Friday, August 1, 2014

The PETARD Wall of Shame

I might be the only person to find PETARD a bit entertaining, if admittedly a little simple-minded, but that won't discourage me from delving even deeper into my foolishness.  While PETARD specifically focuses on the efficiency of particular draft day decisions that the Ravens have made, I suspect it could just as easily be applied to any other franchise.  NFL GMs probably aren't beautiful and unique snowflakes.  Outside of the occasional run of good or bad luck that briefly separates them, I would guess that most of their results are generally quite similar.  I'm just looking to kick around some general purpose 'cause and effect' types of ideas here.

Since we have already used PETARD to try to examine the Ravens' year-to-year drafting efficiency over the previous decade, and come to the conclusion that the team might be headed for a bit of a decline, I thought we would narrow our focus a bit.  On an individual basis, players do occasionally fall short of, or exceed, the expectations PETARD might have had for how many games they would end up starting in their first 4 NFL seasons.  Missing the mark with our projections, isn't necessarily a bad thing, or the least bit unexpected.  These peculiar outcomes give us an interesting group of players to examine, and ask the important question of "Why did this player fall outside of the predicted range?".  Was the player exceptional?  Did they suck? 

To start off our attempt to answer these questions, I thought we would just look at all of the Ravens' draft picks who have fallen short of PETARD's expectations.  In specific, we will be looking at players who were selected in the first 100 picks of the NFL Draft.  The 100th pick seemed like a reasonable place to draw the line, since it is common sense to assume that players taken in this range generally have higher expectations of contributing.  We're not terribly interested in beating up the players who fell just 1 or 2 games short of their PETARD projection.  Instead we'll just list all of the players selected from 1996-2010 who fell the furthest from their PETARD projection, in order of the number of games started below our expectation.  For each player, we will list their Actual # of GS (umm, the actual number of games they started in their first 4 seasons), as well as their PETARD Proj. GS (how many games PETARD would have projected them to start in the same span of time).

Later on, in another post, we'll take a look at the players who appear to have exceeded expectations.  You have to eat your vegetables first, or you get no dessert.  Yes, a spoonful of sugar would probably help the medicine go down, but I was really torn between these two conflicting philosophies, so I flipped a coin.  It landed on tails, so we're starting with the bad news.

For each individual player, we will also look at their basic athletic profile, based on their combine/pro day results.  This will usually just consist of a brief look at the Kangaroo Score, and Agility Score, which are shown in the form of how many standard deviations that a player diverged from the average result for an individual in their position group.  Obviously, this means that a wide receiver's results are not directly comparable to those of a defensive linemen.  Keep that little detail in mind while perusing the numbers.  Occasionally, other measurable qualities might be thrown into the mix, as well as some discussion of a player's statistical production in college.  The goal is simply to see whether the warning signs of failure/mediocrity should have been clearly visible to the decision makers on the team.

You'll probably notice that this list will contain very few 1st round picks.  Part of this is because picking a reasonably talented player at the top of the draft really shouldn't be that difficult.  Another part of this apparent lack of 1st round failures is also probably because teams will continue to start below average players who were taken in the 1st round, with almost no concern for how foolish this makes them look.  If a team wishes to stick their fingers in their ears, and say "Nyah, nyah nyah, I can't hear you!", when the reality of a player's performance doesn't match what they imagined it to be, that's fine with me.  PETARD isn't intended to make judgments about such things.  Accounting for a team's stubbornness is beyond my abilities, so we're really just looking at the instances where a team clearly relented, and threw in the towel on a particular player.

Before we get started, I should mention that I did make the decision to exclude Jamal Lewis from this list of shame.  Technically, he probably should have been fairly high on this list, since his 44 games started in his first four seasons, fell short of the PETARD projection by 20 games.  Of course, he missed a full season in 2001 because of a torn ACL.  Without that injury, it's quite easy to imagine that Lewis would have otherwise been within 4 games of his projection.  The PETARD projections are already nearly impossible for top 5 draft picks to meet/exceed, since at that point in the draft PETARD expects every player to start every single game in their first four seasons.  So, I felt it was a reasonable compromise to exclude him from this group of disappointing players.

