Friday, March 28, 2014

Kangaroo Court: The 2014 Defensive Tackles

Very gradually, just slowly enough to not be noticed by my friends and family, my brain is turning into tapioca pudding from staring at information related to the NFL Draft.  I really need to find a more sensible hobby.  Maybe I'll build a trebuchet in my backyard.  Or, perhaps, I could learn to knit sweaters for Reilly.  Almost anything would be more productive than obsessing over the draft, and probably much less frustrating.

Now, on with the lunacy...

My first impression of the defensive tackles that are available for the 2014 NFL Draft, is that they aren't particularly exciting.  There are a few that I think should turn out quite well, but the overall quality and depth seems very weak.  At some point I'll really have to compare this group to the ones from some of the more recent drafts, to see if this really is a weak crop, or if it is just my imagination.  Either way, I just thought I should mention this, to explain why I'm going to be exceptionally negative on the DT subject.

As always, I will include the player's Kangaroo Score (my measure of lower body power), and the Agility Score (which comes from their short shuttle drill and 3-cone drill).  Each score is given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is above, or below, the average result for someone in their position group.  I will also list the average number of tackles for a loss (TFL) that a player had in their last two years in college, just to provide some rough measure of how disruptive they were.

While I am sure that some player will emerge, who does quite well despite not being seen as very appealing by the computer (and vice versa, someone the computer likes will under-perform), this isn't of any great concern to me.  I'm just trying to see if a team would wind up with better results, over a period of time, if they bet on certain players, that fit a particular athletic/statistical profile.  I don't expect this to appeal to everyone, but if you're curious as to my justifications for this, you can read the post on Athleticism and the Defensive Tackle, which should quickly put most people to sleep.

This list will continue to be modified/updated as new data and prospects come to my attention.  I won't list every prospect here, but will just focus on the ones that I think are interesting for one reason or another.  Last updated: 4/6/2014

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Kangaroo Score:  0.195   Agility Score:  1.517   TFL:  18.5
So far, Aaron Donald is far and away the best/safest DT prospect that I can see amongst the players who will be taken in the draft.  While he may not have the raw power that I normally would like a prospect to have, his ridiculous Agility Score more than adequately makes up for this.  He has also been insanely productive despite being surrounded by mediocre talent at Pittsburgh, which is obviously nice to see.  I suspect he will be an extremely safe pick, but with that being said, I think his success will depend on what team he winds up on.  For a 3-4 defense he could be somewhat useless, as the linemen you see in that defense tend to be relied upon to tie up blockers so that the OLBs can do the pass rushing, and I doubt that he has the power to do that.  In a 4-3 defense, he could be a quick (1.59 10-yard split) and slippery penetrator of the opponent's offensive line.  Even here, I think he would benefit from having a mammoth nose tackle next to him, to provide the run stopping presence, and to allow Donald to do what he does best.  He might even be interesting as a 4-3 DE, though his scores come out very differently when compared to the players in that position group (1.014 Kangaroo Score, and a 0.142 Agility Score when compared to DEs & 3-4 OLBs).  He's probably the only DT that I can really justify taking in the 1st round.

Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
Kangaroo Score:  -0.400   Agility Score:  -1.800   TFL:  4.75
Do you remember when Terrence Cody was a hot nose tackle prospect?  Do you remember how that turned out?  Actually, I don't think it will turn out quite that badly for Nix, but I do expect him to have significant troubles.  I'm not really that concerned about Nix's lack of impressive college production, as nose tackles don't tend to be great accumulators of stats.  I am, however, mildly horrified by his measurable traits, as his lack of power and agility spells major trouble.  I've heard some discussions saying that he could still be recovering from injuries, which might perhaps explain some of this, but I'm not here to give the benefit of the doubt.  I am here to doubt.  I think Nix will most likely end up being a fairly high draft pick that some team will quickly regret.  This appears to be one of those cases where people look at an enormous player (he weighs 331 pounds) from a famous college football program, and they just assume he is actually powerful, even if all of the evidence points in the opposite direction.  Much like Santa Claus, I think his physical proportions suggest a high-cookie diet, rather than power.  I would nix whatever plans I might have when it comes to selecting him (I had to say it).

Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Kangaroo Score:  -0.618   Agility Score:  -0.477   TFL:  9.5
Jernigan was moderately productive in his time at Florida State, but not so productive as to justify being selected in the first 2 rounds, where he is projected to go.  When we also consider his poor athletic ability, I really fail to see what people are so excited about here.  Also, his name is Timmy.  You have to hold that against him.  I suppose that there are some who call him...Tim.  I would suggest getting a refund on your season tickets, if your team selects Jernigan at the top of the draft.

RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Kangaroo Score:  1.515   Agility Score:  -0.001   TFL:  10.25
Athletically, these are the kind of results I would expect from a nose tackle, just pure power.  He is a true demonstration of die vollidiot stärke in action.  At 6'6" tall, however, that position probably wouldn't be a great fit for him.  He probably fits better as a 3-4 DE, though I'm not sure if his mediocre agility wouldn't be a problem there.  While his Agility Score is perfectly acceptable, and average, how he reaches this result is a bit peculiar.  His result from the 3-Cone drill was -0.717 standard deviations below average.  On the other hand, his result from the short shuttle was 0.714 standard deviations above average.  I normally associate this with a player that has a stiff upper body, but a somewhat flexible lower half.  I don't enjoy discussing other men's flexible lower halves, so you can make of this what you will, and come to your own conclusions about Hageman.  I think teams will find a place for him, and he could be useful in a 3-4 or a 4-3, just because of his exceptional power, but I'm not sure if I would bet on him becoming a star.  He was only moderately productive, which is a bit disappointing considering his physical gifts, so I wouldn't take him before the 2nd round.  Still, players with his ability and level of production can generally be expected to become at least solid/average players at least 60% of the time, which is a higher likelihood of success than you will typically get with most other DT prospects.  He supposedly scored a 13 on his Wonderlic, so I would have to expect that he is indeed a moron, not that there is anything wrong with that.  The odds that this leads to him being bankrupt within five minutes of filing his retirement papers is not anything for us to be concerned with.

Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame
Kangaroo Score:  ?   Agility Score:  ?   TFL:  11
I'm actually fairly curious about Tuitt, based on his statistical production in Notre Dame's defense, but until I get some sort of results from his pro day, I can't really say too much one way or another.

Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
Kangaroo Score:  -1.620   Agility Score:  ?   TFL:  11
I still need the data to figure out his Agility Score, but at this point the signs are pointing in a troubling direction.  While he was a moderately productive player, it's not as if he didn't have a fair amount of talent around him at South Carolina to give him a boost.  I would be extremely wary of a defensive tackle with such poor Kangaroo Score.  Unless Kelcy quarrels with chipmunks, he might get overpowered.

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Kangaroo Score:  -0.842   Agility Score:  -0.327   TFL:  18.5
Unlike a lot of the mediocre prospects I see in this draft, Sutton at least produced at a very high level while in college.  Unfortunately, I still have some concerns, because his teammates Carl Bradford, Davon Coleman, and Chris Young also produced at a high level, making me wonder who was really benefiting from this collection of talent.  So far, I am starting to suspect that Sutton might have been one of the larger beneficiaries in this situation, based on his relatively poor athletic traits.  He did improve his Agility Score to 0.048 at his pro day, but I don't generally count that as the official result unless I have to.  Even if I did adjust this score, it still wouldn't be high enough for me to take a gamble on him.  I wouldn't dismiss him altogether, but I also wouldn't pin my hopes, or a high draft pick, on him.  I would probably avoid him, though I am curious to see what he becomes.

Kerry Hyder, DT, Texas Tech
Kangaroo Score:  -0.394  Agility Score:  1.473   TFL:  12.75
Since he is only projected to be a sixth round pick by most people, I could see some reasons to take a shot at him.  He sort of measures up as a poor man's Aaron Donald.  Similar to Donald, I would probably expect him to fit better in a 4-3 defense.  Personally, I probably wouldn't pursue him, but I wouldn't mock someone who does choose to do so.

