oh and also watch an interview of him to see his reactions etc.) All of that is probaly enough to build a decent mental profile. Also watching tape of the player (how he reacts to the QB,his reaction time to the play etc.)

    2. I try to take those things into account when I am ranking players for my own purposes, but coming up with an objective "this guy has a character/awareness score of X", is problematic. Incorporating that into the more objective, less opinion based scores, would just muddy the waters for me. So, if I have two players that I both like to a similar degree, but one has had numerous arrests, injuries, or I simply don't like watching him play, yes, then I go with the player who has the fewest "issues".

    3. Your right it is too hard to account for the mentality part of a player..... But drafting busts does workout in the long run.... (Ryan leaf turned into L.T,Phillip rivers,Drew Brees when the GM got fired.) Stupid chargers..... Should've kept brees and just drafted fitzgerald.... ( i will never got why the cardinals drafted so many WR's.... from 03-04... You have a young star in bryant and boldin and you chose ANOTHER WR?) Bryant busted....but still it was his 1st season.... Should've gone with rivers..... ah stupid teams....Imagine if rivers had Boldin,Floyd throwing to right now.... (He'd be in arizona and boldin would still be a cardinal since he was the only stud receiver..) Would joe flacco have a superbowl ring without boldin? Would Brees win a SB in san diego....? The if's are so fun to ponder. Speaking of ponder..... Poor vikings fan.... if they had a real QB they'd have beaten the packers. (waited until round two to grab dalton,kapernick)

  3. Looks like your projection of Worrilow is about to come true. He is virtually a lock to make the Atlanta Falcons roster after 2 impressive preseason games. Kudos my man.

    1. Thanks for the kudos. It's particularly nice to see Worrilow do well since he seems like a good hard working kid. Now I'm left in the awkward position of waiting for an injury to befall Akeem Dent, so that Paul can get on the field with the starters. Hmm, does that make me a bad person?

  4. Why is he a middle linebacker? He seems like a WILL. Bartu (another UDFA playing the SAM) has been getting in the game before Worrilow. They are giving Bartu snaps with the starters. Any fancy marsupial numbers on him?

    I am a falcons fan and have been watching both of these rookies closely. Worrilow is all over the field making plays (but some big mistakes too). Bartu is pretty invisible but it seems like the coaches like him better for some reason.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Worrilow will become a star.

    1. Forgot to give you mad props on your Nate Silver like statistical projections. I like your site.

    2. I only listed him as an MLB because that was what he seemed to mostly play in college, and I was looking for MLB prospects for the Ravens to consider. You're right though, projecting him to the WILL position is perfectly reasonable too.

      Joplo Bartu was a player who flew under my radar, until I started seeing him mentioned alongside Worrilow. He's quite an impressive athlete. His Agility Score would be 0.885, which is quite excellent, but nowhere near Worrilow's result (though nobody comes close to Worrilow in this area). Bartu's Kangaroo Score would be -0.015, which is also very good for a 4-3 linebacker. Your team certainly picked up some very gifted athletes this offseason. His stats in college aren't quite up their with Worrilow's, but are still quite good. He did produce slightly more sacks than Worrilow, which I would kind of expect considering his above average Kangaroo Score.

      I might need to change the Agility Score to the Mongoose or Bumblebee Score, just to take the goofiness up a notch.

  5. WORRILOW. led the falcons in tackles as a rookie... 19 tackles in a game most for team since 1994... you blew this one out of the water! congrats, I am sure going to follow your observations from now on!

    1. Thanks for the interest. Hopefully we can dig up some more interesting guys in 2014.