For similar reasons, related to injury, I will also exclude Sergio Kindle and Dan Cody from this criticism.  Normally, I would have to put them at the head of this list as 2 of the most disappointing draft picks the Ravens ever made (relative to where they were selected), but the injuries they dealt with makes this difficult to assess.  Personally, I think there are good reasons to suspect that they would have failed even without this sort of excuse, but I'm sure some people would find it a bit unfair for us to make judgments about how sensible these picks actually were.  So, being a kind and reasonable sort of guy, I'll leave them out of this.

Let's get the ball rolling, and  move on to the list!

Yamon Figurs, WR, 74th pick in 2007   Actual # of GS:  0   PETARD Proj. GS.: 22.16
Can a player get drafted in the 3rd round, simply because he ran a fast 40-yard dash?  Well, yes, that should be pretty obvious to everyone.  Teams pull this sort of ridiculous stunt all of the time.  Sadly, Figurs' 4.30 second 40-yard dash, while impressive, was probably the only thing he really had going in his favor, and generally 40 times are a bit overvalued (not worthless, just a tad overvalued).  His -1.816 Kangaroo Score would suggest that he had laughable lower body power, though this isn't terribly surprising for a prospect who only weighed 174 pounds.  His Agility Score of 0.197 was basically just about average, and nothing to get terribly excited about, one way or another.  Athletically, he was what he was, a mosquito with speed, and not much else.

The bigger concern would probably be his actual production in college.  In his final college season, he produced 418 receiving yards, on 28 receptions, which was only good for 10.02% of his team's total offense.  That's well short of the 17.75% that I usually consider to be an average result for a draft prospect's final college season.  In the year prior to this, Figurs produced a mere 243 yards, on 14 receptions, for a lowly 6.5% of his team's offense.  This would also clearly fall short of the 15.34% we would consider to be the average for a player's next to last college season. 

In the end, you have an undersized player who wasn't very productive in college, and who's only real claim to fame was being fast in a straight line.  People may claim that Figurs was only expected to contribute as a kick returner (though he failed at this too), but for the 3rd round pick that was used to acquire him, I still would have hoped to see a lot more evidence for making such an investment.  His failure seems utterly predictable.  Some people might say that 3rd round picks frequently don't amount to very much, so what's the big deal?   I would say that if you squander such picks on players of Figur's caliber, such prophesies are sort of self-fulfilling.

Musa Smith, RB, 77th pick in 2003   Actual # of GS:  0   PETARD Proj. GS: 21.5
I feel like I should possibly exclude Smith from my criticisms, since the broken leg he suffered in his second season probably did play a significant role in his disappointing career.  He's largely remembered as being the less famous person to get injured and bring about the NFL's current 'horse tackle' rules (the other player being Terrell Owens).  With a 4.58 second 40-yard dash time, and a rather good Kangaroo Score of 1.317, I would say that he seems like a plausible between the tackle type of power running back.  Unfortunately, his injury makes it difficult to say what might have been possible.

When it comes to his production in college, Smith may not have been Adrian Peterson, but he appears to have been quite competent.  With a career 4.9 yard/carry average, 19 rushing TDs, and 1,324 rushing yards in his final season (a 5.1 yard/carry average in that year), he had a fairly solid if not spectacular resume.  He never contributed much in the passing game, but I think there's still a place for somewhat one dimensional power running backs.  I might not have been ecstatic about Smith as a draft prospect, but he certainly isn't someone I would have laughed at.  Things may not have turned out terribly well for him, but he's probably the lone player on this list that I would have viewed as a legitimate prospect.

Jay Graham, RB, 64th pick in 1997  Actual # of GS:  4   PETARD Proj. GS: 24.56
I have to admit that I've completely forgotten that Jay Graham ever existed, let alone that he was a Ravens' 3rd round pick.  Since I can't find any of the data I would need to say whether this selection was insane, or not, I'll just let it slide for now.  If anybody can dig up Graham's combine numbers, feel free to send them my way.

Paul Kruger, DE/OLB, 57th pick in 2009   Actual # of GS:  7   PETARD Proj. GS: 26.48
Criticizing the 2nd round selection of Paul Kruger, might seem a bit odd.  After all, he did manage to sign a fairly lucrative 5 year/$40.5 million contract with the Browns, when he departed the Ravens in 2013.  The problem is, regardless of what you think of Kruger as a player, the Ravens failed to get much production out of him when he was operating under his rookie contract.  Only getting 7 starts out of a 2nd round pick is not a very efficient use of your team's draft resources, so PETARD views this as a bit of a failure.