Beau Allen, NT, Wisconsin
Kangaroo Score:  1.049  Agility Score:  0.977   TFL:  4.75
My, my, what have we got here?  For a player who is projected to be a late-round-to-undrafted prospect, I have to say that I am rather intrigued.  As I said when discussing Louis Nix, I am not terribly concerned with a nose tackle that has mediocre stats, and as you would expect Allen's college stat sheet really isn't too stunning.  His average TFL result would actually be slightly higher, at 6.5, if we looked at his two-year results prior to the 2013 season, after which his role in Wisconsin's defense changed a bit.  He's actually eerily similar to Nix in almost every statistical category, outside of tackles, where Nix has a bit of a lead, though he obviously crushes Nix in terms of athletic ability.  Regardless, all I want out of a nose tackle is a fat guy with the power and athletic ability to tie up opposing offensive linemen, and for the paltry cost it would take to acquire Allen, I think he could be well worth going after.  When it comes to nose tackles, you almost require a Kangaroo Score that is around one standard deviation above average, and Allen manages to hit that mark.  As for his agility, his nimbly-toed results are really quite unusual for a man as large as he is (329 pounds), which is just a nice little bonus.  The biggest concern I have with someone like Allen, is whether a team will actually give him enough of an opportunity, as late round picks tend to be treated rather poorly.  Despite this, I view him as a interesting target for Team Kangaroo, as there is minimal risk or investment required to go after him, but potentially a reasonable payoff.  I might actually target him as high as the 5th round, depending on who else is available at other positions, though he is generally projected to go even later than that.

Bruce Gaston, DT, Purdue
Kangaroo Score:  1.024  Agility Score:  0.508   TFL:  6.25
Athletically, Gaston has a lot in common with Beau Allen, despite being about 20 pounds lighter.  While this makes Allen's Agility Score seem even more impressive, due to his enormousness, I think I actually prefer Gaston in many ways.  Gaston may, or may not, be a suitable player to be used as a nose tackle, but I think he is more versatile than Allen.  I also think he benefited less from surrounding talent than Allen did, as Purdue has kind of been an embarrassment the last couple years.  The more I picked apart their stats, the more the data seemed to point to Gaston as the preferred pick, amongst the late-round lottery ticket types of DTs.  When I watched Gaston play, he clearly seemed to be the more disruptive of the two, and while I wouldn't bet on Gaston becoming a star, I do suspect he should at least provide good depth for a team looking for a DT..  He generally seems to be ranked as a 7th round to undrafted prospect, but I suspect he could turn out to be better than a number of the guys who will be taken in the first three rounds....if he is given a chance....which probably won't happen.  I would happily target him in the last couple of rounds.

Monday, March 24, 2014

When you wish upon a star...

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you... free agency

Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I don't want to do it!!!  I don't want to talk about free agency!!!

I wasn't going to say anything about the free agency period.  People want to hear nice things about their team's decisions, and maintain a sense of optimism.  I'm not very good at the optimism thing.  Out of some basic awareness of the possibility that I might be an assh*le, I thought I should just keep my grim thoughts to myself...but it's just so hard sometimes (that's what she said).

I really don't care that the Ravens resigned Eugene Monroe, despite the fact that I have repeatedly ranted about how I suspect Monroe is probably mediocre.  It was a predictable move, and I had already braced myself for this inevitability.  The only interesting aspect of this, from my perspective, was that they could have signed Jared Veldheer for slightly less money.  Not everybody is sold on Veldheer to the degree that I probably am, so I guess the benefits of this alternative outcome would be debatable.

Now, even if we ignore the Veldheer option, does it strike anyone as interesting that Monroe only pulled a contract that will pay him $7.5 million per year (couch cushion money)?  Seems to me that there wasn't really that much demand for him, though some will spin this in a more positive manner.  Team loyalty!  Ozzie is a genius!  He wants to play for a winner!  Blah, blah, blah...whatever.  What if the team just felt compelled to show that they really got something out of the two draft picks they traded away to acquire Monroe, rather than viewing that as a sunk cost, and moving on?  People frequently have a difficult time backing away from investments that don't pay off to the degree that they had hoped they would (Hello, Iraq!).  On the other hand, if the team had pursued Veldheer, it most likely would have cost them a mid round compensatory pick in 2015, that they would likely receive for the loss of DT Arthur Jones.  If there is one thing that the Ravens do well, it is to acquire compensatory picks, which is why they rarely target young, expensive free agents, which would count against them in the compensatory pick calculations.  After all, those compensatory picks are quickly becoming the bulk of their picks, since they seem increasingly eager in recent years to trade away draft picks to fill holes at positions they are perpetually incapable of drafting well. 

Umm, but I'm not annoyed by the Monroe signing at all.  Nope.  Not at all.  He's serviceable, even if I do think he is a bit overpaid.

No, it wasn't the signing of WR Steve Smith that stirred me to rant like a loon.  After all, how can you not like Steve Smith?  He's been an excellent receiver, who has had a great career.  Now, he may be a 5'9", 35 year old receiver (at the start of the 2014 season), who will probably stunt the development of any young receivers on the Ravens roster, as they will now get less playing time, but...umm...sure he still probably has something left in the tank.  Actually, the possibility of stunting a young receiver's development would only be a problem if we believed that the Ravens had accidentally drafted one with talent, which is improbable considering the team's history.  In the end it is probably a good thing for the Ravens to sign Smith, which is basically a public acknowledgement of the fact that they can't draft anyone to play the position.

No, that wasn't what annoyed me, because as these things go, Steve Smith is rather cheap, and probably a fairly harmless acquisition.

No, the thing that really annoyed me was the one acquisition that I probably think was their smartest move.  That would be the acquisition of Jeremy Zuttah from the Buccaneers.  Yes, I think Zuttah is probably a fairly decent player.  The computer even backs me up on this hunch, as his -0.405 Kangaroo Score and 0.837 Agility Score, with a short shuttle time of 4.54 seconds, places him comfortably within the range of what I expect to see from a successful center prospect (though I am a bit wary of him as a guard).  So, why is this making me so crazy?  I should be happy about this, shouldn't I?

The reason it annoys me is because, once again, the Ravens are trading away draft picks to address "needs".  Sure, people will say that it is only a 5th round pick in 2015, but that's not the point.  In this past year alone, the team has already traded away 3 draft picks for offensive linemen, with this being the 4th.  At what point did the Ravens decide that throwing these sort of band-aids on a situation made more sense than trying to find cheap young talent in the draft?  

Now, I'm sure that some people will say that replacing Gradkowski at center was a priority, and I would offer no defense to Gino.  He sucked.  I still doubt that they will cut him, which is perhaps the funniest aspect of all of this, because that would be too much of an admission of failure on the team's part.  He will probably stay on the team, tying up a roster spot, until his rookie contract is up.  Continuing to occupy that roster spot means that the team won't be giving someone else a chance to come in and compete.  That just means you need to make even better decisions in the future with your draft picks, in order to compensate for the dead weight you are carrying.

Of course, if Zuttah ends up performing at a reasonable level (which I suspect he will), nobody will care.  People often seem to take the attitude that whenever they manage to identify who the worst player is, that upgrading that position is then such a priority that common sense can be ignored.  You say that you have to have a big name QB to get to the Super Bowl?  Okay, blow $20 million on that, and see if that works.  Oh, but you say that you now need a top tier left tackle to protect him, or you QB isn't worth much?  Throw down another $10 million.  Wait!  Now, they are just blitzing us up the middle, and our center sucks!  WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT!  Wait a minute.  Now our offense is really clicking, but our defense is giving up so many points that we are still losing games.  What should we do?

