Thursday, August 4, 2016

The 2016 Ozzie Newsome Challenge


Blah!  Blah blah blah.  Blah, blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah.  Blah blah-blah, blah blah blah blah blah...blaaaaaaaah...I've been a bit busy.  Blah blah blah blah blah.  Blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah.  Blah, blah blah blah blah (blah).


1.) Blah

2.) I've been thinking about how kangaroo farts will probably kill us all one day.

3.) Blah blah blah, blah blah.

Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah. Blah, blah blah blah blah, Ozzie Newsome Challenge.  Blah, blah blah.  Blah blah blah blah,"Blah blah BLAH!".  Blah blah.  Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah, blah/blah blah blah blah blah. 

Team Kangaroo Team Ozzie
Round 1

Pick #6 Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Round 2

Pick #42 Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana Kamalei Correa, LB, Boise St.

Round 3

Pick #70 Bronson Kaufusi, DE, BYU Bronson Kaufusi, DE, BYU

Round 4

Pick #104 Connor McGovern, G, Missouri Tavon Young, CB, Temple

Pick #107 Tyrone Holmes, DE, Montana Chris Moore, WR, Cincinnati

Pick # 130 Jatavis Brown, LB, Akron Alex Lewis, OT, Nebraska

Pick # 132 Jordan Lucas, CB/S, Penn State Willie Henry, DT, Michigan

Pick #134 Kalan Reed, CB, Southern Miss. Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech

Round 5

Pick #146 Darius Jackson, RB, Eastern Michigan Matt Judon, DE, Grand Valley St.

Round 6
Pick #182 Kamu Grugier-Hill, S, Eastern Illinois Keenan Reynolds, RB, Navy

Pick # 209 Michael Pierce, NT, Samford Maurice Canady, CB, Virginia

Blah, blah blah blah blah.  Blah blah blah, blah blah.  Blah blah blah, Ronnie Stanley, Hah-ha-ha blah blah blah blah blah.  Idiots, blah blah blah blah?  Blah blah, Kaufusi, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.  Blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah,"Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah".  Blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah.  Blah blah blah blah blah.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Year 3: Still Ranting Like A Loon

It turns out that today is the 3rd anniversary of our blooooog, which means that we have been publicly stating our idiotic views for much longer than anyone should have allowed.  We would like to thank our friends and family for their inattentiveness, without which our madness would have been stopped long ago.

So far, this year's draft has been fairly entertaining, with plenty of stories that are probably worth commenting on.  The Rams traded away much of their future to acquire a quarterback that we like, Jared Goff, despite having a questionable offensive line and no wide receivers.  How could that possibly turn into a disaster?  The Cowboys selected running back Ezekiel Elliott with the 4th overall pick, in an obvious attempt to challenge anyone's belief that running backs are overrated commodities.  The Browns, a seemingly perpetual joke of an organization, appear to be...umm...making intelligent decisions and behaving responsibly. 

Still, we wanted to briefly turn our attention to the Ravens' selection of offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, and the way this relates to the player he might be replacing, Eugene Monroe.  There's just something about this situation that strikes us as a bit peculiar.

We've talked about Eugene Monroe a couple of times in the past.  When the Ravens initially traded for him, we expressed our doubts.  When the Ravens decided to sign him to a somewhat costly extension a few months later, we expressed even more doubts.  We also suggested that Jared Veldheer would have been a more desirable target for the team, which seems to have turned out to be true, and found it particularly amusing that Veldheer ended up signing a slightly less costly contract than the one given to Monroe.  For the most part, we felt that Monroe was probably a mediocrity, who was mainly coasting along on the goodwill that teams bestow on former 1st round picks, regardless of their actual performance.  As always, our reasons for betting against Monroe were somewhat half-assed and perhaps foolish sounding.

Now, as we approached the 2016 NFL Draft, speculation mounted that the Ravens might be interested in drafting a left tackle, to replace the disappointing and often injured Eugene Monroe.  Okey-dokey, that sounded like a swell idea, even if we suspected that the team wouldn't acknowledge the possible mistakes that might have led them to this point.

Different people will have different views on how to appraise offensive tackles.  Most folks seem to lean towards the more subjective approach of film study.  That's fine, though it doesn't really appeal to either Reilly or myself.  We prefer to make somewhat blind guesses, based on a player's measurable physical traits, as well as whatever concrete data can be taken be taken from the games they played in.  We've discussed why we feel that this blind approach is likely to produce results that are just as good as the more traditional methods, and possibly superior to them.  Of course, luck is still a factor in all of this.  We've also talked about how certain athletic traits might matter more at different positions along the offensive line.  We've also compared the measurable traits of some highly drafted "busts" to some late round "successes".  This led us to the bonkers and highly irresponsible conclusion that successful athletes actually tend to have measurable athletic ability that is better than a tree stump.  It's crazy, I know!

These half-baked thoughts were the main reason for our doubts about Monroe, and they are also the reason why we find the Ravens' 1st round pick in 2016 a bit suspicious.  Essentially, Ronnie Stanley appears to be virtually the same player as the one he is attempting to replace.

Player Height  Weight      Arm    40 yard    10 yard   Kangaroo     Agility     Expl.
R. Stanley 6'5.5" 312   35.625  5.20 1.79 -0.067* -0.823  -0.047*
E. Monroe 6'5.25 309     33.875 5.18 1.75 0.340 -0.253  0.798

When you compare them side by side, it paints a peculiar picture.  Their general physical dimensions are hardly any different, though Stanley does potentially have a better reach due to his longer arms.  Their 40 times, as well as their 10 yard splits fall into a very similar range, with Monroe perhaps having a slight edge.  Still, these results interest us less than the final three scores we have listed above.  According to their Kangaroo Scores, both players had little more than average lower body power (though Stanley's could only be calculated off of his vertical jump), but Monroe still posted the better result of the two.  If we removed weight as a factor in their individual jumps, Monroe produced a significantly better explosiveness result than what we see with Stanley (where we again have to base things solely off of Stanley's vertical jump).  When it came to agility, Monroe seems to crush Stanley, but if we used Stanley's pro day results, his Agility Score would jump to -0.185, which is effectively just about the same level of mediocrity that we see with Monroe.  In the end, the differences between both of these players is most likely extremely minor.  They both appear to be incredibly average athletes.

We certainly wouldn't want to say that an average athlete can't succeed, because that isn't true.  There are tons of very average athletes in the NFL, some of whom are doing quite well.  We just think these more pedestrian athletes are significantly less likely to become exceptional players, which is what you should be aiming for with the sixth overall pick.  Our data just suggests that more exceptional athletes tend to have a better chance of paying off.

So, watching the Ravens invest so much in someone to replace Monroe, who was the 8th overall selection just a few years ago, despite appearing to be a virtual clone of Monroe, strikes us as a bit bizarre.  Maybe things will turn out better this time, though we see no objective reason to believe that this will be the case.  All we can say is that the Ravens appear to be making decisions the exact same way that they did when they felt that Monroe was a desirable player to acquire, and when they proceeded to pay too much to extend his contract.  We would have hoped that they would have reconsidered their approach to these sorts of decisions, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

If there's one significant factor in the Raven's favor, it's that we feel the actual performance of offensive linemen is scrutinized much less than it probably should be, and that high draft picks are given a lot of leeway. After all, that's how the Raven's convinced themselves to acquire Monroe in the first place, despite his less than impressive resume.  So, regardless of his qualifications, Stanley will become a starter.  When he becomes a starter, people will assume that he earned this opportunity.  If he struggles people will be inclined to make more excuses than they would for a 5th round pick.  When he does well, people will start to have visions of Canton.  When/if Stanley is released in 4-5 years, people will have largely forgotten that there was ever any controversy about having made this pick in the first place.  Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

Ravens fans often say "In Oz we trust", and we don't think it would be wise for us to argue with people that have such blind faith and loyalty.  While we certainly wish Ronnie Stanley and the Ravens the best, because none of this will affect us one way or another, we do think it would be somewhat funny if the outcome of this decision making process turned out to be somewhat predictable.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The 2016 Little Big Board

We've constantly found ourselves running behind schedule, when it came to our attempts to pick apart this year's draft prospects.  Reilly and I also found ourselves struggling to find the time to put together our prospect shopping list, The Little Big Board, for our annual bout of idiocy, The Ozzie Newsome Challenge.  This all should have been wrapped up about a week ago, but we've been feeling a bit sluggish lately.

In our last two editions of the Little Big Board, we wound up with 56 prospects that we would have been willing to pursue for our fictional team.  This year, we struggled to come up with 50.  Even then, we probably included quite a few players that we normally wouldn't really be very happy with.  The list probably would have been closer to 40, if we didn't toss in some "filler", to give us some more options.  We're probably going to have to spend the next 24 hours reevaluating this list, to see if we can improve it, but for now, it is what it is.

