Monday, September 15, 2014

Derek Carrier: Pegacorn?

You're probably going to think I'm nuts, in just a few moments.

Sometimes I have to wonder if I've become mentally impaired or crazy from looking at NFL statistics for too long.  Little things, which should really interest nobody but a lunatic, will fill me with deranged delight.  I'll just be sitting there on Sunday afternoon, watching the numbers come in from different games, and something incredibly stupid will catch my eye.  I'm not talking about Tom Brady's passing numbers, or Calvin Johnson's receiving yards.  I honestly have very little interest in that stuff.  Those types of players put me to sleep with their reliable and boring excellence.  I'm looking for the weirdos.  I'm interested in the pegacorns.

I'm not talking about unicorns.  I'm not talking about pegasus.  I am talking about their bastard offspring the fearsome pegacorn.  It's an exceedingly rare and ferocious creature, kind of like the chupacabra or the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.  Since it's unusual for people to encounter these creatures, and survivors are rarer still, you don't hear much about them in the press.  In much the same way, I would argue that there are players in the NFL who are a bit pegacorn-ish, both in their rarity and in the way they can dominate their opponents.  Sometimes, they are people we've never heard of before.

So, while mindlessly perusing the Sunday stat sheets, a weird set of numbers caught my eye.  Derek Carrier, backup tight end for the 49ers, caught 3 passes (on 4 targets) for 41 yards.  Yes, I know that this isn't exactly mind-blowing production, but he's just one of those odd players that always piques my interest.  Back when I first started this blog, I even made a very brief mention of Carrier's name.  In the post on using a statistics based approach to drafting wide receivers , I listed the players that the computer would have viewed as the top 5 receiving draft prospects, over a nine year span, and the computer came up with Derek Carrier as being it's favorite wide receiver prospect in 2012.  In the eyes of the computer, he was quite an interesting prospect.

Of course, things aren't really quite that simple.  I don't really view selecting wide receivers exactly the way I portrayed it in that post.  I was just trying to take a very simple look at a weird subject.  There were some factors that made Derek Carrier a very peculiar subject.  Issues which were beyond the computer's comprehension.

First of all, Carriers played at Beloit College.  Yup, I had to look that one up myself, as I had no idea where Beloit was located.  So, his level of competition is an obvious area of concern.  Still, a number of great players have come from very weird little schools.  Jerry Rice came from Mississippi Valley Sate.   Terrell Owens went to Chattanooga.  Marques Colston played at Hofstra.  I try to keep an open mind about these things, though I do admit that it makes me nervous.  Still, the degree to which Carrier dominated his competition at Beloit really made me wonder if he might be one of those weird guys who could succeed at making the leap to a higher level of competition.

I normally pay a lot of attention to what percentage of a team's total offensive yardage that a receiver is responsible for generating.  In a player's final year in college, I estimate the average result to be 17.75%.  In the year prior to that, I view 15.34% to be the average result.  Obviously, I want to see draft prospects meeting or exceeding these targets.  So, let's see how Carrier compared to two similarly plus-sized receivers (yes, he's a tight end now, but he was a wide receiver in college) from the 2014 NFL Draft (though Carrier went undrafted back in 2012).

Final Season          Rec       Yards           TD     % Offense    % Rec TD
Derek Carrier 75 1250 12 33.38 80
Kelvin Benjamin 54 1101 15 15.15 37.5
Mike Evans 69 1394 12 19.91 30
Average Result


Prior Year          Rec       Yards           TD     % Offense    % Rec TD
Derek Carrier 67 1044 12 26.78 50
Kelvin Benjamin 30 495 4 7.51 16.6
Mike Evans 82 1105 5 15.21 17.85
Average Result


Whether looking at the percentage of the team's offense, or the percentage of the team's receiving touchdowns, it's fairly obvious that what Derek Carrier was doing in college was pretty ridiculous.  The degree to which his team leaned on him was rather severe, which is a good thing since we are looking for someone who is comfortable carrying a load.  Also, just to be clear, I didn't pick Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans for this comparison for any reason other than the fact that they are both jumbo sized receivers, like Carrier.  Still, it does present an interesting comparison, since both of those receivers were selected fairly high in the most recent draft.  Now, if Carrier had played at a higher level of competition, how much of a bite would that likely have taken out of his results?  I really have no idea.  Even if we said that Carrier's results would be cut in half by such a change in competition, they'd still be in the range where you'd have to take him somewhat seriously.  Personally, I doubt the hit would have been that bad, but we're trying to be fairly cautious here.