Look, no matter what you do, every team is going to have its weak spots.  A smart team figures out how to work around this, and conceal these weaknesses.  Now, would I have been content to stick with Gradkowski?  No, but I already drafted a center last year in anticipation of Gradkowski's seemingly inevitable failure.  Maybe that pick will eventually work out, maybe it won't.  Either way, there will be other options in this year's draft as well.  Finding somebody who could at least be a serviceable replacement should have been quite manageable, since there was no direction to go but up.  Even a mediocre center would have been fine.  A competent or average player is a surprisingly underrated commodity.

All I know is that continuing to pursue these kinds of acquisitions will generally end up hurting you down the road.  I just feel as if many of the moves that the Ravens have made in recent years have had the faint aroma of panic and desperation about them.  It's a scent I normally associate with the Jets.  Then again, victory supposedly smells like "napalm in the morning", so knowing which direction your franchise is headed could be tricky.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kangaroo Court: The 2014 DEs & 3-4 OLBs

Well, I guess it is about time to start talking about the 3-4 OLBs and 4-3 DEs  that will be available in the draft.  When discussing pass rushers, people will sometimes say that it is just as important for a player to be good against the run, as it is for them to be good at rushing the QB.  These people are wrong, and quite possibly brain damaged.  Much like the way that a girl with a "great personality" might relate to run defenders, it is rather easy to scientifically demonstrate the obvious superiority of the open minded and ample-bosomed alternative that is our more flashy pass rusher.  I'm still unsure about the role that an emotionally distant and neglectful father plays in the development of pass rushers, but at least for the female half of this comparison it seems to be a bit beneficial, at least when it come to creating the necessarily lowered standards I generally appreciate/require.

With that in mind, we are going to look for some large breasted dimwits, metaphorically speaking.  To narrow down the search for the bimbo pass rusher of our dreams, I am going to use the old standby method that I sort of laid out in the post about Explosive Pass Rushers (and if you are really bored, there is another post about High Agility Pass Rushers).  Basically, this all boils down to weighing a player's athletic ability as well as the average number of tackles for a loss that they had in their final two years in college, to generate a score that dictates in what round we would be willing to select them.  This has generally worked out quite well in the past, though a lot of that is because we set rather high standards, and don't really take a lot of risks.  A player either falls to us, at the price we are willing to pay in terms of draft picks, or we simply pass on them.  There are plenty of fish in the sea, and no reason to chase after them.

To a rather large extent, I would say that the computer's above average success rate with this position group really hinges on having a very dim view of most prospects.  By sticking rather rigidly to the draft grades that the computer assigns, which are often lower than where the players end up being selected, NFL teams end up doing a lot of the work for us.  They draft the players that we are wary of, or just have a passing interest in, well before we would be willing to, leaving us to just go after the players that we feel really secure in pursuing.

As always, I will list the player's Kangaroo Score (which measure lower body power), and their Agility Score (which comes from the short shuttle drill and the 3-cone drill).  The scores are shown in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is above, or below, the average result for a player in their position group.  The ideal prospect, in my opinion, would have a Kangaroo Score that is at around one standard deviation above average, an at least average Agility Score, and have averaged at least 15 tackles for a loss in his final two college seasons.  Of course, in the end, we often have to make some compromises here.

This list will continue to be modified/updated as new data and prospects come to my attention.  I don't plan to list every prospect here, but instead will just show the ones that I think are interesting for either good or bad reasons.  Updated: 5/4/14

Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Kangaroo Score:  1.313   Agility Score:  0.781   Avg TFL:  20
He is an extremely impressive athlete, with proven and consistent production.  What's not to like?  Not much really.  The only criticism I can come up with is his age, as he will turn 24 at the start of the 2014 season.  In the end though, I think he is still the best/safest pass rushing prospect in the draft, and I have a much higher opinion of him than I do of his main rival Jadeveon Clowney.  Some will say that he is best suited to play OLB in a 3-4, which I might agree with, but I wouldn't rule out playing DE in a 4-3, as he has the power and reach to survive there, despite his somewhat smaller frame.  I see Mack as a potentially very special talent, with the rest of the field lagging quite a few steps behind him.  The computer gives him a very solid 1st round grade, and he strikes me as a rather safe bet.

Jadeveon "Bonzo"Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Kangaroo Score:  1.473   Agility Score:  -0.276   Avg TFL:  17.5
Yes, he is physically gifted, and did well in college.  Despite that, he isn't nearly as freakish or unusual as people are leading us to believe.  That doesn't mean that I don't think he can do well.  I just think people have become a bit deranged in hyping him.  I think some of the maturity/effort concerns are valid, and wouldn't be surprised if it takes him a year or two to adjust to the NFL.  Still, the computer gives him a 1st round grade, and I am fine with that.  Probably best suited to continue playing as a 4-3 DE, though 3-4 OLB is a possibility too.  If I have one gripe about him, which pushes him below Mack, it relates to his speeding tickets, though not for the obvious reasons.  If you are going to blatantly accept a car from boosters (because he obviously couldn't afford this car as a college student), you should hold out for something nicer than a Chrysler 300.  Yup, I have to deduct some style points for that.  Should have gone with something German instead.

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Kangaroo Score:  0.563   Agility Score:  1.255   Avg TFL:  20.75
I have somewhat mixed feelings about Barr.  As a pass rusher, he seems to get ragdolled by offensive tackles more than I would like, though some of that may be due to a lack of experience, since he has only been playing defense for two years.  Still, there's no point in having a system for picking players, if you're not going to trust it, and the computer did give him a 1st round grade.  He may or may not become a great pass rusher, but the odds are in his favor that he should at least become a good player of some sort.  Personally, I think he would make a more interesting 4-3 outside linebacker, since he looks pretty good dropping into coverage, which probably isn't surprising when you consider his Agility Score.  Among the few pass rushing prospects that the computer gave a high draft grade to, Barr makes me the most nervous, though mainly for subjective reasons that probably can't be backed up with data.

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Kangaroo Score:  1.014   Agility Score:  0.142   Avg TFL:  18.5
Since there was some curiosity about how Aaron Donald would project as a 4-3 DE, I thought I would throw this in here.  I normally wouldn't include him in this group, since at 285# he is somewhat outside of the weight class of these other prospects.  As a DT, his scores come out a bit differently, as we are comparing him to a different sort of player.  For a DT his Kangaroo Score would be 0.195, and his Agility Score would be 1.517.  So, as a DT he would be much more nimble than his average peer, but only shows slightly above average power.  As a DE he is more powerful than his average peer, but only moderately more nimble.  A good argument could probably be made for either position.  Either way, he has been insanely productive during his last three years in college, and seems well worth a 1st round pick, though I think he is much more likely to succeed in a 4-3 defense, as I'm not sure what role he would be able to play in a 3-4.

Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kangaroo Score:  0.370   Agility Score:  0.515   Avg TFL:  12.25
He's not a bad athlete, but when we also factor in his college production, the best I can do is to give him a 6th round grade.  Sounds harsh, I know, but I think there is significant bust potential here.  Like his fellow Missouri teammate Michael Sam, he really produced very little before this past season.  Even if I did judge him solely off of only his final year, the best I could do would be to give him a 4th round grade, but I place too much value in seeing players have more than one year of success to make that sort of compromise.  Risk, risk, risk, risk...I don't like it.

Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Kangaroo Score:  0.118   Agility Score:  -0.721   Avg TFL:  10.5
There has been a fair amount of attention given to Dee Ford, and much of it relates to his performance at the Senior Bowl.  My question would be, what was he doing before the Senior Bowl?  Prior to his senior year, he produced very little, which would scare the hell out of me if I was seriously considering him in the first 2 rounds of the draft.  While his production in his senior year did go up (which if judged on its own, might merit a 2nd round grade from the computer, if his athletic ability was better), it was very much of the Dwight Freeney variety, where he seemed to strictly go after the opposing QB, with little production outside of this area.  Oh, and how can I forget to mention this, he also seems to have recurring issues related to a back injury.  I'm sure there's no reason to worry about that.  I would have to strongly bet against a positive outcome here.

Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Kangaroo Score:  -1.002   Agility Score:  0.456   Avg TFL:  19.75
Despite his somewhat impressive production in college, his limited athletic ability makes him too much of a risk to take in the first couple of rounds, where he is generally projected to go.  That he will also be 24 at the start of the 2014 season, is a bit of a concern.  Generally, the history for players like Van Noy has been extremely poor.  If we also factor in his somewhat smaller size (243#), I think he is a better fit as a 4-3 linebacker, though even there I probably wouldn't take him before the 4th or 5th round.  He's not the droid I am looking for.

Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Kangaroo Score:  -0.092   Agility Score:  0.265   Avg TFL:  18.25
Weighing the value of Scott Crichton puts me in a weird position.  Athletically, there is nothing wrong with him.  There is also nothing terribly exceptional.  He is just a somewhat average guy.  At the same time, what he accomplished with his mediocre physical abilities is rather impressive.  When I picked apart his numbers, the same way I did for Jeffcoat and Murphy, his results were rather compelling.  I really wouldn't want to bet against Crichton doing well, but at the same time, I have to admit I wouldn't gamble on him in the first few rounds because his lack of exceptional athletic ability makes him really hard to read.  It wouldn't be unprecedented for someone like him to do quite well, but it is more of a gamble than I like to take at the top of the draft.  The odds are strongly stacked against him, but he could be interesting.

Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
Kangaroo Score:  1.776   Agility Score:  0.135   Avg TFL:  18.5
When I think of Kareem Martin, I  hear Jeremy Clarkson's voice in my head screaming "POWER!!!".  That is what you have with Martin, a pure power player, with gracefulness taking a backseat.  This is a very interesting prospect.  Despite all of the Clowney hype, I would argue that Martin is potentially just as good of an athlete, and in some cases actually better.  While people discuss Clowney's impressive 40 time (which is of debatable value for a DE), they ignore that at the 10-yard split Martin is actually slightly ahead of him (1.53 seconds for Martin, 1.56 seconds for Clowney).  Since Martin is generally projected to be a late 1st to early 2nd round pick, this creates an interesting situation.  If it were me, and I was picking at the top of the 1st round, with my sights on someone like Clowney, I would seriously consider trading back, and picking Martin instead.  Will Martin actually turn out to be as good as Clowney?  Who knows?  But I think netting the extra pick from such a trade, and potentially getting a player who might be as good, is worth considering.  Another point in Martin's favor is the likelihood that he wasn't benefiting from surrounding talent as much as Clowney was, as North Carolina has mostly been a middle of the road program recently, while South Carolina has been packed with freaks for the last few years.  Despite all of that, Martin produced roughly comparable results on the field.  Because of his size, a lot of people would rule out having Martin play as a 3-4 OLB, but really his Agility Score puts him in a similar position to people like Ryan Kerrigan, and LaMarr Woodley, while only being about 6# heavier.  I would say his potential to drop back into coverage is actually higher than what you see with someone like Brian Orakpo (Agility Score of -0.312) or Adalius Thomas (Agility Score of -0.306), and people appeared willing to overlook their potential limitations.  Yes, feel free to laugh at my dreams of converting him into a 3-4 OLB (admittedly, a reduction in his cheeseburger intake might help with this conversion plan).  Either way, he should most likely become a respectable DE.

In the end, Martin was a bit of a late bloomer, but I think he has significant potential.  He may, or may not, become a star.  I would expect him to become a useful player though, which is more than I can say about most prospects.  The computer gives Martin a pretty solid 1st round grade.

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Kangaroo Score:  0.275   Agility Score:  0.993  Avg TFL:  16.5*
Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
Kangaroo Score:  0.064   Agility Score:  1.304   Avg TFL:  21
These two fall into a similar category, since they are both players who seem to rely on exceptional agility, rather than raw power.  They also manage to back up this ability with significant statistical production (Jeffcoats' Avg. TFL would be virtually the same as Murphy's, but he missed games due to injury in his junior year).  The problem is that high agility pass rushers are always a bit riskier than more power oriented prospects.  Only about 40% (it's probably closer to 37%) of comparable players ever became very significant, and even then they tend not to be of the consistent double digit sack variety.  Players like Jerry Hughes, Rob Ninkovich, and Shaun Phillips would probably be the best case comparisons.  A Clay Matthews type of outcome, is also a possibility, though the likelihood of that is very slim.  In general, players of this sort probably do better when playing in space, where their agility can be more of a factor, and are probably much better suited to being in a 3-4 defense.  If put into a 4-3 defense, I would expect that both of them might struggle.  While it's true that their chances are worse than the players with better Kangaroo Scores, these two still have a better shot than most, as a typical run of the mill prospect's likelihood of succeeding is even worse.  The computer gives 3rd round grades for both of them, because that is the point in the draft where these sorts of risks balance out a bit more favorably.  Still, it's fairly likely that they will probably be taken higher than that, so I will attempt to dig a bit deeper. 

To identify which of these two players was more likely to emerge as the potential 'Chosen One' of the 2014 draft, I tried to breakdown their stats a bit further.  I factored in their respective teams' average scoring differential, as pass rushers have an advantage when their team is playing with a lead.  I looked at the ratio of assisted tackles to solo tackles, since a lopsided result here could point to pile jumper syndrome.  I also looked at what percentage of their teams' total tackles for a loss and sacks that they were each responsible for, to see how much their team relied on them to create pressure, versus the pressure coming from multiple directions.  Then I tried to normalize the results to account for age differences relative to their peers, since an older, potentially more physically developed player, shouldn't be allowed to benefit from beating up on younger less mature opponents.  In the end, I have to say that the general consensus that Jackson Jeffcoat is the safest of the two, is probably correct.  Murphy (who I am increasingly growing very wary of as a draft pick) appeared to be benefiting to a significant degree from surrounding talent and his age (he turns 24 this year), so I am striking him out as a prospect altogether.  After watching the two of them play, I would say that my worthless and totally subjective opinion similarly points to Jeffcoat as the safest of the two, though none of this changes the 3rd round grade the computer gave to this pair..

Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
Kangaroo Score:  0.213   Agility Score:  -0.542   Avg TFL:  12.75
He's projected by many people to go in the 2nd-3rd round, but I wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole in the top half of the draft.  I'm still trying to sort out his Agility Score, because there was a significant difference between his combine results and what he did at his pro day.  Either way, it probably falls in the -0.542 to 0.228 range, neither of which is sufficient to boost his stock in the computer's eyes or to justify being selected as highly as he is projected to go.  While he did well in his senior year, it was too much of a leap from his previous level of production for me to be certain that this reflects his actual ability.  Even if he fell quite a bit, I'm not sure I see anything too compelling here.

Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona St.
Kangaroo Score:  0.571   Agility Score:  0.122   Avg TFL:  19.75
He's a good, but not necessarily great athlete, but when you factor in his college stats, the computer gives him a 3rd round grade.  That's a smidge lower than most people have him going, so there is a good chance I wouldn't even need to make a decision about him.  When I watched him play, he struck me as a fairly interesting and solid prospect, who managed to make impressive plays in more varied ways than a lot of the other prospects listed here.  From game to game, he was also a very consistent and versatile performer.  Still, it is hard to know how much his production was inflated by the surrounding talent at Arizona State, which has several fairly well regarded prospects coming out this year.  The more I look into him, the more interested I become, though I only view him as a 3-4 OLB.  I might find myself interested in him, if he slipped into the 3rd round.