1st Round
Jared Goff, QB, Cal
Vernon Hargreaves MMXVI,  CB, Florida
Jalen Ramsey,  CB/S, Florida St.
DeForest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon
Sheldon Rankins, NT/DT, Louisville 
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi ?
Joey Bosa, DE/OLB, Ohio State

2nd Round
Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma St
Kevin Byard,  SS/FS, Middle Tennessee State *
Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise St.

3rd Round
Sean Davis,  CB/S, Maryland
Connor McGovern, G, Missouri *
Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
Bronson Kaufusi, DE/DT, BYU
Vernon Butler, NT, Louisiana Tech
James Bradberry, CB, Samford
Darius Jackson, RB, Eastern Michigan *
Jonathan Bullard, DE/DT, Florida

4th Round
Tyrone Holmes, OLB, Montana *
Jordan Lucas  FS/SS, Penn State
Joe Thuney, G/C, North Carolina State
Kalan Reed, CB, Southern Mississippi
Xavien Howard  CB, Baylor
Daniel Lasco, RB, California
Jatavis Brown, OLB, Akron
Nick Kwiatkoski  OLB, West Virginia
Ben Braunecker, TE, Harvard

5th Round
Joe Haeg, T, North Dakota State
Brandon Shell, T, South Carolina
KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame
Jordan Jenkins, DE/OLB, Georgia
Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State
Miles Killebrew  SS, Southern Utah
Brandon Chubb, ILB, Wake Forest

6th Round
Michael Pierce, NT, Samford *
Chris Moore, WR, Cincinnati 
Kavon Frazier  SS, Central Michigan 
Ian Wells  CB, Ohio
Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama
Eric Murray,  CB, Minnesota
Isaac Seumalo, C, Oregon State
Jason Fanaika, DE, Utah

7th Round
Justin Zimmer, DT, Ferris State
Jake Brendel, C, UCLA
Micah Awe, ILB, Texas Tech
Mike Jordan,  CB, Missouri Western State
Joe Schobert, OLB, Wisconsin

Yeah, we're not too happy with how this list turned out.  Part of the problem is, we just don't think this year's pool of prospects is particularly exceptional.  Still, some positions might present better options than others.

The interior defensive line prospects look pretty good, in general.  There are probably some pretty good defensive backs out there.  The offensive linemen, as a group, seem to at least have a number of solid possibilities.  All things considered, a team can probably find some decent options at these positions, without too much difficulty.

On the other hand, we really don't like this year's group of wide receivers.  The outside pass rushers seem to have some reasonably reliable options, but almost nobody we have a great passion for.  The linebackers seem a bit ho-hum.  The running backs look like a steaming pile of mediocrities, whose futures will be more determined by their offensive lines, than their individual greatness.  It's all a bit frustrating.

With so many of the flashier positions appearing to be a bit weak, we're leaning towards the idea that this might be a good draft for teams to take a very cautious approach.  They might want players to fill certain positions, but the talent might not be as plentiful in some of the more prestigious areas.  This feels like a year where some prospects will have to emerge as great players, despite not fitting a lot of the normal criteria that makes success relatively predictable.  We might have to count on a few anomalies to bolster this year's class.  That's fine, and is a normal part of the process, but this year it might matter a bit more for some positions.

In general, we're strongly leaning towards the idea that this year might be a fairly ideal time to trade current draft picks for future ones.  The premium that most teams charge for such trades is almost always a huge benefit for the team with less immediate concerns, but we also suspect that next year's pool of talent will probably also be a bit better.  It would almost have to be.

I currently suspect that Team Kangaroo is probably going to load up on defensive backs this year, as there are a number of them that we like a fair bit, even if we think players in the secondary tend to be unstable and overpaid commodities.  We just feel that there are potentially some nice options out there, who could provide reasonably good value to us.  Plus, it is an area that we have neglected in the past few years, to some degree.  Maybe we can fill some of these holes in our fictional roster, while picking up a few other interesting odds and ends.

We'd also like to figure out  a few more names to add to our list of considerations for the 2nd round.  Based upon the rumors of who is likely to be selected in that range, we weren't excited about many of the prospects.  If we can't find someone whom we are comfortable with selecting in that range, it could present us with some problems.

One of the more peculiar situations we might be faced with, is the Joey Bosa question.  Since Team Kangaroo will be making its first pick at #6, there is probably a reasonable chance that he will still be available, assuming that we don't trade down.  For reasons that might seem a bit peculiar, the possibility of selecting him, or leaving him for someone else, causes us a bit of discomfort.  This has possibly led us to over-analyze him a bit, as he probably scares us a bit more than a lot of the other options we might be faced with.

We've already discussed him a fair bit, and picked over his peculiar athletic traits, but he still strikes us as a very odd duck.  Let's ignore some of the rumors about his personality and off the field behavior, which are largely lacking concrete evidence, though they make him sound like a bit of a nut.  Let's also skip past some of the peculiar issues and concerns about his statistical production, which remind us a bit of the dreaded Vernon Gholston.  Our biggest worry is in figuring out the more objective issues of how he might be able to succeed, based on his interesting but somewhat strange athletic traits.

While his combine results suggest that he has rather exceptional agility, and moderately respectable lower body power, the overall picture is a bit weird.  While his agility results would suggest that he could thrive when given a bit more space to maneuver around an opposing offensive tackle, as a 3-4 OLB, his numbers didn't suggest that his speed or explosiveness were ideal for this role.  His measurable traits suggested that he might not have the sort of exceptional burst to consistently threaten the outside edge on an offensive tackle, where his agility would then become a huge advantage.  When we ignore his unweighted explosiveness, and just look at raw lower body power, his results suggested that he was probably a tad bit above average for a 4-3 defensive end, but perhaps not as overwhelmingly gifted as a lot of the players we normally see as the top players at this position.  Athletically, he is quite respectable, but really does seem to fit the term "tweener" that is sometimes thrown around.  He really strikes us as someone who might belong somewhere between the 4-3 defensive end position, and the 3-4 OLB position, and the number of historical players who are directly comparable to him are a bit strange.

So, we are left with a player who might not have an ideal position fit, who rumors suggest might be a bit a bit of an oddball off the field (you can explore that subject on your own), and whose statistical production was a tad below what we normally associate with top level pass rushers, even in his best college season.  Risk, risk, risk.  Yet he is almost certainly going to be a top 10 pick, and is probably one of the better options at his position, at least for this year.

While we wouldn't be surprised in the least if he turns out to be a very good player, we probably wouldn't want to bet on him becoming a truly great one.  Still, we feel like he probably has a reasonable shot at becoming one of the better pass rushers to come out of this (potentially) relatively weak class.  Maybe we should take him, and not feel so concerned about the variety of issues that seem to orbit him.  We're really not sure.  In the end, we just feel like he might be a bit more of a coin flip than we really like.  If we're going to pick someone in the top 10, we would prefer to feel more confident that he is likely to be a home run.  With Bosa, we just worry that his ceiling might not be quite high enough to merit such a selection.

Oh well, I guess that is enough rambling for now.  We'll continue to mull things over during the next 24 hours, before all of the madness begins, and reconsider some of our idiotic views.  If anyone wants to throw in their two cents, they are more than welcome to do so. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Kangaroo Court: The 2016 Linebackers

In general, examining the different linebacker prospects tends to be one of our favorite position groups to play around with.  We dump the data for the players into our computer, do a little sifting, and then sit down to watch some of the games for the players that have emerged through our different filters.  So, while we've been running a bit behind schedule this year, we've finally gotten around to looking at this year's prospects, just like we did last year.

One of the things we always enjoy about this group of players is the actual video portion of the examination.  Seeing whether the players demonstrate the behavior that their measurable athletic traits and statistical production would suggest, is entertaining to us.  There's just something peculiar about linebackers, that always leaves some added room for subjective judgments.  Perhaps more than any other position, we sometimes feel as if you can see the decisions that are running through their minds when they play, at least compared to other positions where someone might be  more clearly matched up in one-on-one situations that require less thought.  Seeing that added intangible spark of aggressiveness and quick decision making, often ends up being a final subjective ingredient in how we feel about a lot of these players.  So, the possibility that our judgment is out of whack, is something we have to consider. 

To some extent, we wondered if this potential flaw in our reasoning ability might be more of an issue this year.  We had a hard time feeling particularly excited about any of this year's linebackers, which made us wonder if we were missing something.  Maybe Reilly and I were a bit distracted and hard to please this year, because of issues elsewhere in our lives.  Or, maybe this year's crop of linebackers was a bit mediocre.  We're really not sure.  Either way, we just didn't seem to find ourselves having as much fun with the linebackers this year.