To some extent, I think the Ravens may have hindered his development by constantly having him add, and then drop, weight.  They never seemed to be terribly clear as to what position they wanted him to play, whether it was to be a 3-4 OLB or a larger 3-4 DE.  Still, I personally suspect that Kruger will never be anything more than a somewhat below average player, especially in his current role as a 3-4 OLB, where explosive athletic ability is very valuable.  With a Kangaroo Score of -0.368, and an Agility Score of -0.868, he just doesn't have the sort of physical traits that you generally see in the more successful players at his position.  Honestly, his results are quite disappointing.

While his statistical production in college was acceptable, it wasn't exactly mind-blowing.  In his final season at Utah, Kruger produced 61 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, and 7.5 sacks.  Overall, that is a fairly good season.  In the year prior to this, he had 63 tackle, 7.5 tackles for a loss, and 3 sacks.  Those are much less interesting results.  If we weighed him according to the method I use in the post on Explosive Pass Rushers, his average result of 12 tackles for a loss in his final two college seasons would leave the computer unable to give him a draft grade any higher than the 4th round.  When we factor in his limited athletic ability, it only gets worse.  Personally, I doubt if I would have drafted him at all, though that may seem a bit harsh.  We'll see over the next couple of years whether he lives up to the Browns' investment.  I'm obviously betting against it.

Devard Darling, WR, 82nd pick in 2004   Actual # of GS:  1   PETARD Proj. GS: 20.45
Along with Dwan Edwards, who is also on this list, Darling contributed to what the computer feels may have been the worst draft in Ravens' history.  Personally, I think Darling was a borderline tolerable prospect, though I still wouldn't have taken him as high as the 3rd round.  With a 4.52 second 40-yard dash time, a 0.785 Kangaroo Score, and a -1.346 Agility Score, his athletic ability was nothing to write home about, though there are much worse physical specimens.  Normally, you might expect me to get moderately excited about a relatively good Kangaroo Score like Darling produced, but it's still just one ingredient in a fairly complex soup.

So, now we have to consider his statistical production in college.  In his final college season, he was responsible for 16.5% of his team's offense. This is slightly below the 17.75% that we would consider to be an average result, but close enough to not matter too much.  In the year prior to that, he was responsible for 14.58% of his team's offense.  Again, just a bit short of the 15.34% we would view as an average result.

In terms of physical potential, as well as proven statistical production, all the numbers screamed 'this guy is fairly average/unexceptional'.  Compared to many of the other receivers that the Ravens have selected over the years, I suppose it could have been much worse.  I guess I'm trying to put a positive spin on this.  In the end, the computer wouldn't have seen much of a compelling reason to spend a 3rd round pick on a player such as Darling.  His 578 career receiving yards, over 5 NFL seasons, even fell short of my very humble expectations.

David Pittman, CB, 87th pick in 2006   Actual # of GS:  1   PETARD Proj. GS: 19.47
Is your team in the market for a relatively small (5'11" and 182 pounds) cornerback, from a low level of competition (Northwestern Northwestern)?  Well, David Pittman might be your man.  With a 40-time of 4.44 seconds, Pittman had reasonably decent speed, but beyond that, his results were quite a bit less impressive.  His Agility Score of -0.478 would have probably given him the sort of gracefulness I normally associate with strong safeties.  Unfortunately, he didn't have the power of a strong safety, with a Kangaroo Score of -0.568.  In this sense, he was a true dual threat cornerback.  An opponent could simply run him over, or choose to outmaneuver him.  He was last seen struggling to make a roster in the CFL.  What exactly was the team thinking when they drafted him in the 3rd round?  I have no idea.

Patrick Johnson, WR, 42nd pick in 1998   Actual # of GS:  15   PETARD Proj. GS: 31.55
It's really unfortunate that finding data from some of the older drafts is so difficult to hunt down.  I can't really speculate too much about Johnson's physical traits, since I can't find any record of his combine results.  It's always been suggested that he had blazing speed, being a former track star, but outside of those rumors I have no clue.  This obviously makes criticizing Johnson a bit more difficult, since we place a significant value on the measurable data from the combine.

