Saturday, May 11, 2013

What should we make of Aaron Mellette?

The Ravens' selection of Aaron Mellette presents an interesting case to examine.  On the one hand, a very basic comparison to his peers, as I discussed here, would suggest that this was an excellent pick.  When lumped in with receivers over 200 pounds, his total combined statistical/athletic score would be 1.052 standard deviations above average.  That is an excellent overall score, and places him amongst players such as Larry Fitzgerald, Dez Bryant, or Julio Jones.  Selecting players by this simple measurement should lead to a successful outcome about 67.5% of the time, which is far better than the Ravens' typical success rate of 16.66%.

Unfortunately, things aren't that simple.  I still think that picking Aaron Mellette was a good idea.  If the Ravens continue to place value on athletically superior players with a good history of college production, their success rate should climb.  Why they haven't been doing this already, I don't know.  Still, if you look deeper into the numbers that make these simple scores, the outlook for Mellette is somewhat less glamorous.  He might still be good, but it is unlikely that he will really compare to the top tier receivers I mentioned above.

This probably doesn't come as a shock to anyone, since he was only a seventh round draft pick.  Still, there have been late round/undrafted receivers that scored well and outperformed their draft position.  Victor Cruz, Miles Austin, and Marques Colston would be example of this type of player.  Even here though, Mellette has some nagging issues that might diminish such hopes.  Since the players' total score is made up of their college Statistical Score (40% of total score for "Big" receivers) and their Athletic Score (60% of total score), any significant irregularity on one score can create an imbalance that is difficult for the other portion of the score to balance out.  Here is how Aaron Mellette compares to some of his more well known peers (in the 'Big' receiver group) in this regard.

Player                           Stat Score       Athletic Score            Combined Score
Vincent Jackson 1.914 2.089 2.019
Calvin Johnson 0.742 2.640 1.881
Andre Johnson 0.178 2.111 1.338
Aaron Mellette 1.943 0.457 1.052
Larry Fitzgerald 1.303 0.822 1.014
Dez Bryant 0.358 1.425 0.998
Roddy White 1.171 0.695 0.885
Miles Austin 0.737 0.927 0.851
Greg Little -0.752 1.865 0.818
Julio Jones -0.020 1.370 0.814
Kenny Britt 1.000 0.678 0.807
Hakeem Nicks 1.023 0.518 0.720
Michael Floyd 0.513 0.853 0.717
Mike Williams (Tampa) 0.180 1.030 0.690
Victor Cruz 0.433 0.853 0.685
Brandon Marshall 0.096 1.003 0.640
David Boston 0.668 0.588 0.620
Marques Colston 0.322 0.799 0.608
Torrey Smith 0.486 0.624 0.569
Average Result                  0.647                   1.123

A couple notes should be made about players on this list.  First, Torrey Smith and Victor Cruz really belong more to the "Small" receiver group, but I'm listing them here anyway.  They score well enough among the "Big" receivers to still serve as interesting comparisons.  Secondly, some players like Brandon Marshall or Greg Little would probably have higher Stat Scores, if they had been regular starters for more than one year in college.  The Stat Score looks at the final two years of college production for a receiver, so, obviously, missing a year or a portion of one can give a somewhat skewed picture of things.

What you will probably notice is that Aaron Mellette's total score is getting a significant boost from his Stat Score of 1.943, while his athletic score is a good, but not shocking 0.457.  I don't mean to sound as if I am complaining about his excellent college production, because I'm not.  It's just that this distorts things a bit when you are trying to evaluate him.  There are some other players, like Vincent Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald who had similarly outrageous Stat Scores, but they paired them with better athletic results.  We also have to be aware that Aaron Mellete compiled his stats at Elon, so level of competition is going to be an issue.

Even with all of that said, an Athletic Score of 0.457 seems pretty good.  You might point to players like Hakeem Nicks, Roddy White, or Kenny Britt as players who appear to be somewhat comparable.  Unfortunately, things get a bit complicated here too.  As always, there are numbers within numbers.  And the way Aaron Mellette puts together this respectable Athletic Score is perhaps less than ideal.  The simplest way to look at this is to show what goes into the Athletic Score.

Player                                       Wt/40          Kangaroo          BMI Dev.       Agility      Total
Vincent Jackson 1.433 2.553 1.557              N/A 2.089
Calvin Johnson 1.954 3.466 1.152              N/A 2.640
Andre Johnson 1.327 2.453 2.094              N/A 2.111
Aaron Mellette 0.671 0.254 0.772 -1.155 0.475
Larry Fitzgerald 0.622 0.787 1.158 -0.316 0.822
Dez Bryant 0.568 1.735 1.585 -1.308 1.425
Roddy White 0.278 1.044 0.217 0.237 0.695
Miles Austin 0.496 1.267 0.495 -0.150 0.927
Greg Little 0.826 2.304 1.881 0.313 1.865
Julio Jones 1.362 1.638 0.630 0.515 1.370
Kenny Britt 0.437 0.895 0.358              N/A 0.678
Hakeem Nicks 0.180 0.487 1.010 -0.858 0.518
Michael Floyd 1.041 0.836 0.674 -1.014 0.853
Mike Williams (Tampa) 0.379 1.147 1.485 0.138 1.030
Victor Cruz 0.190 1.034 1.144 0.062 0.853
Brandon Marshall 0.758 1.268 0.552 -0.433 1.003
David Boston 0.496 0.463 1.049 -0.242 0.588
Marques Colston 0.641 1.145 0.019 -0.894 0.799
Torrey Smith 0.443 0.891 0.095 0.793 0.624
Average Result                            0.742              1.350               0.943            -0.287

The Wt/40 score is just a measure of a player's 40 yard dash time relative to their weight.  The Kangaroo Score is a measurement of explosiveness.  The BMI Dev. shows how many standard deviations above or below average a player is in terms of body mass.  Players with lower BMIs might have a higher risk of injury, due to their lankier frames.  The Agility Score shows how many standard deviations above or below average a player was in the short shuttle drill and 3-cone drill.  The different score are not all valued the same, when it comes to combining them for the final score.

The Agility Score can, for the most part, be ignored here.  It tends to be of greater value to smaller receivers who rely more on evading cornerbacks, rather than overpowering them.  I am just including it so as to eliminate the possibility that Aaron Mellette might have done well here, which he hasn't.  Not a big deal.

While Aaron Mellette's Wt/40 Score is comparable to the average result for this particular group of "Big" receivers, though things kind of fall apart after this point.  What really stands out is the sheer domination that the rest of the receivers show in terms of lower body explosiveness, as measured by the Kangaroo Score.  The closest players to Aaron's score of 0.254, are David Boston (0.463) and Hakeem Nicks (0.487), who are both still scoring significantly better than Aaron.  That the average Kangaroo Score for this group is 1.350 is fairly shocking, and probably says something important about what traits teams should be looking for amongst large receivers.  There are exceptions, of course, but this list does contain a rather large percentage of top tier "Big" receivers in the league.

In the end, we have a picture of Aaron Mellette as a player who has good speed for his size, produced well in college, but probably lacks the type of explosiveness that you normally associate with top tier large receivers.  None of this is to say that he will not turn out well.  He still measures up better than most of the receivers that the Ravens have selected in the past, and could prove to be quite productive.  There just might be a cap on how far he can go.  I still expect he could be significantly better than any of the receivers on the Ravens' roster, not named Torrey Smith.

None of this is meant to be a criticism of Mellette.  I just thought it would be good to provide a deeper look at wide receivers than I did in the post about the statistical drafting of receivers, and how it can improve a team's odds of success.  This just goes a step further, and should improve a team's results even more. 

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