Sunday, November 24, 2013

Vincent Rey: Opportunity Knocks

When the unheralded Vincent Rey embarrassed the Ravens a couple weeks ago, it piqued my interest.  With 15 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 passes defensed, and 1 interception, Rey clearly stood out, even if getting sacks against the Ravens' interior offensive line isn't quite as challenging as it should be (Gradkowski!).  He then followed that up with another fine, if somewhat less shocking performance against the Browns the next week (12 tackles, and 1 pass defensed).  So, I thought it would be interesting to go back and see what the story was with this strange individual from Duke, and why he went undrafted in 2010.

First, let's look at how he performed at his college pro day (since nobody bothered to invite him to the combine).  His Kangaroo Score (measuring lower body explosiveness) and his Agility Score (from the short shuttle and 3-cone drill), will be shown in the form of how many standard deviations he was above or below average, relative to his peers.  His other measurements are more obvious.  I'll also include the results for the linebackers who were taken in first 2 rounds (excluding 3-4 OLBs), just for comparison.

NAME Height  Weight    40 Yard  Kangaroo     Agility      Pick #
Vincent Rey 6'2" 240 4.58 0.436 0.871              U
Rolando McClain 6' 3.3" 249 4.68 -0.564 0.074 8
Sean Weatherspoon 6' 1.3" 239 4.62 0.422 0.401 19
Koa Misi 6' 2.5" 251 4.75 0.976 0.551 40
Sean Lee 6' 2.1" 236 4.72 -0.219 1.203 55
Brandon Spikes 6' 2.7" 249 5.05 -1.282          N/A 62
Pat Angerer 6' 2.2" 235 4.71 -0.555 0.612 63

Since I don't separate linebackers into different groups (because where they wind up playing could vary), such as MLBs, 3-4 OLBs, or 4-3 inside or outside linebackers, or whatever, this can create an issue over the Kangaroo Score for smaller linebackers.  The larger 3-4 OLBs throw off the curve for these smaller players, and can create a bad impression about results that are actually pretty good.  To adjust the scale a bit, for better understanding, I'll throw this out there.  The average results for middle linebackers is probably closer to -0.800 (for now, use that as the baseline for judging these Kangaroo Scores).  The average Kangaroo Score for Pro Bowl or All Pro MLBs would be -0.362.

So, compared to his more highly drafted brethren, Vincent Rey would have been the fastest (40 time), 2nd most explosive (Kangaroo), and 2nd most agile.  His physical stature, at 6' 2", 240#, would have also fit right in with his peers.  Despite all of this, descriptions of Rey, prior to the 2010 draft, often mentioned his "lack of size" or " limited speed and athleticism".  Considering the lack of interest that teams showed in him, it seems that they shared similar thoughts.  Of course, none of this really makes any sense, but what can you do?  Perhaps the funniest aspect of this is how Rolando McClain's athletic ability was described at the time.  CBS praised McClain's,"balance, speed and pursuit quickness", while his actual measurable results screamed "average to poor".

Still, having athletic ability is only part of the story.  At some point, you want to see a player actually produce in college.  So, let's look at Vincent Rey's college stats in his final 3 years, leaving out his freshman season when he got limited playing time.

        Year   Tackles         TFL        Sack             Int           PD            FF
2009 98 8.5 1 2 5 0
2008 109 10.5 2 1 5 1
2007 111 8.5 2.5 0 4 3

I wouldn't claim that these are the most shocking stats I have ever seen for a linebacker, but they certainly look quite solid.  So, let's compare these stats to the frequently mocked Rolando McClain, who was selected with the 8th overall pick in the same draft, despite his significantly worse athletic ability.

        Year    Tackles         TFL        Sack            Int           PD            FF
2009 105 14.5 4 2 6 1
2008 95 12 3 1 7 0
2007 75 5 1 2 4 0

While McClain played for a vastly more powerful college team (Alabama), his overall statistical production rarely exceeded that of Vincent Rey.  The main difference between them would be the number of tackles for a loss that McClain had, though the degree to which McClain can credit the talent of his teammates for this is debatable.  Even here, though, McClain only significantly bested Rey in their senior years, with Rey tending to produce at a more regular and steady pace.  There is also the pesky issue of McClain playing in, approximately, 14 games each year, while Rey only played in about 12.  So McClain was on the field for about 15% more games.  Either way, I wouldn't say that either player was leaps and bounds ahead of the other, in terms of actual college results.

None of this is meant to imply that Vincent Rey should have been selected in the 1st round.  If anything, it is more of a statement about how unwise a selection that McClain was.  Speculating as to when Rey should have been selected is pointless.  I just think that when you weigh his physical potential and production, against that of his peers, you start to wonder why such a prospect was completely ignored.  A mid round pick would have seemed to be a fair gamble.  I certainly don't want to portray Rey as the next Brian Urlacher, but compared to many of the foolish picks that teams make, Rey seems to possess a rather plausible resume that NFL GMs should have taken more seriously.   It's still early in his career, and I can't say how things will turn out, or if he will continue to get an opportunity, but looking back at his numbers, he strikes me as a rather intriguing player who I wouldn't bet against doing quite well.  I'll be curious to see what happens with him.

Also, because I thought it was an interesting article, some of you might be interested in reading this, which gives some description of Rey's background, and how being overlooked seems to have been a bit of a trend in his life.  Overall, this piece gives me the impression that he is a decent hardworking kid, that somehow slipped through the cracks. 

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