Since the athletic traits of players in this category are measured against all defensive prospects who are under 275#, this skews their results when it comes to the Kangaroo Score, because they don't have the same mass as some of the larger outside pass rushers in this weight class.  Since the goal is to see how many standard deviations away from an average result that a player is, we have to make some mental adjustments here.  For these (generally) lighter prospects, a Kangaroo Score of -0.800, would be the approximate point at which we would find the 'average' player in this group.  Among these lighter prospects, you typically start to see Pro Bowl and All Pro players reaching a score of -0.400, or better.  Just like the Kangaroo Score, the Agility Score (which comes from the short shuttle and 3-cone drill), will also be given in the form of how many standard deviations away from the  average result that a player is.  While the Kangaroo Scores for these players tend to suffer by comparison to heavier players, these lighter prospects generally make up for this by having an advantage when it comes to how nimble they are.  So, we prefer to see Agility Scores that are at least 1.000 standard deviation above average.   Normally, I would expect a player with a higher Kangaroo Score to be more of a hitter, and more productive on blitzes, while a player with a high Agility Score will probably be better in coverage.  Still, nothing is set in stone, and individuals do vary in how they perform.

This list will continue to be modified and updated, as new data and prospects come to my attention.  The list won't include every player. but instead, just the ones that I find interesting for one reason or another.  Last Updated: N/A

Myles Jack  OLB, UCLA
40 Time: ?    Kangaroo Score: 0.679   Agility Score:  ?
There are some serious limitations as to what we can say about Jack, because our data on him is very limited.  We can comfortably say that he has significantly better lower body power and explosiveness than you typically see in an outside linebacker, but we have nothing to weigh his agility or speed.  While most people seem to feel that his coverage ability is fairly exceptional, and this might minimize concerns over his missing agility results, this would just be speculation on our part.  To some extent, we thought the data pointed to Jack being most effective in coverage when his team's pass rush was operating effectively.  This isn't intended to be an attack on Jack, but instead is something that can be fairly typical for most linebackers.  While Jack might indeed be above average in coverage, we just thought that he sometimes might have benefited from his surrounding talent, at least a bit more than is sometimes acknowledged.  We also tend to find the idea of drafting a pure coverage linebacker in the top 5 picks to be a peculiar proposition.  When it came to his production as a run defender, his results seemed much closer to average, though he might have been improving in this area prior to his injury.  While his lower body power and explosiveness (his non-weight adjusted result would be about 1.493 standard deviations above average), would suggest that he could be effective as a pass rusher, his statistical history shows little production in this area, and somewhat humdrum production behind the line of scrimmage.  Some of this is might be due to how his team utilized him, and the lack of opportunities he had to rush the QB, but it is still difficult to confirm that he is exceptional in this area.  Then we have the issue of his knee injury.  Some people seem to think this won't be a lingering issue.  Others appear to be much more concerned about how he will recover from it.  While we have no interest in raining on the Myles Jack parade, and can understand how some people might be fascinated by him, the combination of a potentially limited skill set, along with injury concerns, would make us very nervous about selecting him as highly as he is expected to be taken.  We'd let someone else make that pick.

Darron Lee  OLB, Ohio State
40 Time: 4.47    Kangaroo Score: 0.018   Agility Score:  0.649
Darron Lee is a somewhat frustrating prospect.  The computer loves his physical potential, as his results suggest that he has excellent speed, lower body power and explosiveness, as well as somewhat respectable agility.  The problem is that his statistical production seemed to be a tad bit below average for someone at his position, outside of his high number of tackles for a loss.  It's also difficult to look at his results without considering the enormous benefit he might have received by being a part of a rather loaded Ohio State roster.  In the handful of games we saw him play, he also didn't manage to make much of an impression on us.  It's not that we felt he was bad.  He just didn't strike us as being clearly exceptional.  While I suppose we might give him some consideration if he fell to the 2nd round, simply because of his physical potential, we wouldn't be willing to select him in the 1st, where people seem to project that he will be taken.

Reggie Ragland  ILB, Alabama
40 Time: 4.72    Kangaroo Score: -0.739   Agility Score:  0.400
What are you feelings about C.J. Mosley?  Seriously, I need to know this before we proceed much farther.  You see, Reilly and I sort of placed our bets on Mosley becoming a fairly mediocre linebacker, a couple of years ago.  It seems quite likely that many people would say that we were wrong about this, though we're still not sure about that.  Regardless, we suspected that Mosley would get plenty of opportunities, be reasonably productive, and receive some acclaim, though we felt this would mainly be due to his 1st round status, and the confirmation biases associated with that honor. We're still sort of leaning in that direction, as Mosley stills strikes us as a fairly average middle linebacker, though perhaps a tad better than we initially expected.  With Ragland, we have another Alabama middle linebacker, who we feel even less confident about.  Athletically, he is a slightly worse version of the rather average C.J. Mosley.  Ragland's statistical production, is almost indistinguishable from that of Mosley, and we feel a tad below average.  When we watched Ragland play, we also saw nothing that got us the least bit excited.  We honestly don't see any reason why he should be selected before the 4th or 5th round.  People will probably disagree with us about this.  Still, we think there are a great number of reasons to worry about whether Ragland can truly become and exceptional linebacker, which is really what you should expect if you are going to select him in the 1st round.  So, obviously, based on our past misadventures in betting against highly touted players from Alabama, we recommend selecting him in the 1st round, sending him to a few Pro Bowls, and awaiting his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Leonard Floyd  OLB, Georgia
40 Time: 4.60    Kangaroo Score: 0.829   Agility Score:  0.201
When we talked about this year's group of outside pass rushers, we had rather mixed feelings about Floyd.  Athletically, he struck us as a very interesting prospect.  He just didn't have the production to back that up.  There just seemed to be something missing when he attempted to go after the quarterback  We did suggest that he might make a more interesting 3-4 ILB or some sort 4-3 LB, as his athleticism also translated well to that position.  Even here, we still might feel a tad cautious about Floyd.  While he's clearly very capable physically, it's hard to say that he ever demonstrated dominance in any particular area.  He strikes us as someone who could be an interesting 3rd round pick, because of his physical potential, though everyone seems to expect that he will be taken well before that.  I'm not really sure what we can say about that.  While he's fairly interesting, it feels like someone is going to take more of a gamble than we think is wise.

Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise St.
40 Time: 4.70  Kangaroo Score:  -0.567  Agility Score: 1.166   Avg TFL:  15
Like Leonard Floyd, we already discussed Correa a little bit, when we discussed this year's group of outside pass rushers.  Unfortunately, we just didn't think that Correa had the sort of lower body power or explosiveness, to be an ideal fit in that role.  As a linebacker who plays further off of the line of scrimmage, on the other hand, we think he has some fairly ideal traits.  Compared to this group of players, his lower body power is fairly respectable.  He also appears to have at least a respectable level of speed and agility for this sort of role.  While we wouldn't say that his production in college was terribly impressive, outside of the number of tackles for a loss that he produced, we think some of this could be attributed to these issues of how he was utilized.  When he was allowed to operate in space, which we think suits his athletic skills, he appeared to be a much better player.  When he was on the line of scrimmage, we thought his lack of power made him look a bit underwhelming.  While projecting him to a somewhat different position is a bit tricky, we think he could arguably end up being worth a 2nd round pick, if the team that selects him gives him the space to operate.  If, on the other hand, people insist on putting him up on the line of scrimmage, we suspect he might get buried a bit more than you might like to see.

Su'a Cravens  OLB, Southern California
40 Time: 4.66    Kangaroo Score: -2.151   Agility Score:  0.885
Cravens is sort of a weird prospect.  While his speed and agility results are fairly intriguing, we're really concerned about his Kangaroo Score.  His results there would suggest that he has extremely poor lower body power and explosiveness.  Our main concern here, is that he could simply get run over by more powerful opponents.  Since he only weighs 220 pounds, we considered the possibility that teams might be planning to transition him to the strong safety position, where his athletic traits might be a better match.  Unfortunately, when we compared him to players at that position, his speed, relative to strong safeties, becomes much less impressive, and his agility ceases to be above average as well.  When compared to strong safeties, his lower body power is also merely average and uninspiring.  So, I guess we are going to try to keep him as a linebacker, where he at least possesses some physical advantages.  While Cravens generally had respectable statistical production in college, and we felt he was an entertaining player to watch, we just aren't certain as to how a team should best use him.  Sure, he could be an interesting player to put on the field in obvious passing situations, but he'd probably get killed if he was lined up in a 3-4 base defense.  Even in a 4-3, where he might have a better chance of surviving, we suspect he would probably require a somewhat above average defensive line.  He's an interesting player, but as people start to push him up towards the top of the 2nd round, or even into the 1st, the potentially narrow window of what defense he should fit in, makes the value of such a high selection seem a bit questionable.

