Thursday, June 20, 2013

Da'Rick Rogers: Dead hookers in his trunk?

One of the more interesting stories, from the 2013 NFL Draft, was that of wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers.  Rogers started out at Tennessee before getting kicked out for failed drug tests (supposedly for marijuana use), and perhaps being a bit of a diva/a**hole, then transferred to Tennessee Tech for his junior year.  Many people seemed to feel that he had first round talent, but his personal issues appear to have been responsible for why he went undrafted.  Still, he did eventually get picked up as a undrafted free agent by the Buffalo Bills.

The baggage that he brought with him was fairly well known, so many people thought he would drop to somewhere around the third round.  My computer knew nothing of his issues, and felt he was one of the safer bets in the draft.  When nobody selected him at all, speculation mounted that his personal issues might be more significant than had been previously stated.  After all, NFL GMs wouldn't let a possibly exceptional talent slip through their fingers for no good reason.  Surely, their investigators found the bodies of dead prostitutes in the trunk of his car.  Or, perhaps, they uncovered his involvement in a deer antler smuggling ring.  Unfortunately, details of such misdeeds have not come to light, and as far as we know, he is really just a run of the mill diva and pothead.

The most peculiar thing about this is that Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback from LSU, managed to be selected in the third round, despite a much more thoroughly documented history of idiocy, and a less impressive overall skill-set.  Somehow, a 5'8.5" corner, with just average to good measurables, doesn't scare teams as much, despite failing so many drug tests that he lost track of the exact count.  I still think that Mathieu's main contribution in the NFL is going to be as a kick/punt returner, not as a cornerback.  The idea that this is more valuable than a potential #1 wide receiver seems quite odd to me.

The somewhat unpredictable way in which a player's character is judged isn't really my concern though.  If I was going to judge people based on whether they smoked weed or acted like idiots when they were in college, I wouldn't have many people to talk to nowadays.  I kind of expect college kids to be a bit arrogant and intoxicated.  So, until I hear of something a bit more damning, I will remain optimistic that Da'Rick is no worse of a moron than any other average 20 year old.

The real question for me is, what is his upside, and who does he best compare to that has succeeded in the NFL?  To this question, I think there are 2 players in particular that might provide some interesting insight into Rogers' potential.

Player                 Height              Weight        Wt/40       Kangaroo     Agility    Tot. Athletic
Da'Rick Rogers 6' 2.5" 217 0.403 1.536 1.065 1.052
Mike Williams 6' 1.5" 221 0.379 1.147 0.138 1.030
Hakeem Nicks 6' 1" 212 0.180 0.487 -0.858 0.518

The reasons I selected Mike Williams (Tampa Bay) and Hakeem Nicks for this comparison might not, at first, be immediately obvious.  Yes, in terms of height and weight, they are in a similar class, but the similarities go much further than that.  For one, their 40 times were 4.50, 4.53, and 4.51 (in order of Rogers, Williams an Nicks), which are the sorts of numbers that often fail to excite the masses.  For their size, however, these times are perfectly adequate, and the Wt/40 score shows how many standard deviations above or below average their results are for their size.  Nicks and Williams had better 10 yard splits of 1.52 seconds, with a 2nd gear Score (not shown above) of  0.01 and -0.01 respectively.  Rogers had a somewhat below average 10 yard split of 1.61 seconds, but a 2nd Gear Score of 0.11.  So, Nicks and Williams might be a little quicker off the line, but Rogers should continue to build more speed than the other two. 

They also all show some mixture of explosiveness/power, according to their Kangaroo Score (in my opinion an important trait for large receivers), and perhaps a decent measure of agility.  The Kangaroo Score isn't just about overpowering the opponent, but also probably suggests something about a player's explosion out of his cuts in his routes.  Rogers also possesses a degree of agility that is quite uncommon among large receivers.  Though this sort of agility is more of a requirement for small receivers, it certainly can't hurt for a big guy to have it.  Of course, none of this means that a players can actually catch the ball.  So for that, I'll look to their college stats.

Player                                                   Yards             Recs.      % of offense     TDs   Stat Scr
Da'Rick Rogers Next to last year 1040 67 26.05 9 0.454

Final Year 893 61 19.92 10

Mike Williams Next to last year 837 60 23.89 10 0.180

Final Year* 746 49 18.80 6

Hakeem Nicks Next to last year 958 74 24.53 5 1.023

Final Year 1222 68 29.24 12

The average draftable receiver is responsible for 15.34% of his team's passing offense in his next to last year in college, and 17.75% in his final year.  All three of these players significantly exceeded this average.  In Mike Williams' case, his numbers for his final year would have been even better, but he was kicked off his team (Syracuse) after 7 games.  Da'Rick, similarly would have probably done better in his final year, but his QB was injured for the final 4 games, dropping his yard per game average from 102 yards/game to 59 yards/game. What is most impressive to me, is the 26.05% of his team's offense that he was responsible for, while still only a sophomore (especially in the SEC).  Large receivers tend to develop as players a bit more slowly, but Rogers seemed to really hit the ground running.  While Rogers and Williams scored better athletically, Nicks gains ground in terms of overall college production, according to his Stat Score.   Either way, they are all very appealing receivers.

All three of these players exhibit a combination of physical ability and proven production that is somewhat rare.  Players with these traits tend to be fairly safe bets, but sometimes teams seem to out-think themselves and let extraneous issues cloud there judgment as to what actually matters.  Similar to Rogers, Mike Williams had some character concerns, and fell to the 4th round in the 2010 draft, but has been performing quite admirably since then.  In his rookie year, Williams led all rookie receivers with 964 yards and 11 TDs.  What does that say about his immaturity issues?  While I can understand having some hesitation at the prospect of drafting players with added baggage, what I don't understand is how you can pass on them once the investment/risk of an early round selection is no longer a concern.  Is that backup middle linebacker or potential special teams player that was selected in the fifth round really that much more appealing than Da'Rick Rogers, a player with more upside?

Maybe Rogers' issues from his college days will continue to plague him, whatever those issues may be.  I just don't see why teams were so scared of selecting him.  If he behaves like an idiot, fine.  Squeeze whatever production you can get out of him, and let him move on when his insignificant rookie contract is up.  There's no real loss or risk to the team.  On the other hand, if he pans out, what do you say then?  How would a GM admit that they weren't willing to invest even a 5th round pick, that had almost no real value or likelihood of amounting to anything, because they wanted to make a "safer" pick on some guy who will most likely be cut in 2-3 years, and probably will never have any role beyond a special teams contributor?

In the end, I think it is somewhat unlikely that Da'Rick Rogers won't become at least an average receiver, though average by my standards is still somewhat rare and valuable.  While people may want to obsess over his personality and character, it seems only fair to me that they should also look at what he has accomplished.  If catching the football 139 times, while some 'roided-up lunatic tries to impale you with their helmet, doesn't say something about your character and dedication, then I don't know what does.   I certainly wouldn't want to do it, but then again I hang out with a bunch of people who smoked weed in college and acted like a**holes, so maybe I'm a questionable character.

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