Ben Gardner, Stanford, DE
Kangaroo Score:  1.448   Agility Score:  0.808   Avg TFL:  12.5*
Gardner is quickly becoming one of my favorite mid-to-late round pass rushing prospects.  In terms of athletic ability, he is stunning.  People might want to criticize his 4.83 40-time, but this doesn't really bother me since his 10-yard split is supposedly in the 1.67 second range.  That's still not a stunning result, but is perfectly acceptable.  Either way, it's his power and agility that really interests me, and he is truly impressive in those areas.  Much like his teammate Trent Murphy, I have some nagging concerns about the degree to which Gardner was surrounded by above average talent at Stanford, and played on a team that generally had a lead on their opponents, but when you factor in how much more affordable Gardner will probably be, and how much more athletic he is, these concerns largely disappear.  I'm also curious if Gardner could turn out to be a better pro than college player.  In the limited sample of his games that I managed to see, Stanford seemed to line him up everywhere along the defensive line, including at defensive tackle, where he would clearly be rather undersized.  The degree to which this would have hindered his ability to accumulate stats is a rather interesting question, I think.  I should mention that I had to estimate what Gardner's Avg. TFL result would be, since he missed 5 games in his senior year.  Without this adjustment, his result would have been an average of 11 TFLs.  This minor adjustment changes the computer's grade for him from a 5th round, to a 4th round grade.  He could end up being a target for Team Kangaroo, though his arm length of just 30.75" does worry me a bit.

Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
Kangaroo Score:  1.216   Agility Score:  -0.898   Avg TFL:  12.25
Because of the way his athletic ability leans so heavily towards power, over agility, I would say he is strictly a 4-3 DE.  While he is moderately interesting because of his Kangaroo Score, the computer only considers him a 4th round prospect, which is a bit lower than he is generally projected to go by most people.  I am open to the possibility that the computer is being an asshole here, and making an overly harsh judgment based on Smith's wretched Agility Score.  He's been pretty steady and consistent on the field, even if his results aren't very gaudy.

James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
Kangaroo Score:  0.938   Agility Score:  -0.149   Avg TFL:  10.25
He has intriguing athletic potential, but hasn't really lived up to it so far.  He has been steadily just slightly above average for most of his college career.  I wouldn't mind taking a shot at someone like him late in the draft, as the risk vs reward potential works out better here than it does with more highly regarded and costly prospects like Dee Ford or Kyle Van Noy.  The computer gives him a 5th round grade.

Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame
Kangaroo Score:  0.858   Agility Score:  0.017   Avg TFL:  8
His college production wouldn't normally be too intriguing to me, but he is on my radar.  So far, he has been extremely inconsistent at creating pressure on the QB, or making plays in the backfield.  He is currently projected to be a 4th or 5th round pick, which is a bit more than I would be willing to pay, but if he drops a bit I could be interested.  Has lined up as a DE and an OLB, and personally I think he looked a bit better than his stat sheet would have led me to expect.  I would be looking at him as just a player to provide depth, but one that might have some untapped potential.  With that said, I wouldn't take him until the 7th round.

Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
Kangaroo Score:  -0.374   Agility Score:  -2.044   Avg TFL:  13
In a lower gravity environment, perhaps on Mars, his athletic ability would be terrifying.  On Earth, not so much.  I know the league is looking to expand its popularity in other lands, so keep your fingers crossed Mr. Sam.  In terms of athletic ability, in a non-Martian environment, he is terrible.  His statistical production, outside of his final year in college, was virtually nonexistent, and even as a senior his most significant results all came from just 3 games.  As far as I am concerned, he is practically undraftable.

Terrence Fede, Marist
Kangaroo Score:  1.003   Agility Score:  -0.061   Avg TFL:  15.25*
Why is there an asterisk next to Fede's Avg TFL result?  This is because we obviously have to give a penalty to players who are from really low levels of competition.  If you consider Marist to be a terrifying program that is fine, and entirely your own business.  Either way, even if I knock off a third of his TFLs, he is still a fairly interesting prospect, and the computer would give him a 6th round grade.  Finding sufficient information on Fede is a bit of a problem, let alone getting to watch him play.  If push came to shove, I might still be willing to draft him, sight unseen, in the last two rounds, simply because the options thin out a bit.  We know he has rather impressive athletic ability.  We know he produced at a high level, even if it was against lesser competition.  We know that at least half of the defensive ends in the league probably aren't that good to begin with, and could stand to be challenged some.  So why not take a shot?  Were you just going to select a long snapper with that late round pick instead?  At 277 pounds, and with a short shuttle time of 4.45 seconds, I would suspect his best fit would be as a 4-3 DE, though he didn't look terrible standing up, in the little I was able to see of him.  Obviously, picking Fede should probably be viewed as a project.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Making Your Rivals Pay: Vincent Rey

Well, the Bengals went ahead, and did something that I found a bit surprising .  It seems that they have given linebacker Vincent Rey the low RFA tender.  I really expected them to use one of the higher free agent tenders here, but I guess I was wrong.  Regardless, I think this opens up some extremely interesting possibilities. 

First of all, because it is the "low" tender, a team that wants to acquire Rey's services wouldn't need to give up any compensation to do so.  So, no draft picks would be lost here.  The drawback is that some people will say that you would only be helping the Bengals negotiate a contract with Rey, since they would still retain the right to match whatever offer you throw at him.  I don't think that is necessarily such a bad situation to be in.  If somebody told me to go negotiate the price for a car that one of my enemies was going to purchase, I would find that a highly amusing position to be in.  $50,000 for a Lada, sounds like a great deal to me.

As it stands, the Bengals are currently required to pay Rey $1.431 million, for the 2014 season.  Now for some reason, teams seem to be either incredibly gentlemanly, or incredibly cautious, about meddling with these RFA contracts.  They rarely do much of anything to go on the offensive here.  The way I see it, even if you aren't interested in Rey's services, it would be very tempting to throw offers his way, just to drive up the price that the Bengals would be required to pay to retain him.  Doing so would help to deplete their financial resources, which is actually a decent strategy.

In the worst case scenario, you actually may win the bidding war.  I could live with that.  As I said here, I think Rey is a very intriguing player.  His athletic ability is excellent, and well within the range of what I would want to see in a middle linebacker.  His college production was also quite good.  In the limited time in which he was allowed to play last season, he performed at a very high level.  Check.  Check.  Check.  He's ticking off all of the boxes.  Honestly, I would argue that he outperformed Rey Maualuga, who is the Bengals regular starter at MLB.  Unfortunately, Maualuga was a former high 2nd round pick, so it was unlikely they would keep him on the bench in favor of Vincent Rey, regardless of what the facts were.  What I suspect is holding Rey back, is merely the perception of him as "just another player that went undrafted".  People seem to loathe reexamining prospects that they had no initial faith in, and require obscene amounts of proof in order to change their minds.

So, let's just spitball for a minute here.  What if you offered Rey a contract for $9 million over three years, with maybe $3 million guaranteed?  We could obviously offer more, but we'll try to keep things somewhat reasonable for now.  Would the Bengals match this offer?  I don't know, but it would cost them significantly more than they are currently obligated to pay, in order to find out, and that is half of our objective.

Would this be too much money to risk on a player who has only played in a limited role?  On the surface, these figures would probably seem a tad high to most people.  People are very wary of exorbitant free agent contracts, for good reason, but I would say this fear is really only necessary for the top dollar contracts with huge signing bonuses, which really cause all of the trouble.  If you wound up outbidding the Bengals, and signed Rey under the imaginary terms I threw out, the situation really wouldn't be so bad.  On the one hand, he could continue to perform at the high level he displayed in 2013, in which case you've gotten yourself a potential bargain.  On the other hand, he could turn into a pumpkin, in which case you would only be on the hook for the remaining $2 million in prorated signing bonus money that would remain at the end of 2014, which is the earliest you would be likely to cut him anyway.  You could even retain Pumpkin Rey into the future, as a moderately overpaid backup/rotational linebacker, to avoid any dead money hit that would come from cutting him.  It certainly wouldn't cripple a team.  There are teams with more guaranteed money tied up in punters, than would be involved here.

