Monday, May 20, 2013

The 2013 Wide Receivers

This could end up being a future source of embarrassment, but I can live with that.  These are the receivers that the computer feels are the safest picks from the 2013 draft class.  As I've mentioned here, these players are filtered to include only the prospects that had at least average college production (with their stats adjusted to somewhat normalize the differences in offenses), and athletic ability, relative to their peers.  The cutoff for what we will accept as within the average range, is a score no worse than -0.1 standard deviations below average.  This is still close enough to the 50th percentile to not make any real difference.  If I didn't make such minor allowances the pool of prospects would get excessively small.

I'll try to make some comments on a few of them, and might even have future posts to discuss the ones I find most interesting.  This list shouldn't be taken as an endorsement of the players, merely that they fit the profile of a relatively safe pick.  'Big' receivers (over 200#) will also have prospects filtered out with forty yard dash times over 4.6 seconds.  'Small' receivers (under 210#) will be filtered out with forty yard dash times over 4.5 seconds.

For the most part, the Total Score should probably be not be treated seriously, as it can lead to some erroneous conclusions, but I'll leave it in anyway, since I've shown it in the past.  While they are ranked according to their Total Score, it makes more sense to look at how well their Stat Score and Athletic Scores turned out, and how balanced they are. Think of this my computer's WR shopping list.  These guys passed the initial tests to get onto my radar, then I just try to whittle the list a bit more after watching them play.

Big Receivers
Player                             Stat Score               Athletic Score            Total 
Aaron Mellette 1.943 0.457 1.052
Marcus Davis -0.040 1.675 0.989
Charles Johnson 0.652 1.206 0.985
Da'Rick Rogers 0.454 1.052 0.813
DeAndre Hopkins 0.481 0.398 0.431

Small Receivers
Player                             Stat Score              Athletic Score            Total
Ryan Spadola 0.841 0.384 0.613
Quinton Patton 0.799 0.247 0.523
Josh Boyce 0.144 0.688 0.416
Eric Rogers 0.779 -0.069 0.355
Ryan Swope 0.038 0.637 0.338
Markus Wheaton 0.732 -0.061 0.335

I've already discussed Aaron Mellette, so I can skip past his peculiar issues.  Sort of the opposite of Mellette, Marcus Davis is physically rather ideal, but his inconsistent college production makes me a bit nervous.  One other oddball on the list that I really feel I need to make an excuse for is Eric Rogers, who played at Cal Lutheran.  He barely passed the 40 yard dash threshold, coming in precisely at 4.50 seconds, as well as having an athletic score on the fringe of what is acceptable.  I really know very little about him as a player, though I suppose almost everyone else is in the same boat in that sense.  Who watches Cal Lutheran games?  So, Rogers should probably be scratched from the list.  Ryan Spadola is also a bit of a strange pick, coming from Lehigh, but I'll probably get into his story another time.  Spadola could be pretty interesting.  I still have to decide on how much of a deduction should be applied to the Stat Scores for players from Division II and III.

Overall, I would stand behind this list (with some serious reservations about Eric Rogers and Marcus Davis).  Sticking to such an approach should produce a success rate around 65%, though there will be fluctuations from year to year.  That's the way the trend has run, and I'll stick to it for now.  Some added subjective analysis might bump the success rate even higher.  This could be an odd year for the computer's prognostications, since many of these receivers weren't taken very highly, if at all.  In some ways this year reminds me of the computer's view of the 2006 draft.  That was another year where the computer felt the most highly touted prospects weren't as  safe a bet as some of the lesser known players (like Colston, Jennings, Austin and Marshall).  What happened to Chad Jackson and Sinorice Moss?  Hmm.  The computer wasn't a fan of those two.

I have more faith in some of these players, and less in others.  I just have to hope that their ability shines through, when given an opportunity.  When I toss in my own subjective opinion of the players, they get sorted somewhat differently.  The upbeat way of looking at things, is that the computer really only needs to beat the league wide median success rate of 22.5%, and I do think it should exceed that simple mark.  If NFL teams are essentially blindly pulling names out of a hat, then this approach just removes a lot of names from consideration.

I guess I should mention some of the notable exclusions.  Tavon Austin doesn't make the list, since the computer is seriously biased against players with such small frames.  There is a third category of receiver that he does fit into, which I generally don't discuss.  Instead of just the Big and Small receiver groups, these players would be in the Midget range.  This group covers guys like Johnny Knox, DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton, Jacoby Ford, and a few others.  I'm just not a fan of this type of receiver, though I wouldn't deny that they occasionally do prove valuable.  Their upside is somewhat limited.  The only recent player I can think of, who proved to be a consistent high level performer, is Desean Jackson, and I still prefer the more conventional Jeremy Maclin to him   Still, if taken in the mid-to-late rounds I have no problem with these sorts of guys, as the potential payoff versus the investment makes more sense at that point than it does in the first round.

It's not that the computer couldn't target players in this Midget class; it's just a question of whether we should even try.  The traits for these players are generally easy enough to identify.  They conform to the normal Small receiver standards as far as the agility score goes, but tend to have even more blazing speed, and a truly shocking 2nd gear.  It's just their extremely low body mass and diminutive height that kills them on the Athletic Score.  There are usually one or two guys in a draft class that fit this mold, once players are weeded out for inferior college production, and they tend to leap out at you.  For now, I like to leave this as an unofficial sub-category of receivers, until the sample size improves a bit.  It pays to be wary of the little guys as this scientific demonstration will illustrate.

Cordarelle Patterson gets left out due to insufficient production.  If he becomes a star, that's great, but he presents way too much risk.  Rattle off a list of successful receivers who produced as little as him?  Yup, very short list.  In my opinion, the Vikings went out on a limb with this pick.  Still, He does have some similarities to Percy Harvin, who they recently traded away.  Then again, Harvin was also somebody who the computer thought was too risky, so we'll see what happens.

Justin Hunter gets bumped off for similar reasons as Tavon Austin.  The computer doesn't like guys that are excessively thin framed.  The best comparisons I could come up with for Hunter were A.J. Green and Sidney Rice.  Not bad company, but also not a large pool of comparable players.  I suspect he is closer to the Sidney Rice end of that comparison.  Again, too much risk.  Playing across from Kenny Britt could be a good fit for him though.

Aaron Dobson is mildly of interesting, but his college production was too weak to make the list.  Robert Woods was the opposite, with good (though declining) production, but mediocre athletic ability.  I'm curious to see what happens with Woods since he could be competing with the much more explosive Da'Rick Rogers for playing time.  I'll be betting on the undrafted Rogers, obviously (with my fingers crossed).

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