Instead, I only have a somewhat rough accounting of his statistical production at Oregon to examine.  In his final college season, Johnson had 1072 receiving yards, on 55 receptions (with the mighty Akili Smith!).  That would have been good for about 21.1% of his team's total offense, and above the 17.75% average for his peers.  In the prior year, Johnson had 218 yards, on 14 receptions.  That would mean he was responsible for about 4.32% of his team's total offense, which is well below the 15.34% average we would hope to see.  Those are clearly some wildly differing results.  Was he just a one year wonder, or did he have real potential?  Without more data to complete the picture, it is difficult for me to really say.  Still, I suspect I wouldn't have had the guts to gamble on a player with such inconsistent college production, with something as valuable as a 2nd round pick.  We should never forget, at one point in 2004 Johnson was actually cut by the Ravens to make room for a then 32 year old Kordell Stewart, who was well into his decline.  The horror...the horror...

Dwan Edwards, DT, 51st pick in 2004   Actual # of GS:  14   PETARD Proj. GS: 28.33
Once again, we run into a player from the Ravens dreaded 2004 draft class.  While Edwards has gone on to have a seemingly serviceable journeyman type of career, I don't think anyone would argue that his selection in the 2nd round was a highlight moment for the Ravens' organization.  I'll keep this section short and sweet.  With a Kangaroo Score of -0.038, and an Agility Score that is an amazingly average 0.000, he had just the sort of stunningly mediocre athletic ability that you would expect of an undistinguished journeyman type of player.  It might actually be a challenge to find somebody with more uniformly average physical traits.  If, on the other hand, you are actually seeking to spend a fairly high draft pick on a rather bland player, this might be just the recipe to achieve that sort of outcome.

Oniel Cousins, OG, 99th pick in 2008   Actual # of GS:  5   PETARD Proj. GS: 17.33
Oniel Cousins may be one of the worst offensive linemen I have ever seen.  That's an impressive accomplishment, since the Ravens also used to employ Bennie Anderson.  Comparisons to a turnstile were made for men like these.  Of course, that is merely my worthless and subjective opinion.  When we look at his -0.515 Kangaroo Score, and his -0.348 Agility Score, it starts to become apparent why he might have been such a disappointment to the team.  Poor lower body power, as well as below average agility, don't tend to make for great offensive linemen.  There are players who have gotten by with somewhat similarly weak measurable traits.  It just isn't something I would tend to bet on.  There was no apparent reason for why the Ravens should have selected Cousins in the 3rd round.  Maybe they thought he had moxie.

Tavares Gooden, ILB, 71st pick in 2008   Actual # of GS:  12   PETARD Proj. GS: 22.84
I vividly remember when the Ravens selected Tavares Gooden.  Perhaps because of the Miami connection, and because of his alleged exceptional speed (though his 40-time of 4.62 seconds was actually fairly average for a MLB), he was often referred to as 'Baby Ray', with numerous people suggesting he might be the heir to Ray Lewis.  Of course, this was all nonsense.  It seems to be a common problem in Baltimore, to prematurely claim that every new MLB might be another Ray Lewis.

While there is unfortunately no data related to Gooden's short shuttle and 3-cone drills, we can still pick him apart a fair bit.  As I've already said, his timed speed was fairly average.  When we look at his Kangaroo Score of -0.748, we see that he measures up just about the same as the -0.800 that I usually use as the definition of an average result for a middle linebacker.  This is still somewhat short of the -0.400 result where we start to see most All Pro and Pro Bowl MLBs showing up.  So, there isn't really any evidence of superior physical potential, but how did he do in college?

        Year         TKL         TFL        Sack         PBU            Int            FF
2007 100 3 0 3 1 0
2006 41 5 0 2 0 0
2005 2 0 0 0 0 1
2004 68 5.5 1 3 0 0

These aren't horrific results, but they also aren't the sort of numbers that merit comparison to one of the all time great MLBs.  I view Gooden's stat sheet as basically fairly average, though it should be noted that he did spend time at OLB in his early days at Miami.  Now, comparing Gooden's statistical production in college to what we see coming from the MLBs who have been selected in the 1st round during the past decade, might not seem very fair (yes, just click the link, and be magically transported to even more of my cynicism).  Still, I think it does put his production into perspective.  In the end, you have a fairly average athlete, with fairly average statistical production, who failed to make much of a name for himself when he came to the NFL.  Is this surprising?  Not in the least bit.