Another aspect to consider, are the options that will be getting a lot of attention in the 2014 Draft.  Everybody seems to project that C.J. Mosley, MLB from Alabama, will be taken in the first round.  Personally, I am not a fan of Mosley, though I could turn out to be wrong here.  I see a mediocre athlete, with solid but unspectacular production, that is possibly the next in a line of disappointing Alabama products.  I see him as a continuation of the great Rolando McClain and Dont'a Hightower tradition.  Vincent Rey's statistical production in college was generally just as good as any of these Alabama products, and in some cases significantly better.  In terms of athletic ability, though,  Rey absolutely crushes all of them.

Player    40 time        Kangaroo Score        Agility Score
Vincent Rey 4.58 0.436 0.871
C.J. Mosley          N/A -0.748 -0.251
Rolando McClain 4.68 -0.564 0.070
Dont'a Hightower 4.62 0.335 -1.397

As always, I should point out that the Kangaroo Scores for these sorts of linebackers are almost always going to be lower than for their pass rushing brethren, who throw off the curve.  For middle linebackers, a Kangaroo Score of about -0.800 would be a fairly average result, with Pro Bowl/All Pro caliber players generally coming in closer to -0.400.  All scores, both Kangaroo and Agility are given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is away from the average result for someone in their position group (noting the previously stated exception about how larger pass rushers skew things).

So, while Vincent Rey will be 27 years old at the start of the 2014 season, which is still probably well within the prime years for a linebacker, what should a team do?  I would argue that they should avoid C.J. Mosley like the plague, and instead invest in Vincent Rey.  Of course, none of this delves into the possibility that there could be some interesting mid-to-late-round draft prospects that present even better value than either of these options.  I just thought it would be fun to consider a potentially better option for a team who really was considering throwing out a high pick on a rather risky prospect like Mosley.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kangaroo Court: The 2014 Offensive Linemen

In an average draft, you can expect that about 41 players will be selected to play on the offensive line.  Things tend to be pretty consistent in that area.  You can also expect, despite the enthusiasm that surrounds draft prospects, that the vast majority of these selections will amount to very little.  So, we are going to try to zero in on which prospects appear to be the safest bets, when it comes to giving some sort of return on your team's investment.

The methods we use to narrow down the field will probably strike many people as horrific, and absurdly stupid.  I have to admit, that I am unlikely to spend much, if any, time watching film of offensive linemen.  It is mind-bogglingly boring to do so, and it would only cut into my training as an international jai alai player.  Feel free to tune out now if I have already crossed a line that is going to offend your delicate sensibilities about proper scouting methods.

Instead, most of our beliefs are based on ancient texts and hieroglyphics that were inscribed on a set of golden plates, which we discovered while excavating beneath a nearby International House of Pancakes.  Unfortunately, the plates have been lost since then, possibly left in the dishwasher when we moved from our last house, but for the most part we got the gist of their message.  It's all very embarrassing.  To sum up their prophetic wisdom, as simply as possible, the message was to bet on the freakishly gifted athletes above everyone else.  The plates gave us two different scores by which to navigate, the Kangaroo Score, and the Agility Score.  Both scores are given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is above, or below, the average result for someone in their position group.

The Kangaroo Score is our measure of lower body power (or, as the Germans might say, der vollidiot stärke), and is based on a player's vertical jump and broad jump, in relation to their weight.  The Agility Score (umm, das wackeln Wiesel?) is simply combining a player's results in the short shuttle drill, and the 3-Cone drill.  At different positions along the offensive line, we might value one score more than the other.  If you are curious, you can take a look at Athleticism and the Offensive Line part I and part II, to get some sense as to how this relates to offensive tackles and guards.  For centers, we place more importance on their short shuttle times, as you can read about here.  There are, of course, other factors such as injuries, obvious character/criminal issues, playing time, and positional versatility that also somewhat weigh into our views on a prospect, as well as a few other measurable athletic traits.

Obviously, there are never any guarantees of success in any of this.  There is only the possibility that if you adhere to this approach, over the course of several years, the odds should tilt in you favor (probably somewhat significantly).  Most NFL teams seem to pick offensive linemen based on whimsical hunches, or whatever theory/need is currently occupying their mind.  The computer, on the other hand, is always looking for one fairly specific sort of player, and never deviates from this.  As our little experiment with the Lobotomy Line attempted to demonstrate, this seems to produce better results over the course of time.

Unfortunately, the computer is a cruel son of a bitch, and I suspect many people won't like what it has to say.  Many people will be looking for players to fill certain roles on their team's line, while the computer may be pointing towards someone at another position as a potentially better/safer bet.  All I can say here is, just because you want somebody to play a particular position doesn't mean that such a player is going to be available.  Maybe you want a tackle, but the computer says that the tackle prospects are weak.  Should you avoid the potentially excellent guard or center that the computer recommends, just to address what you consider a need?  As much as people discuss the importance of taking the "best player available" (or, as I would prefer to view it, 'the safest player available'), when it comes right down to it, most people don't really want to do any such thing.  

So, let's move on to the actual list.  For the sake of simplicity, I am not going to include every conceivable prospect, as the list would be too long.  Instead, I will try to give the results for every player who is projected to go in the first couple of rounds, and after that just the prospects who I find to be either intriguing or worthy of ridicule.  All players are listed in the approximate order that CBS projects them to be selected.  Listing them this way is obviously imperfect, but it was the best plan I could come up with.

This list is still under construction, as we await the complete sets of data for individual draft prospects.  The list will continue to grow, and be updated.  Individual Agility Scores are unlikely to be changed, but based on the results from college pro-days, Kangaroo Scores may be adjusted.  The order they are listed in will also periodically be adjusted to coincide with the CBS rankings.
Last Updated: 5/5/14

1st Round

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Arm Length: 35"   Kangaroo Score: 1.487  Agility Score: -0.318
So, why are we leaning towards Greg Robinson over Jake Matthews?  Well, it's mainly because we think he has the most room to be salvageable, even if playing left tackle doesn't work out.  His arm length, and Kangaroo scores are exceptional, as well as his 10-yard split of 1.68 seconds (so, he's probably quick too).  It's only his somewhat below average agility score which gives us pause.  Athletically he compares rather favorably to someone like Andrew Whitworth, which wouldn't be a bad outcome.  Still, even if he fails as a left tackle, his measurables should still allow him to move to right tackle, where he would appear to be an even better fit, as exceptional agility is less of a requirement here.  He could even move to guard, if necessary.  Having such fallback plans as to how he could be utilized provides extra security.

Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Arm Length: 33.375"   Kangaroo Score: 0.239  Agility Score: 1.451
There is a lot to like about Matthews.  Unfortunately, we place a lot of value in Kangaroo Scores for tackles, and Matthews is only 'okay' in this area.  His somewhat below average arm length is also nothing to be excited about.  Still, I do think he will most likely turn out to be significantly better than his former teammate Luke Joeckel (-0.065 Kangaroo Score and a 0.830 Agility Score), who was taken with the 2nd overall pick in 2013.  Due to his modest Kangaroo Score, I think if he struggles at left tackle, the next move would be to go directly to playing guard, without the intermediate stop at right tackle, and this is what I feel gives Robinson a slight edge over him. 

Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Arm Length: 33.875"   Kangaroo Score: 1.149  Agility Score: 1.313
In terms of athletic ability, Lewan is probably the most gifted of the top 3 prospects.  Beyond the above mentioned numbers, his 10-yard split of 1.64 seconds, as well as his 4.87 second 40-yard dash, can be surprisingly relevant factors in a tackle's success, as well.  The main concern here is whether he is just too mentally unstable to keep himself out of trouble.  Whether it is getting into fights, allegedly threatening a possible rape victim, or just committing penalties on the field, there seem to be valid reasons for concern.  Of course, most of these allegations are unproven, and he has never actually been arrested.  So, maybe he is just a scrappy idiot, who doesn't know when to shut up? 

Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Arm Length: 32.875"   Kangaroo Score: -0.062  Agility Score: 0.608
While he is listed as a tackle, it seems fairly obvious that he is probably going to wind up playing guard.  We don't believe in drafting guards in the 1st round, particularly when their measurables are fairly pedestrian.  We would pass on Martin, though this doesn't mean we don't think he can turn out to be fairly good.  It's just that from a risk/reward perspective, things aren't strongly enough in his favor to justify a 1st round pick.

Cyrus Kuandijo, OT, Alabama
Arm Length: 35.625"   Kangaroo Score: 0.906  Agility Score: -0.110
Kuandijo's results have been radically improved by his pro day.  This had no significant effect on his Agility Score, but his Kangaroo Score improved significantly over his previous result of -0.357.  He's at least beginning to resemble a passable right tackle prospect.  Still, even by the flabby standards of offensive tackles, a player who is struggling to crack 5.50 in the 40-yard dash, is something to be worried about.  Tackles who can't crack 5.20 seconds do tend to be a problem.  He might not be quite as laughable a prospect as he appeared to be at the combine, but I still wouldn't touch him in the first 3 rounds, where he seems to be projected to be selected.

2nd Round

Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Arm Length: 35.375"   Kangaroo Score: -0.177  Agility Score: -0.769
Well, at least he has long arms, so if your team has some hard to reach shelf-space, he could be interesting.  The most terrifying aspect of Moses' physical traits may actually be his 1.94 10-yard split.  I suspect that there are amputees that are quicker than this.  In my view, there is only one solution here, and that is to Kill it with fire!  On a more positive note, I suspect he could be quite popular in the locker room, as he probably won't be threatening anyone's job security.

David Yankey, OG, Stanford
Arm Length: 34"     Kangaroo Score: 0.291  Agility Score: -0.336
As a draft prospect, he brings all of the excitement of green Jello.  I see nothing to get worked up about, and nothing too unforgivable to condemn him for.  If somebody wants to draft him, that's fine.  I would look elsewhere.  He was born in Sydney Australia, so he is quite possibly a spy sent to push the Australian Vegemite agenda.

Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Arm Length: 33.375"     Kangaroo Score: -0.616  Agility Score: 1.064
He's actually moderately intriguing, though I have to deduct points for the amount of punctuation in his name.  While his low Kangaroo Score might be tolerable for a center, I would be seriously concerned about his lack of lower body power if he is truly intended to play at guard.  Honestly, I probably wouldn't consider him in the first couple of rounds at all, except for one key factor.  His short shuttle time of 4.44 seconds, in combination with his acceptably average 10-yard split of 1.75 seconds, puts him into consideration as an interesting option to convert to the center position.  Whether it makes sense to draft someone this high, for a position they haven't played before, is obviously debatable.  There should be more interesting, and less costly, options available later.  On the plus side of the equation, he is an Eagle Scout from Utah, so he is probably a wild man at parties.

Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi St.
Arm Length: 33.375"     Kangaroo Score: 1.336  Agility Score: -0.919
Well, he is enormous at 336#, and probably quite capable of knocking people on their ass based on his Kangaroo Score.  Unfortunately, the history of players with his poor foot-speed (5.51 second 40-yard dash) and poor agility really isn't so great.  He would appear to be just a straight ahead mauler, with limited versatility, or much of a chance to reach the greatest heights of success for a player at his position, though I can't rule anything out.  Might only be suitable for a heavily run oriented team like the Vikings.  Similar/better prospects can generally be found at a lower cost.  Still, he is a more plausible prospect than many of the others in this area.

Brandon Thomas, OG, Clemson
Arm Length: 34.75"     Kangaroo Score: -0.082  Agility Score: -0.829
Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State
Arm Length: 34"     Kangaroo Score: -0.687  Agility Score: 0.238
I'm getting sleepy.  Is anyone else feeling sleepy?  I think I'll take a nap until things pick up a bit.

Round 3

Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
Arm Length: 33.125"   Kangaroo Score: -1.018  Agility Score: 0.319
As the player that most people are projecting to be the top center taken, I feel obligated to include him in this list.  I do this despite my hunch that he is probably going to be a major disappointment.  His short shuttle time of 4.65 seconds is just barely on the tolerable side for a center, and not anything I would get excited about.  The short shuttle is, sadly, actually where he performed best, so the center position is probably the only place where I can see him having much of a chance.  Combined with his horrible Kangaroo Score, I would expect he will be almost completely reliant on the guards he is paired with in order for him to survive at all.

Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
Arm Length: 33.875"   Kangaroo Score: 0.861  Agility Score: 1.471
Praise Shai-Hulud!  This might be the player we've been trying to find.  We have a prospect here that is athletically almost identical to the more highly touted Taylor Lewan, at a substantially lower cost.  It is an interesting thing to consider, the gap between Lewan and Bitonio.  Despite their obvious difference in height, they actually have the same arm length, which I would argue tips the reach advantage in Bitonio's favor.  The difference in their weight is also somewhat negligible, with only a 7# difference.  Lewan has a slight edge in the 10-yards split (1.64 seconds) compared to Bitonio (1.68 seconds), but they are both so exceptional here, that it really shouldn't matter.  Some might criticize Bitionio's height at just 6' 4.25", but I'm not certain how much this really matters, outside of the role it plays in 'looking the part' to NFL teams, who I feel have a somewhat unjustified obsession with tall tackles.  Either way, I think the real beauty of Bitonio, is in his potential positional flexibility.  While teams may not be interested in having him play tackle, I think his potential as a guard is outstanding.  His 4.44 second short shuttle time also puts him in an excellent position to become a high quality center.  At this point, he is one of Team Kangaroo's most highly coveted targets, and appears to be one of the safest bets in the draft, in terms of eventually giving at least some sort of return on your investment.  He would probably be the computer's 2014 candidate for the Lobotomy Line, due to where he is projected to be selected, and some of the best overall results in terms of athletic ability.  That he is generally listed as a 3-4th round prospect, strikes me as preposterous, and I expect to see him go a fair bit higher.  I would probably start to target him as high as the 2nd round.

4th Round

Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
Arm Length: 35"   Kangaroo Score: -0.015  Agility Score: 1.088
Generally, he seems to be projected to go somewhere from the late 3rd round to the early 4th.  While he lacks the lower body power (Kangaroo Score) that I would prefer to see in a tackle, as well as the quickness and foot speed (1.82 10-yard split and a 5.34 40-yard dash), at this point in the draft it seems reasonable to start lowering your standards a bit.  Assuming that your team has missed out on the top 3 tackles, or you don't want to try using Bitonio at that position, I could see James as a moderately interesting fallback option.  His exceptional arm length is also a nice added bonus.  While he might not become a star, I think there is a reasonable chance he could at least do a better job than a number of the bozos who are currently starting in the league.  Might be worth the risk at this point in the draft, depending on who else is available at other positions, but I suspect we can find someone who is better.

5th Round
Charles Leno, OT, Boise State
Arm Length: 34.375"   Kangaroo Score: 0.729  Agility Score: 1.215
Once again, we have someone who I think could be an interesting prospect to convert into a guard, or perhaps more intriguingly, a center (4.40 short shuttle time).  The difference between Leno, and some of the other players I have made this suggestion about, is purely in how cheap it may be to acquire him.  Conducting such an experiment with a mid-to-late-round draft pick is much more palatable than doing the same thing with a high draft pick.  It also shouldn't be ignored that while his arm length is just 'good' for a tackle, it would be exceptional for an interior lineman.  My main concern with Leno would relate to his somewhat mediocre quickness and speed (1.81 second 10-yard split, and a 5.25 second 40-yard dash), though this becomes less of a concern if he is moved to the guard position.  I would expect that he will probably do better than a good number of the players taken ahead of him, if he is given an opportunity.  Leno's quickly becoming one of my favorite offensive linemen that should be available in the mid-to-late-round area, and could end up being this year's candidate for the Lobotomy Line, as Joel Bitionio's stock seems to be rising past his initial 3rd round projection.