Joshua Perry  OLB, Ohio State
40 Time: 4.68    Kangaroo Score: 0.315   Agility Score:  -0.218
While we've been fairly busy making fun of all the prospects from Ohio State, we really don't have many serious complaints about Perry.  Athletically, he appears to have acceptable speed, as well as above average lower body power and explosiveness.  The only minor issue might be his somewhat mediocre agility.  Generally speaking, we think players like this fit better as inside linebackers in a 3-4.  When it came to Perry's production in college, everything checked out as solidly average, if not exceptional.  All of this sort of lines up with what we saw when we watched Perry play.  We might not think that he is a terribly rare prospect, but he seems to be fairly solid.  We think picking him up somewhere around the 3rd round could be a reasonable decision.

Kentrell Brothers  ILB, Missouri
40 Time: 4.89    Kangaroo Score: -1.572   Agility Score:  1.149
When we express our pessimism about Brothers' future, based on his numbers, the obvious response would maybe be to point to someone like Vontaze Burfict.  That's fair.  We admittedly would not have placed very good odds on Burfict surviving in the NFL, and it appears that we were probably wrong about him.  Still, we wouldn't feel comfortable making all of our decisions on peculiar examples such as that.  While Brothers does appear to have somewhat respectable agility, his other results give us some concerns.  His Kangaroo Score point to the likelihood that he has significantly below average lower body power and explosiveness, and his 40 time creates some worry about his effective range.  While we wouldn't say that we were struck by any amazing deficiencies when we watched him play, we still have to lean towards the idea that he is probably most effective within a somewhat limited radius of where the ball is being snapped.  While his statistical production seems to have been a good bit above average, we had some concerns in this area as well.  We generally don't like to make a big fuss about solo tackles versus assisted tackles, but in Brothers' case his results moved a tad outside of our comfort zone.  In 2015, his biggest statistical season, 51.9% of his tackles were assists, which is a fair bit higher than what we like to see, and can perhaps suggest that some of his overall results might have been inflated.  His solo to assist ratio prior to 2015 was a bit more respectable, but his overall results were also much more pedestrian.  We also have felt, in recent years, a tad wary of defensive players from Missouri.  The school has had a strange ability to produce players with below average athletic traits, with strangely outrageous statistical production.  Generally, this has applied more to their pass rushers rather than their linebackers, but it is still a thought that is rattling around in our heads.  Right now, people seem to expect that Brothers will be selected somewhere around the 2nd round, but that is well outside of our comfort zone.  Maybe Brothers will end up exceeding our expectations, but he just isn't someone we feel we can gamble on with such a high selection.

Nick Vigil, ILB, Utah State
40 Time: 4.71    Kangaroo Score: -1.146  Agility Score:  1.954
When it comes to his athletic ability, Vigil reminds us of a poor man's Ben Heeney.  Because of the way that his results tilt so strongly towards agility, with less evidence of lower body power and explosiveness, we would be somewhat afraid to see him playing inside in a 3-4 defense.  We suspect he would do much better in a 4-3, with a fairly stout defensive line to protect him from getting run over.  One of the peculiar things about Vigil, is that we would normally expect his excellent agility results to translate into superior ability in coverage, but it didn't seem to be clear that this was the case. While some of his tackle numbers appear to be a bit inflated with more "assists" than we typically prefer, it's hard to argue with the idea that his overall production in the last two years has been fairly impressive.  Overall, we suppose it wouldn't be crazy to spend a 3rd or 4th round pick on Vigil.

Jatavis Brown, OLB, Akron
40 Time: 4.44    Kangaroo Score: -0.647  Agility Score:  0.210
Despite hearing some quiet rumblings about Brown, we were a bit slow to investigate him.  Athletically, he just didn't appear to be particularly interesting, outside of his exceptional 40 time.  His agility results were fairly mediocre.  His Kangaroo Score suggested he had a fairly common sort of lower body power, though his unweighted results said his explosiveness was a more impressive 1.102 standard deviations above average.  It also doesn't help that he is a whisker under 5'11", and just 227 pounds.  All things considered, he didn't appear to be a particularly shocking athlete.  The interesting thing about Brown was his statistical production.  For an OLB, his numbers were well above what we normally expect to see at that position, and he managed to steadily produce these results for the past three seasons.  It would be tempting to say that his numbers were inflated because he played at a lower level of competition, but even when we made deductions (similar to what we sometimes do with pass rushers), his results were still significantly above average.  Based on the few games of his that we were able to see, he also struck us as one of the more entertaining players to watch.  While he is probably limited to playing in a 3-4, because of his size, and lower body power, it wouldn't shock us if he turned out to be one of the better linebackers in this class.  CBS currently seems to project that he will be a 4th round pick, which sounds fairly reasonable to us.

Joe Schobert, OLB, Wisconsin
40 Time: 4.76    Kangaroo Score: -0.383  Agility Score:  0.391
Reilly and I can't figure out Schobert at all.  Part of that is due to the somewhat peculiar way in which Wisconsin used him, as he would bounce around as an edge rusher, and then be lined up as a 4-3 OLB.  While he really doesn't fit the typical mold of an edge rusher, the odd thing is that he seems to have been surprisingly effective in that role.  Still, we have to suspect that those days are over for him, and he will most likely become a more conventional linebacker.  Athletically, he is sort of a mixed bag.  His speed and agility seem to be fairly mediocre.  On the other hand, his lower body power and explosiveness aren't so bad, and we could even stretch his Kangaroo Score to a more impressive 0.040, if we only considered the results from his vertical jump.  In the end though, it's his statistical production which actually makes him somewhat interesting, more so than his athleticism.  Over the past two years, Schobert put up somewhat above average results, and managed to be a surprisingly disruptive player.  Of course, the way that Wisconsin moved him around makes a lot of this production difficult to translate to what he will probably do in the NFL, in a more conventional role.  We sort of doubt that he could do particularly well in coverage, because of some of his athletic traits.  He also might struggle to keep up with faster running backs along the sideline.  Still, he struck us as a fairly interesting, and possibly underrated player.  We suspect his best fit might be as an ILB in a 3-4 defense, who can also be sent up the middle occasionally to get the QB.  He's an odd duck.

Blake Martinez  ILB, Stanford
40 Time: 4.71    Kangaroo Score: -0.788   Agility Score:  0.919
We may not be thrilled with Martinez, but since people are projecting that he might be selected somewhere around the 5th round, he at least seems to present a reasonably honest value.  While his timed speed, lower body power and explosiveness all appear to just be fairly average, that is at least better than being terrible.  His agility results are somewhat above average for a player of his size, but not necessarily shocking.  His statistical production in college was generally pretty respectable, even if he seems to have made fewer of the big impact plays than we might hope to see.  In the little we have seen of him, he appeared to be the sort of guy his results might suggest.  He seemed to do everything you might expect a linebacker to do, in a somewhat respectable manner, without doing anything that jumped out as being incredibly unusual or impressive.  He just strikes us as a serviceable sort of guy.  For where he is expected to be taken, that seems like a possibly acceptable deal.

Nick Kwiatkoski  OLB, West Virginia
40 Time: 4.71    Kangaroo Score: -0.511   Agility Score:  0.517
We could fiddle around with Kwiatkoski's numbers a bit, and tell a more interesting story, but that's probably unnecessary.  Let's just consider the worst case scenario, where Kwiatkoski possibly measures up as rather average when it comes to his speed, lower body power, explosiveness and agility.  There are some simple arguments to suggest he might be somewhat better than average athletically, but let's roll with this.  Okay, being an average athlete can still be perfectly acceptable.  When we look at his statistical production, on the other hand, Kwiatkoski appears to have consistently been more productive than your average linebacker, regardless of where he lined up.  Beyond just reaching the ball carrier, he even seems to have consistently made a somewhat above average number of higher impact plays, whether it was tackles for a loss, batted passes, or interceptions.  We'd also give him some credit for the possibility that West Virginia's pass rush has probably been a bit mediocre, which doesn't really help a linebacker look particularly good in coverage.  In the little we have seen of Kwiatkoski (I'm getting tired of typing that name), we wouldn't say that he was the most electrifying linebacker we have ever seen, but he generally appeared to be pretty competent.  What is all of this worth?  I don't know, maybe a 4th or 5th round pick?

Brandon Chubb, ILB, Wake Forest
40 Time: 4.68    Kangaroo Score:  -0.672   Agility Score:  1.114
Maybe it is partially due to the expected low cost of acquiring Chubb, and maybe it is because we find his last name somewhat amusing, but we actually like Chubb a fair bit.  He appears to have respectable lower body power and explosiveness.  His timed speed falls in a decent range as well.  His agility results also seem to be fairly good.  Overall, he looks like a pretty well rounded athlete, even if he isn't a shocking freak of nature.  We wouldn't say that his statistical production in college was amazing, but for the last two years fell into a solidly average range for someone at his position.  In the little we have seen of him, he seemed to look the part, and made a decent impression on us.  Considering that he is only expected to be something like a 7th round pick, he seems like a decent bargain. 

