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.

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