6th Round

Corey Linsley, C, Ohio State
Arm Length: 31.875"  Kangaroo Score: -0.408  Agility Score:  1.091
There might be other players that I find more interesting as center prospects, though they require a slight shift in their listed position.  There are others, who actually are listed as centers, who may have more outrageous scores, in one area or another.  As a complete package, however, I'm not sure if there is one player, who is actually listed as a center, that has a better combination of positive attributes than Linsley.  For a center, his Kangaroo Score is actually a pretty good result.  Centers tend to have fairly weak Kangaroo Scores, and his is closer to an average result than you generally see.  His Agility Score, and especially his short shuttle time (4.53 seconds), are also in line with what I would hope to see for a center prospect.  His 10-yard split, of 1.78 seconds, is another positive, as is his result in the bench press (36 repetitions, though I generally don't put too much stock in this).  From everything I can gather, he seems quite respectable, and it seems like he did well for Ohio State.  The only nagging concern I have is his arm length, which is just a smidge shorter than I would like it to be.  Still, for someone that many people are listing as a 6th or 7th round pick, I think that could be nitpicking a bit.  If I had to put my money down, on who was going to end up being the best center in this draft, I would most likely bet on Linsley.

Matt Patchan, OT, Boston College
Arm Length: 33"   Kangaroo Score: 1.010  Agility Score: 0.864
One of my favorite things that I have read about him, was the report over on that described him by saying that he "thinks he's better than he is".  Looks to me like might be better than most people think.  He also appears to have exceptional quickness (based on his 1.59 second 10-yard split), which I really like to see.  Unfortunately, his list of injuries is bordering on the hilarious.  According to CBS, he has been shot, had two seemingly serious scooter accidents (one of which also resulted in him getting hit by a car), has torn an ACL, broken his wrist, and torn his pectoral muscle.  So, he is basically the Rasputin of college football.  Where others see misery and misfortune, I see opportunity!  I suppose that this is sort of like being an NFL talent slum lord.  I have to admit that his 33" arm length is a bit of a red flag for me, especially since he is less likely to have the positional versatility to be moved inside, due to his height (6' 6.25").  Riding around on scooters could also be a red flag, since no grown man should be seen doing that.

Justin Britt, OT, Missouri
Arm Length: 33.5"   Kangaroo Score: 1.210  Agility Score: -0.503
Based on his pro-day results, I have to boost Britt's Kangaroo Score significantly.  His previous score of 0.054 was the definition of  average, and while I am still waiting for official confirmation of his pro day results, his new score would make him a legitimately interesting prospect to us.   Still, even when I am bargain shopping for talent, there are some things which can make me wary.  His poor Agility Score is a bit worrisome, though he showed some improvement at his pro day..  Based on his pro day, his Agility Score would work out to a result of 0.469.  As always, we have to take those sorts of things with a huge grain of salt.  Is he still intriguing?  Yes, very much so, but I don't like those sorts of huge shifts in an agility score.  He also has a bit of an injury history.  Still, as a late round flyer, it could be worth taking a shot at him.

Garrett Scott, OT/OG, Marshall
Arm Length: ?   Kangaroo Score: 1.368  Agility Score: 2.065
Scott only came to my attention late in this process, so I am still trying to fill in some blank spots.  When it comes to athletic ability, he is arguably one of the 2 or 3 best specimens among this years offensive linemen.  Beyond just his power and agility, I am rather excited by his 10-yard split of 1.64 seconds.  I still have to find some more information about him, but I would be quite interested, if he was still available in the 5th round or later.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, OT, McGill
Arm Length: 33"   Kangaroo Score: 0.619  Agility Score: 1.227
These results should be viewed as extremely unofficial, as data related to this strange Canadian prospect has been difficult to acquire in any reliable manner.  Many Bothans died to bring us this information.  Regardless, he is an intriguing athlete that deserves some attention, but knowing so little about him, and based on the low level of competition he faced, I would be hesitant to invest much in him.  He is intriguing, but still a bit of a mystery to me.

John Urschel, OG, Penn State
Arm Length: 33"   Kangaroo Score: 0.208  Agility Score: 1.079's profile had this to say about him, "Athletic ability is average".  Hmm, the numbers would somewhat suggest the opposite.  Who should I believe, the numbers or the NFL?  I think I'll trust the numbers here.  At this point in the draft, we're just gambling on longshots anyway.  They do also suggest, somewhat interestingly, that he "Displays the quickness highly desired at the pivot and might prove to be best at center", which I would agree with completely.  His short shuttle time of 4.47 seconds does make him a rather intriguing center prospect, and the fact that his other measurables at least reach the level of the average, is reassuring.  He also graduated with a 4.0 average, and a degree in mathematics, which puts him above many other prospects when it comes to eliminating the bozo factor.  Team Kangaroo will probably make it a priority to target him somewhere in the later rounds, just for his significant upside potential.  There is really very little to lose at this point in the draft, but much to be gained.  He was born in exotic Winnipeg, so he might have a hard time with the language barrier.

7th Round

Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt
Arm Length: 33.125"   Kangaroo Score: 0.006  Agility Score: 0.928
Because of his below average arm length, and merely average Kangaroo Score, I think the most likely outcome here is that he moves to guard, though he has played every position on the line at Vanderbilt so this shouldn't be a difficult transition.  Overall, I see very little to criticize here, and people generally seem to have mostly positive things to say about him.  He may never become a star, but I would be surprised if he doesn't become at least a respectable backup that could outperform many of the players who will be selected ahead of him.  He supposedly only allowed 2 sacks in his last two years, which without any sort of context, I suppose is better than allowing 3....or 4....or 5.  Oh well, he seems to be well worth a late round pick, and I suspect he could be taken a bit higher than where he is currently projected to go. I am, unfortunately, now seeing people discuss him as a center prospect, which isn't entirely to my liking.  His short shuttle time of 4.64 seconds is a bit on the low side for what I want to see in a center, and this could diminish his chances of success. though it wouldn't be impossible.  I still like him better as a guard.
Ryan Groy, OG, Wisconsin
Arm Length: 33.25"   Kangaroo Score: 0.162  Agility Score: 1.185
One of the main reasons I would put him below other prospects like Wesley Johnson and John Urschel, is because he doesn't have as much starting experience.  As long as teams insist on employing bozos like Oniel Cousins, I will say that there is a legitimate opportunity for improvement with a player like Ryan Groy.  How bad could he really be?

Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma
Arm Length: 33.125"   Kangaroo Score: -0.727  Agility Score: 1.766
Does his extremely low Kangaroo Score scare the hell out of me?  Yes, but this isn't terribly uncommon for centers.  On the other hand, his Agility Score is astounding.  His 4.37 second short shuttle time also puts him in a group with some of the better centers in the league, though he probably wouldn't do well at guard because of his poor lower body power.  For similar reasons, related to his lower body power, I would tend to doubt he would be much of a run blocker.  Still, people should remember that just as many of the league's starting centers came from the 6th round or later, as they did from the first 2 rounds.  Ikard could be a pleasant surprise for someone.


Matthew Paradis, C, Boise St..
Arm Length: 32.375"   Kangaroo Score: -0.653  Agility Score: 1.015
Similar to Gabe Ikard athletically, though perhaps slightly less impressive.  He also has a bit less starting experience than some of the other prospects that I would place ahead of him.  His 4.46 second short shuttle time would suggest that he has at least some chance at center, though I wouldn't want to see him at guard, because of his lower Kangaroo Score.  Supposedly also had a hip injury, which could be a concern.

Kevin Pamphile, OT, Purdue
Arm Length: 34.5"   Kangaroo Score: 0.763  Agility Score: 0.139
These scores are unofficial, for the moment, until I can get confirmation on them.  He is older than you would like (turns 24 in November), and has limited experience playing on offense.(switched sides in 2012).  Still, his athletic ability is probably interesting enough to bring him in as an UDFA, just to see what he has to offer.