Will Ratelle  ILB, North Dakota
40 Time: 4.57    Kangaroo Score:  0.180   Agility Score:  0.647
At 5'9" tall, and 251 pounds, Ratelle is clearly a peculiar prospect.  While his agility results are perhaps a tad lower than our ideal target, his other results are a bit more interesting.  His Kangaroo Score would suggest that he has significantly above average lower body power, though his unweighted results suggest merely average explosiveness.  He also seems to be surprisingly fast, despite being such a weird little tank of a man.  While his level of competition was hardly top notch, we'd still say that his statistical production fell in the average to above average range during the past two years.  From the little we have seen, he mainly appeared to be a dispenser of concussions, who thumped people in the running game.  He's generally expected to go undrafted, but he strikes us as a somewhat interesting player, who could be amusing to watch as an ILB in a 3-4 defense.  The cost of acquiring him will probably be close to nothing, and there appears to be at least some potential hidden in him.

Micah Awe, ILB, Texas Tech
40 Time: 4.67    Kangaroo Score: 0.152   Agility Score:  0.629
There's really not much that we can say about Awe, since we haven't been able to find much information on him.  Athletically, he just strikes us as a fairly interesting player.  His Kangaroo Score might not seem terribly impressive, but for an inside linebacker this is actually a very good result, and suggests significantly above average lower body power.  When weight isn't factored into the equation, his lower body explosiveness is about 1.717 standard deviations above average, which is exceptional.  When it comes to his agility and straight line speed, his numbers are a bit more pedestrian, but nothing we would fret about too much.  His statistical production in college merely fell into the average range, though some of this is hard to judge since he was really only a starter for his final season.  It's hard for us to know how interested to be in Awe, without more data, but since he is generally only viewed as someone who will be an UDFA, there's no reason for us to get too crazy.  If a team had a chance to bring him into their training camp, maybe they will find a pleasant surprise.  Who knows?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Kangaroo Court: The 2016 Wide Receivers

Reilly and I have been a bit busy dealing with some of our other interests, and this has given us less time to fret over this year's class of draft prospects.  I suppose, in some ways, having things to distract us from the draft is a good thing.  This time of year tends to make us a bit crazy, as we try to examine all of the prospects, and then second guessing ourselves and the data that we have compiled.

Regardless, our first impression of this year's group of wide receivers was a bit peculiar.  When we ran the 2014 wide receiver prospects through our filters, 14 prospects remained, and seemed to deserve a bit of added attention.  For the most part, I think people would agree that the 2014 class of receivers has turned out rather well.  In our post on the 2015 wide receiver prospects, 15 players made it through our filters.  While we thought that some of them were barely getting past the hurdles we set for them, that was also an above average number of prospects to focus our attention on, and to give some additional scrutiny.

For the 2016 class of wide receivers, only 8 prospects have so far managed to make it past all of our filters, which is a somewhat disappointing result, and perhaps a bit worrisome.  To some extent, this smaller pool of prospects might be a product of the limitations we have had in collecting data this year.  There were a small handful of players who could have potentially been added to the year's list, but they never performed some of the tasks at the combine or their pro days, which we require.  Still, of the 8 players that made it through, it also struck us that a great number of them seemed to have really glaring shortcomings, or areas of concern.  I can't say that Reilly and I ended up having particularly strong feelings for any of the players who made it past our statistical hurdles.  Overall, everything we looked at caused us to wonder just how poor this year's crop of wide receivers might actually be.  It also seems quite possible to us, that this might just be the inevitable price that has to be paid, after a couple years of having an above average number of quality prospects.  The talent pool might just need to replenish itself a bit.

Undoubtedly, some of the receivers who are selected this year, will end up performing quite well, even if we may have doubts about many of them.  In the end, teams are going to need receivers to catch the ball, even if they might not be the rarest sorts of talents.  There's also a good chance that a strange player or two will emerge as a superior player, even if the computer wasn't a fan of them.  These sorts of things happen, and there is usually at least one of these statistical anomalies at the wide receiver position in each draft class.  That's not something we choose to focus on, or worry about.

So, as we have done before, we will try to contemplate every wide receiver prospect who managed to produce both a Stat Score and an Athletic Score, that was no worse than -0.100 standard deviations below average.  The receivers will be divided into two groups, one for players that are over 200# (the 'Big' receivers), and those who are under 210# (the 'Small' receivers).  For players who fit in both groups (players who are between 200 and 210 pounds), we'll test them in both groups to see where they might fit best.  For 'Small' receivers, the computer puts more of an emphasis on speed and agility when forming their Athletic Score, and their Stat Scores is more demanding of multiple seasons of solid statistical production.  For the 'Big' receivers, the computer places more of an emphasis on lower body power and explosiveness (the dreaded Kangaroo Score), and their Stat Score is somewhat less demanding.  Additionally, there was one player that we included who fell into our somewhat less frequently discussed Midget group of receivers, which is a group that focuses purely on exceptional speed.  We also filter out any 'Big' receivers with a 40-times below 4.60 seconds, as well as filtering out 'Small' receivers with 40-times below 4.50 seconds.  This left us with the following list of wide receivers, which we tried to explore in more detail.


Player     Stat Score     Ath. Score
Keyarris Garrett 0.630 0.772
Leonte Carroo 0.747 0.439
Andy Jones 0.053 0.757
Jordan Payton 0.172 0.044
Chris Moore -0.082 0.310


Player     Stat Score     Ath. Score
Josh Doctson 0.349 0.361
Sterling Shepard 0.228 -0.074


Player     Stat Score     Ath. Score
Will Fuller 0.517 -0.495

Just to be clear, these first filters are only intended to identify the players that the computer thinks have the best chance of becoming 'average' NFL receivers.  Our definition of average is a player that can produce 35 receiving yards per game played over the course of their career (or a modest 560 receiving yards over 16 games), so our standards are fairly low.  If we raised our standards to players who averaged at least 45 receiving yards per game played, it really becomes quite rare for a player not to pass both of these statistical hurdles.  We wouldn't take the scores listed above too seriously on their own, as they are really scores that are built upon many smaller scores, which frequently matter even more.  This is just how we start the weeding out process, to determine which players we want to focus our attention on.  In reality, we always end up having to veto some of the computer's recommendations for various reasons, which we will try to describe as we go along.  Unfortunately, our own worthless and subjective opinion does come into play a bit more on some of these vetoes.

It should also be mentioned that we were missing some data for a couple of this year's more intriguing wide receiver prospects.  With Corey Coleman, short shuttle and 3-cone results were never available, which is something we require for smaller receivers.  So, we were unable to put him on the list, even though we think there is a pretty good chance his agility results would have been perfectly adequate, or at least not so poor as to offset his other positive traits.  For similar reasons, we also had to exclude Tajae Sharpe, as he also had areas of data that weren't available, but that are a significant part of our normal weeding out process. 

Because of the way that data slowly becomes available, I will continue to modify and adjust some of these results as new information becomes available.  Last Updated: N/A

Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame  Ht: 6' 0.75"  Wt: 186
40 Time: 4.32  Kangaroo Score:  -1.053  Agility Score:  -0.214
In a typical draft class, we seem to stumble across maybe one or two players like this, who fit into our Midget group of receivers.  Personally, we aren't really fans of this type of player, because they rarely turn into top tier receivers, but we still have to include them.  While Fuller's Kangaroo Score suggests that he has significantly below average lower body power and explosiveness, that isn't unusual at all for this sort of player.  The key trait for our Midget receivers is extreme speed.  Now, simply finding a fast receiver isn't too difficult, or rare.  With the Midget receivers, however, they seem to take things up a notch.  When you look at their 10-yard split, 20-yard split, and finally their 40 time, they seem to be able to show steady and constant acceleration at every stage of their timed run.  Not many players produce these kinds of results, and when they do, they are almost invariably lighter weight prospects like we see with Fuller.  When we look at Fuller's 2nd Gear Score of 0.19, it does suggest that his already impressive 40 time might still be underestimating his deep speed by a fair bit.  While he is clearly fast, his agility results wouldn't suggest that he is anything more than average, when it come to his change of direction ability.  So, he would appear to mainly be a straight line deep threat type of player, which I suppose can be useful.  Unfortunately, while he was productive in college, the data also seems to suggest that he dropped about 13.2% of the passes that were directed towards him over the last two seasons, which is more than a little bit worrisome.  Considering that his hands were measured at just 8.3", this seems like it could very easily continue to be an issue.  Because of the occasional successes of other Midget group receivers, such as DeSean Jackson, we feel like we have to remain a bit open-minded about Fuller.  Still, when you consider that Fuller is generally projected to be taken in the first couple of rounds, the cost of acquiring him just seems way too high for our tastes.