There's also the question of whether he had the sort of athletic ability to hold up at a higher level of competition.  So, let's see how his physical traits compare to these same two players.  As always, the Kangaroo Score and Agility Score will be given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is away from the average results for a player in their position group.

Player     Height     Weight    40-yard    10-yard      Kangaroo      Agility
Derek Carrier 75.3 238 4.50 1.57 1.948 1.142
Kelvin Benjamin 77 240 4.61 1.65 0.956 -1.624
Mike Evans 76.75 231 4.46 1.60 1.408 -0.550

For a player of his size, Carrier's athletic ability is absolutely freakish  His Kangaroo Score puts him at a level where only a very small handful of players like Calvin Johnnson or Vincent Jackson have scored better.  When it comes to his Agility Score, his results are insanely good for a large receiver.  I normally have such low expectations of large wide receivers doing well on their Agility Scores, that I somewhat ignore these results.  As long as a large sized receiver comes in around -0.500, I'm usually pretty satisfied, even if that is a fairly mediocre result.  Big guys just don't tend to do very well in this are, so I cut them some slack, because they tend to make up for it in other areas.  In Carrier's case, he didn't just do okay.  No grudging allowances needed to be made.  He simply knocked it out of the park when it came to his Agility Score.  So, when it comes to physical potential, he seems to stack up just fine.  Physically, he is a monster.

This leaves us with an extremely productive player (though we can question how his production compares to players from tougher programs) with insanely good athletic ability.  It seems like a reasonable recipe for success.  Despite all of that, I have to admit I never really expected to hear his name mentioned again, after I initially considered him back in 2012.  Why?  Well, I don't know really.  Maybe I can't shake the whole Beloit thing.  There's also my general lack of faith in NFL teams, and the limited opportunities they give to weird undrafted prospects like this.  Then you have to consider the fact that he's been asked to play tight end, which is a bit of a position switch to deal with.  Oh...oh...that's right!  There's also the little fact that I've never actually seen this guy play before.  How did I forget to mention that?  Yup, never seen him play a single snap...umm...ever.

Like many players who come from weird places like Beloit, getting an opportunity (Hello, Youtube!) to watch thesm on the field is pretty difficult to come by.  Every year, I run the numbers on hundreds of draft prospects, and honestly, I'm not going to watch a lick of game tape for most of them, unless the computer tells me there is a reason to do so.  I've got Hummel figurines to polish.  My record collection needs to be alphabetized, and I still haven't finished knitting pajamas for Reilly.  These things all take a fair bit of my time.  Inevitably, this leads to speculating on someone who I have never actually seen play.  Yes, I should probably feel guilty about this, but considering that my main competition is only the expertise of every single scout employed by an NFL team, it still feels a bit safe to slack off from time to time.

Now, despite this admission of laziness, I have to say that I probably would have watched clips of Carrier, if I had been able to find any.  Again, playing at Beloit creates weird issues here.  I would have been curious to see what he actually looked like in a game.  Maybe there was something terribly wrong with him, which would have become apparent.  I really can't say.  Then again, I can't claim to have any great eye for talent.  I just look for pegacorns, in the simplest most objective way that I can, by the numbers.  Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes a prospective pegacorn disappears, never to be heard from again.  It's something I've gotten used to.  Other times, a prospective pegacorn returns from out of nowhere, gets a measly 41 receiving yards on 3 receptions, and I go "Ah, that's right.  I almost forgot about him", and the optimism returns.  It's such a little thing, but it stokes the fires, and makes you wonder once again, "Could this guy actually be pretty good?"  Honestly, I still fully expect Derek Carrier to disappear again, possibly forever.   At the same time, I'm feeling tempted by the possibilities he presents.  41 yards, man!  Have you ever seen something so spectacular?

Like I said at the beginning, this is all quite crazy.

1 comment:

  1. Well............Worst case scenario he ends up as a walmart greeter. best case scenario vernon davis leaves in free agency and derek carrier gets the starts and builds a rapport with kaperdick and becomes a top 5 TE.