Kyle Boller, QB, 19th pick in 2003   Actual # of GS:  34   PETARD Proj. GS: 44.7
I would normally skip past criticizing a QB selection, since my normal methods of critiquing measurable physical traits don't work as well at this position.  Still, I think it is safe to say that selecting a QB in the 1st round, when they have a career college completion percentage of 47.8%, is absolutely hilarious.  In his best season at Cal, Boller produced a whopping 53.4% completion percentage.  Given a long enough stretch of road, and a steady and consistent acceleration to his performance, I suppose the Ravens were envisioning him hitting the 60% mark somewhere around his third contract.  The most interesting aspect of Boller's failure, was that he still came closer to meeting his PETARD projection for games started, than his performance probably merited.  This just goes to show how remarkably stubborn teams are about continuing to put their 1st round picks out on the field, regardless of how they are actually performing.  Take a moment and think of the number of 1st round QBs that you have seen in the past decade that seemed utterly doomed to failure/mediocrity.  Did their team bench them?  Did their team make them actually earn the starting job?  Hmm, probably not.

Adam Terry, OT, 64th pick in 2005   Actual # of GS:  18   PETARD Proj. GS: 24.56
Ozzie Newsome has a fairly obvious infatuation with exceptionally tall offensive tackles.  I suspect he thinks he is going to stumble across another Jonathan Ogden, by taking this approach.  Unfortunately, the 6'8", 330 pound Adam Terry was no Jonathan Ogden.  Despite his height, his arms measured a laughable 32.25" in length, which became even worse when we adjusted this measurement in relation to his height.  His Kangaroo Score of 0.009, suggests merely average lower body power, meaning that his exceptional size/bulk was mostly an illusion of power.  His Agility Score of -0.324, while not horrific, was slightly below average.  Even when we look at other traits that I place somewhat less value on for offensive linemen, like his 40 time of 5.40 seconds, and 10-yards split of 1.85 seconds, we continue to see a pattern that shows no reason to believe that Terry was going to be able to compete at a higher level of competition, against better athletes than he faced at Syracuse.  His eventual failure, appears to have been rather predictable.

Let's wrap this all up...

What sort of picture does all of this present to us?  Well, I feel like I should be very careful in how I go about saying this.  There's probably a good chance that what I'm trying to suggest here could rather easily get misinterpreted.  Despite the fact that I have listed these players in order of how many games started that they feel short of PETARD's expectations, I don't necessarily want this to be seen as an evaluation of the degree to which a player was unable to perform.  This isn't meant to be a Suck-O-Meter, even if PETARD sometimes works fairly well in that capacity.  Since there is no universally accepted and simple measure to evaluate a player's ability, I just view this list as a way to gauge a team's tacit admission that perhaps someone fell short of management's expectations.  The promptness with which a team is willing to give up on a player is somewhat erratic and unreliable.  Basically, we're just looking for players who appeared to under-perform, and are less concerned by the degree to which they may have done so.

Still, since this is just a list of the most outrageously under-performing players, at least in terms of games started, I think certain trends do appear to be quite common, and could explain why these individuals failed to set the world on fire with their play.  While I may be missing bits of data on some of these players, they're physical and statistical traits almost invariably fall outside of the range for what I would consider to be exceptional or even draftable prospects.  Musa Smith may be the one possible exception to that statement.  This may all sound like a "hindisght is 20/20" type of argument, and the numbers I use to make these judgments may seem a bit odd to some people, but I think my criticisms here don't vary too much from how I evaluated most of the 2014 draft prospects.  If nothing else, I'm fairly consistent in my stupidity.  If you are hoping that a player will contribute, especially at a high level, it's probably beneficial to look towards prospects that have some sort of distinguishable signs of excellence.  That's not something that seems to show up very much, if at all, with the players on this list.

None of this is meant to suggest that players with weaker measurable traits, or poor statistical production in college, can't turn out to be quite good.  There are always going to be a handful of players each year that seem to come out of nowhere and surprise the hell out of me.  I just tend to suspect that these aberrations occur a bit less frequently than we are sometimes led to believe.  I don't like to think of the draft as a crap-shoot, but it is probably a game where playing the odds is a factor.  When GMs throw the odds out the window, and just play the game based on what their gut is telling them...well...they might have a gambling problem.

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