Josh Doctson, WR, TCU  Ht: 6' 2"  Wt: 202
40 Time: 4.50  Kangaroo Score:  0.958  Agility Score:  0.361
Among the receivers who made it through the computer's filters, Doctson might have the best overall combination of athletic traits.  He seems to have above average lower body power and explosiveness, slightly above average agility, and at least respectably average speed.  None of his results were exactly mind-blowing, but he didn't appear to have any troubling physical shortcomings.  Because he weighed in at 202 pounds, we ran his numbers as a Big receiver, as well as a Small receiver.  He ended up passing the filters for both groups, though the computer slightly preferred to keep him in the Small group.  Part of this related to our concerns about his somewhat below average BMI results, where he was -0.753 standard deviations below average.  Our concern here is that players with these sorts of results frequently run into more issues with injuries, which is a consideration that is tough to ignore.  Our concerns here probably aren't as high as they would have been with the even lankier Sidney Rice, and can possibly be removed altogether by implementing an all cheeseburger diet.  One of the more worrisome issues with Doctson is his age, and how this relates to his college production.  Doctson will already be turning 24 this upcoming December, which is quite a bit older than what we would ideally like to see.  It also presents the possibility that he might have had some advantages in college, simply by being more physically mature than his opponents.  The other peculiar issues, is how we view production for a Big receiver, versus a Small one.  Seeing Big receivers hit their statistical peak later in their college careers, like Doctson did, is fairly common.  We sometimes wonder if this has to do with them taking longer to fill out their larger physical frames, though this clearly doesn't apply to Doctson, who we mentioned is still a bit skinny.  With Small receivers, the computer tends to set the bar a bit higher when it comes to showing dominant statistical production earlier in their college careers.  We can't really say that Doctson really did this, as his numbers prior to the 2015 season were actually a little bit below average.  So, we have a player who took a significantly longer time to hit their statistical peak, without the normal reasons that we associate with that sort of delay.  We find this a bit curious.  We also seemed to run into some worrisome issues when we looked into the six game stretch in 2015 where Doctson produced his most impressive statistical results.  There seemed to be a fair bit of evidence to suggest that his big games were largely the result of beating up on some very poor defenses.  We also had to wonder if playing with a scrambling QB like Trevone Boykin might have allowed Doctson to face somewhat less intense coverage.  While we certainly didn't think Doctson was bad, when we watched him play, he just struck us as someone who felt more like a player who should be selected in the 3rd or 4th round, rather than the 1st or 2nd as some are currently proposing. 

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma  Ht: 5' 10.3"  Wt: 194
40 Time: 4.48  Kangaroo Score:  0.281  Agility Score:  -0.675
Reilly and I actually like Shepard a fair bit, though our thoughts on him might not sound overwhelmingly positive.  As an athlete, Shepard isn't the most amazing sort of creature.  His timed speed is just adequate, and his agility is probably a bit lower than what we normally want to see in a smaller receiver.  The main thing he seems to have going for him is that his vertical and broad jump results suggests better lower body power and explosiveness than you typically see in someone his size.  When it came to his statistical production, his stat sheet probably looks a bit more exciting than how our computer viewed his results.  By our calculations, his results were just a tiny bit above average for a draftable prospect, relative to the offense he played in.  In many ways, his athletic traits and statistical production reminded us a fair bit of Lance Moore.  Now, we should point out that we actually like Lance Moore, even though he was a player that went undrafted back in 2005.  In a similar way to how we feel about Moore, we feel like Shepard's future is probably going to depend a lot on what sort of QB he ends up playing with.  With a top notch QB, we think Shepard could be quite respectable, though probably not consistently great.  With your typical NFL QB, our expectations would be quite a bit lower.  Since some people seem to be projecting that Shepard will be a 2nd or 3rd round pick, we have been feeling a bit uncomfortable with the value he might have to offer.  While we like Shepard, he just strikes us as more of a 4th or 5th round type of prospect.

Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers  Ht: 5' 11.9"  Wt: 211
40 Time: 4.50  Kangaroo Score:  0.186  Agility Score: ?
Technically, we shouldn't have let Carroo into this list of receivers, because we still don't have the data to calculate his agility score.  We also have to admit that when a player doesn't perform the drills that allow us to calculate that score, we suspect it is because they believe they will perform poorly in that area.  The reason we made an exception here, is because Carroo fits into the Big receiver group, and agility results don't tend to matter very much in how we calculate the overall scores for these types of players. Beyond that minor issue, there isn't much to say about Carroo's physical traits.  Athletically, there is very little about Carroo that is terribly interesting, which oddly is kind of interesting in itself.  For someone who is almost the precise definition of an average athlete, his statistical production in college was rather impressive.  In 2014, he was responsible for 21.42% of his team's offensive yards, 36.73% of their receiving yards and 45.45% of their receiving touchdowns.  All of these results are quite a bit above average, but it appears that he would have topped them all in 2015, if an injury hadn't sidelined him.  So, we adjusted his results to account for that missed time.  In 2015, Carroo was responsible for 24.31% of his team's offensive yards, 43.63% of their receiving yards and 52.63% of their receiving touchdowns.  These are fairly ridiculous results.  The primary reason why his Stat Score isn't significantly higher, is because much of this production came off of longer plays, with a somewhat lower volume of receptions than you might expect.  The computer tends to like a larger sample size of receptions to help hedge its bets.  Despite that, you have to respect the level to which his team relied on him, as he was clearly the main offensive force for Rutgers.  You also can't say that he was a product of a particularly skilled QB, as Rutgers had two different QBs start for them over the last couple of years, and Carroo did well with both of them.  So, how was such an athletically average guy so productive?  We have no idea, he just was.  While we certainly prefer it when a player has clearly identifiable athletic advantages to help explain their superiority, we can't really object to someone who exceeds our normal expectations.  In a lot of ways, we think the situation with Carroo is somewhat reminiscent of what we saw last year with Devante Parker.  Like Carroo, Parker had very few signs of physical greatness (though he was probably a tad more gifted than Carroo), and was also missing data that would allow us to calculate his Agility Score.  Like Carroo, Parker also demonstrated some extremely impressive statistical production, which we had a difficult time explaining.  Both players also hit their statistical peaks around the same age, though Carroo was probably showing signs of dominance slightly earlier in his college career.  After watching a handful of Carroo's games, we're still a bit confused about how he was so productive.  While he appeared to be a perfectly respectable receiver, there didn't seem to be anything about him that really stood out as being particularly unusual.  At this point in time, it appears that Carroo is slowly being moved up draft boards, and some are now viewing him as a 2nd round pick.  While he is an interesting player, that makes us a tad uncomfortable, and feels like it might be a product of this possibly being a weak class for receivers.  We also tend to dislike the idea of drafting receivers with that high of a selection, if they don't have at least some sort of superior physical traits.  To us, Carroo still feels like someone who should probably be a 3rd round pick.

Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA  Ht: 6' 1"  Wt: 207
40 Time: 4.47  Kangaroo Score:  -0.115  Agility Score: -0.798
Payton is a bit of an oddball, who slipped through the computer's filters despite having a number of traits that we find less than thrilling.  While we could have run him through the computer as either a Big or a Small receiver, due to his weight making him eligible for either group, the computer felt he was a better fit as a Big receiver.  This is sort of an odd fit, because he really doesn't appear to have the lower body power and explosiveness that we tend to associate with that sort of player.  On the other hand, he also doesn't have the sort of above average speed or agility we tend to prefer for Small receivers.  His statistical production also falls into a range that just barely makes it past our filters, and appears to just be a bit average, relative to his team's offense.  While we don't have particularly high expectations for Payton, the cost of acquiring him also doesn't appear to be terribly high.  CBS is currently listing him as a 3rd or 4th round pick, while we would probably rank him just a bit lower.

Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa  Ht: 6' 3"  Wt: 220
40 Time: 4.53  Kangaroo Score:  1.058  Agility Score: -1.338
As we have said many times before, the computer is willing to ignore rather poor agility results with some of the bigger receivers.  It's not that we wouldn't prefer to see someone like Garrett produce a better agility score, it's just that we don't demand it, at least not the way we would with a smaller receiver.  Instead, we are more interested in seeing these kinds of players demonstrate that they have a higher degree of lower body power and explosiveness, which Garrett's Kangaroo Score would suggest is present.  Athletically, Garrett basically appears to be a somewhat less explosive version of Dez Bryant. One of the more significant differences between these players is their hand size.  While Bryant's hands measured 9.75", Garrett's came in at just about 9" even.  While we probably shouldn't make too much of this, it is something we have been giving some thought to lately.  With some of these bigger receivers, whose change of direction skills can be a bit more limited than their smaller counterparts, we probably don't expect them to create quite as much separation from the defensive back.  That's generally fine, as they can still frequently use their larger bodies to wall off their opponent, but this probably results in more contested catches.  The more contested the catch is, the more we start to wonder if there really may be significant and obvious benefits to having larger hands to secure the ball.  So, maybe this is a possible area of concern for Garrett.  From what we can gather, he only dropped 3% of his passes in 2015, which is an excellent result.  On the other hand, he seems to have dropped about 14.5% of his passes in 2014, which is a fairly wretched result.  When it came to Garrett's statistical production, he followed what we consider a fairly normal path for larger receivers, by developing a bit more slowly than the smaller receivers, though his results ended up being above average overall.  While we generally thought he looked like a respectable receiver, and someone who could be a desirable prospect, the biggest area of concern for us was his age.  He will already be turning 24 this upcoming September.  So, we have to consider the advantages he may have had when facing younger and potentially less physically developed college competition.  We also have to wonder about how long the window for potential success will remain open for Garrett, as he will probably start to hit the age where players start to physically decline, even before his rookie contract has expired.  While we generally like Garrett, we would probably lean towards selecting him no higher than the 4th or 5th round.

Chris Moore, WR, Cincinnati  Ht: 6' 1"  Wt: 206
40 Time: 4.53  Kangaroo Score:  0.527  Agility Score: 0.426
Chris Moore was one of the more peculiar players to make it through the computers filters this year.  His actual contribution to his team's offense was significantly lower than what the computer would normally allow, with only 11.25% of his team's offense in 2014, and 13.27% in 2015.  Players with those sorts of results typically get eliminated from further consideration pretty quickly.  The problem is, the computer also factors in a player's average yards per reception, which periodically lets some weird prospects slip through the cracks.  Since Moore has averaged 22.04 yards per catch, during the past two seasons, he managed to sneak past our guards, in a somewhat similar manner to what we saw with Mike Wallace.  Now, obviously, Moore does not appear to have the rare sort of speed that Wallace had, but Moore did still seem to be a surprisingly effective down the field type of receiver.  He also seems to be a fairly respectable athlete.  His numbers suggest that he has moderately above average agility, as well as above average lower body power and explosiveness.  If we only focused on his broad jump results, we could even elevate his Kangaroo Score to a more impressive 0.902.  He's admittedly a slightly older prospect than we like, turning 23 this coming June, and we have obvious concerns about why he wasn't a bigger part of his team's offense, but he does strike us as a curious anomaly.  He's perhaps a bit unconventional, relative to the normal prospects we focus on, but he also isn't likely to cost very much to acquire.  CBS seems to currently view him as just a 5th or 6th round pick.  While we're not sure if we would pursue him, we might consider it if he did fall to the 6th round.  Either way, we're rather curious as to how thing will turn out for such a strange player.

Andy Jones, WR, Jacksonville University  Ht: 6' 1.2"  Wt: 211
40 Time: 4.58  Kangaroo Score: 1.207  Agility Score: -0.722
Every year, there is going to be some insanely weird small school player that the computer finds interesting, even if Reilly and I think it is a bit nuts.  This year we have Andy Jones.  When it came to his statistical production in college, Jones barely made it past the thresholds that we expect a player to reach.  Of course, we also have to consider that he probably had an advantage reaching those thresholds by playing at a rather low level of competition.  So, yes, his production was hardly overwhelming, and probably a bit inflated.   Still, he does appear to have the sort of athletic traits that are worth giving some serious consideration.  He's fairly big.  He has borderline respectable speed.  Most importantly, he seems to have exceptional lower body power and explosiveness.  While his agility is a fair bit below average, this isn't terribly troublesome for someone of his size, and with his power, and falls within a tolerable range.  It's unlikely that he will be drafted, and certainly not something we would encourage a team to do.  Still, as an undrafted free agent, he seems like someone who could be interesting to bring into training camp.

More Thoughts On The 2016 Running Backs

Sometimes I worry about the possibility that Reilly and I might be assholes.  It's a thought that crosses our mind, from time to time, as it probably should with most people.  After all, the people who don't give this thought some consideration, probably really are assholes.

After our recent post on the 2016 running back prospects, we were feeling particularly guilty about our feelings that many of this year's players were probably mediocrities.  This is actually a feeling we have had about several of the different position groups for this year, and expressing our constant pessimism rarely seems to bother us.  Still, at some point, even jerks such as ourselves start to feel a bit bad for betting against the future success of a bunch of young kids whom we have never met.

Unfortunately, we just can't see a clear path to a more humane and sensitive perspective.  Beyond the obvious and frequently discussed question of the positional value of running backs, Reilly and I tend to grade these players on a bit of a curve, depending on how highly they are projected to be selected.  If a player is expected to be taken in the 1st round, we think they should have some clear signs of superiority.  You don't want to see any reason to doubt their ability to succeed.  On the other hand, if a player is expected to be a 5th round pick, we're more willing to accept it if the player possesses some peculiar quirks.

So, while we don't like to be put in the position of betting against any of these kids, this year's crop of running backs presented us with a couple of troubling question.  If Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry are this year's supposed top prospects, exactly how dominant do they need to be in order for them to be worth their purchase price?  Even if we had perfect 20/20 hindsight, how many of the league's current top tier running backs would you be willing to go back and plunk down a 1st round pick to acquire?  Probably not very many, I suspect, and the likelihood that either of this year's top running backs will enter that upper tier is hardly a sure thing.  The likelihood that both will succeed is even less likely.  While these two running backs may, or may not, be the top players at their position, it's also quite possible that their long term value to a team will be less than that of the 4th or 5th rated player, at a more valuable position.

While Howie Roseman still seems to stubbornly cling to the idea that the top performing running backs were also high draft picks, this overlooks the huge advantage that top picks have when it comes to receiving an opportunity to play.  We could just as easily say that highly drafted quarterbacks throw for more passing yards than their 6th round counterparts, though we know this is primarily because teams generally refuse to bench their top draft picks, unless their incompetence reaches a truly epic level.  Regardless of our doubts about Elliott and Henry, or our concerns over the value of the running back position, there is no denying that they both have a strong chance of becoming productive players, simply because they will be relatively high selections.

Reilly and I also dislike finding ourselves in the awkward position of appearing to support odd prospects, merely for the sake of being different.  Still, the computer did think there were some interesting reasons to be drawn towards the peculiar physical potential of Daniel Lasco and Darius Jackson.  Neither of these running backs is expected to be selected before the 4th round, and though we would never suggest that either of them are certain to succeed, the cost of their failure is relatively insignificant.  We just view them as interesting oddballs, and the sort of high-upside-low-risk players that we enjoy squandering late rounds picks to acquire.

Again, we wind up having to ask some peculiar questions here.  If given the same sort of opportunity to play, that Elliott and Henry will probably receive, what do you think the chances are that Lasco and Jackson could prove to be 90% as effective?  Would you say that there is a slight possibility that they might even outperform their more highly drafted peers?  Or, what if you selected both Lasco and Jackson, in the later rounds, would their combined odds of success as a pair be as great as the ones you might have for just one of either Elliott and Henry?  The actual combined cost of selecting Lasco and Jackson, is still probably going to be significantly less than the likely cost of just a single 1st or 2nd round running back.  These are the value related concerns that make Reilly and I trample on a lot of the higher rated prospects, even if we have no desire to be so harshly critical of a bunch of kids.

While there is a reasonable chance that neither Lasco or Jackson will succeed, the question is whether that would really matter.  The risks are minimal with both of them.  On the other hand, if a team is anything less than ecstatic with what they get from Elliott and Henry, then a team might have a real problem.  Elliott and Henry are going to need to dominate, in order to justify their selections, while Lasco and Jackson can be merely average, and still end up presenting a very respectable value.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Jackson Jeffcoat Claimed By The Browns!

Free at last!  Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God almighty, that Jackson Jeffcoat is free at last!

Umm, maybe.

I'm not really sure what to say about the Browns signing of Jackson Jeffcoat (oops, we initially posted the wrong link, sorry about that), after the Redskins waived him, that we haven't already said before.  All I can say is that Reilly and I are keeping our fingers crossed on seeing a potentially interesting player finally getting a legitimate opportunity.  We have to assume that this is the work of Paul DePodesta, and so we will gently bow our heads towards Cleveland...for perhaps the first time ever.

Yup, we are sadly and pathetically excited by this seemingly insignificant move, though we expect to be disappointed in the long run, as usual.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Kangaroo Court: The 2016 Running Backs

It looks like we have reached that sad point in time where we have to blather about Reilly's views on this year's running back prospects, much like we did last year.  Since this is one of our least favorite subjects, and we think too much of a running backs "success" is determined by their draft status and their offensive line, we thought we would start out by discussing something we find much more interesting.  Of course, you probably won't find any of this interesting, but we're not terribly concerned with keeping you entertained.  We're not clowns, whose purpose is to amuse you.

So, at some point back in December, I had a rather strange and disturbing dream.  At this point in my life I rarely remember the details of my dreams, but this one somehow stuck with me, and continues to rattle around in my noggin.  Since I've been unable to figure of what it all meant, I thought I would offer up the chance for a wider audience to unravel its hidden meanings and mysteries.  You will all get to play amateur psychoanalyst, and I will get to avoid paying for a real doctor.  While my description of the dream may be a bit disjointed and confusing, what I am about to say is based on what I wrote down that morning, after waking up.

At the beginning of this dream, Reilly and I found ourselves inside some restaurant in New York.  This is already a little bit peculiar, because Reilly and I rarely travel, and aren't particularly drawn towards New York.  Regardless, the building this restaurant was in felt fairly old and dingy, and reminded me of how a rowhouse is typically laid out.  It seemed like the sort of place where the Corleone family would arrange to have a family rival assassinated.

The maitre d' stepped forward, and bluntly informed us that Reilly would need to be tethered in a back storage room of the restaurant, as dogs weren't allowed in the area where people were eating.  For reasons I can't explain, I grudgingly complied with this disgusting species-ist request.  This is where we have MYSTERY #1.  It is highly unlikely that I would let some stranger separate me from Reilly, or that I would leave him unsupervised.  Nobody puts baby in the corner!

Okay, that probably seems like an extremely minor issue to most people, but trust me when I say that this all gradually builds to a fairly demented crescendo.  At this point, I am tying Reilly's leash to the end of a radiator in the storage room.  There he sat, this old gray-bearded beagle, about to be temporarily abandoned, while I went to a table to eat.  This is MYSTERY #2, as the real Reilly is in fact not a beagle (DUN! DUN! DUN!!!!), but a sheepdog.  Why he transformed into a beagle in this dream, I really can't explain.

At this point, I assume that I ate some sort of meal, but I have no actual memory of this taking place.  Time just seemed to skip ahead.  Either way, I went back to fetch Reilly, only to find that he had disappeared.  Only his leash remained, lying on the floor where I had left him.  I frantically searched high and low in the restaurant, in my attempts to locate him, but couldn't find a single clue as to his whereabouts.  Eventually, I wandered down into the basement, which was set up as a bar.  All along the counter were ragamuffin looking 8 year olds, sitting on stools and drinking pints of beer.  All these little drunkards were dressed like paperboys from the early 1900s, as if they had escaped from the movies Newsies.  I have no affection for the movie Newsies, but my little sister used to watch it all the time when she was a kid, so I suppose some of it must have infiltrated my brain, very much against my will.  I think MYSTERY #3 should be fairly obvious.  What in the hell was going on with this bar full of weirdly dressed and liquored up children?

It was like this, but they were much tinier, and much drunker.

I tried to ask these inebriated pipsqueaks if they had seen my partner in crime, Reilly, and they in turn asked me what he looked like.  This is where it starts to seem as if I was suffering from an aneurysm, as I lost all ability to describe my own dog.

"He's green," I said, despite knowing that the words coming out of my mouth were nonsensical.  It was all I could think of to say, or at the very least, all I was able to say.  Again, MYSTERY #4 should be obvious, as Reilly, even in my dreams, is not green, though it would be kind of cool if he was.  Showing serious and unfounded optimism about my communication skills, I continued,"You know what I mean, right?"

Somehow, these little weirdos appeared to be able to make sense out of the gibberish that was tumbling out of my mouth.  They formed a tiny drunken huddle, consulted with each other, and appeared to reach a conclusion.  It turned out that some of them had seen a large Russian man departing the restaurant, with Reilly tucked under his arms.  They warned me that I should be cautious when dealing with the Russian, as they felt that he was someone dangerous to get involved with.

I thanked these boozed up children for their help, and after they gave me directions to locate the Russian, I seemed to magically and instantaneously arrive at my destination.  I found myself standing in an unpaved dirt alley, in what was clearly a bad part of town, directly behind a rundown looking rowhouse.  Weeds were growing everywhere behind these rundown buildings, and rats occasionally scurried past me.  I found myself face to face with an enormously fat and hairy Russian man in a wifebeater, who had a distinctly gangsterish vibe to him.  While this might sound as if I have some issue with Russians, I think my sense of tension was more a product of my long-standing fear of people who wear wifebeaters.  They freak me out, for reasons that I can't entirely understand.  Also, the only ethnic biases I am aware of possessing, are related to the Lizard People, for somewhat obvious reasons.  Regardless, the dognapper looked eerily like Carl Brutananadilewski, from the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which is also a bit difficult to explain because I don't actually watch that show.  I suppose it's just another example of peculiar things that have seeped into my mind over the years.

Artist's rendering of the kidnapper.

The Russian openly acknowledged the fact that he had my dog, and seemed to have no sense of shame or concern about being caught committing the most horrendous crime a human being is capable of.  Rather than giving my loyal sidekick back to me, the fat man seemed to be more interested in putting Reilly to work.

"Dog pulls cart very well," said the Russian, now showing my green (but not actually green) beagle (but not actually a beagle) Reilly to me, who was tethered and harnessed to a hot dog cart.  It is somewhat difficult to adequately convey how disturbing I found this image to be.

Reilly cowered before the fat man, an his puppy dog eyes cried out to be rescued.  At this point, we have clearly reached MYSTERY #5, where we have to ask "Why would a little dog be pulling a hot dog cart?", or why would such an idiotic idea be rattling around in my subconscious.  I have no explanation for that, or anything else that has happened in this dream.

The Russian said he would return Reilly to me for $800, which I didn't have on hand.  Whether I paid up or not, didn't seem to matter to the man, as he was perfectly happy to have Reilly continue in a life of hot dog cart pulling servitude.  I suppose I was becoming a bit anxious at this point, and perhaps Reilly sensed that we were in trouble (he is a brilliant dog, and we have always had a strong telepathic bond), because he began to whimper in fear.  This seemed to infuriate the Russian, who pulled his leg back, as he prepared to kick my puppy.

I quickly weighed my options, including the seemingly strong possibility that this man was armed, and got ready to pounce (I'm like a jungle cat in real life as well), and then.....I woke up.

Now, maybe this will make sense to you, or maybe it won't, but this dream left me feeling incredibly confused.  My groggy but now conscious self was left with a serious feeling of "What the fuck was all of that about?".  Sure, I could explain some parts of it.  After all, I do have some perfectly rational fears concerning the possibility that one of the readers of this blog (or Ozzie Newsome) will recognize how wonderful and brilliant Reilly is, and try to steal my dog for themselves.  Still, there was a rather intense level of weirdness to how all of this played out, that left me stupefied.  It felt as if someone had slipped me some bad acid, and given David Lynch directorial control of my subconscious.

If nothing else, you now have a better understanding of the sort of lunatic who writes this blog.  I also, have unburdened myself, and admitted that I think you are all conspiring to abduct Reilly.  If anybody has an interesting interpretation of this dream, I would certainly be curious to hear it.  For the potential dognappers out there, you should be aware that we live in a heavily fortified compound, with a relatively large cult that watches over Reilly day and night, and whose sole purpose in life is dedicated to his well-being.  So, good luck with whatever you may be attempting to do.

With that out of the way, I suppose we should get back on track, and start prattling about this year's group of running back prospects, which I feel is a much duller subject.

I've already mentioned our peculiar views on running backs and their athletic abilities, so I'll just skip ahead a bit here.  The player's Kangaroo Score (our measure of lower body power) and Agility Score (based on their short shuttle and 3-cone times) will be given in the form of how many standard deviations above, or below average, that the player happens to be compared to his peers at the same position.  I'll also include the player's 2nd Gear Score, and Speed Score.  Personally, I have some issues/concerns with including the Speed Score, but a fair number of people are familiar with this metric, so I figured I would toss it in there.  I should also mention that I sometimes use the unofficial 40 times, rather than the magically altered official times of the NFL, since I prefer to look at the results in relation to a player's 10-yard split.

This list will continue to be updated, as new data and prospects come to my attention.  We won't list every prospect here, but instead will just mention the players that we feel are interesting for one reason or another.  Last Updated: 4/18/2016

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State  Ht: 5'11.75"  Wt: 225
40 Time: 4.47  2nd Gear: 0.11   Speed Score: 112.7   Kangaroo Score: 0.217  Agility Score: 0.786*
Since Elliott didn't complete all of the drills at the combine, or at his pro day, we had to be a bit open minded about how we calculated some of his scores.  This mainly became an issue with his agility score, where we had to input numbers that are sort of based on unreliable and difficult to verify rumors.  Regardless, it does appear that Elliott is probably a fairly respectable athlete, even if none of his results are particularly outstanding.  His college production was clearly well above average, even if playing at Ohio State might have inflated his numbers a bit, and included at least some evidence that he can also be used as a pass catcher.  While we felt he looked like a respectable runner in the few games we watched, these subjective opinions also don't matter too much to us.  Because of the opportunities he is likely to be given, as a relatively high draft pick, some level of success is fairly likely, though we have some doubts about whether he is truly an exceptional player.  The real problem is the idea of selecting a running back in the 1st round.  It's just not something we would ever be willing to do, and would strike us as an incredibly stupid decision.  Still, we wish only the best of luck to whoever selects Elliott

Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama  Ht: 6'2.5"  Wt: 247
40 Time: 4.54  2nd Gear: 0.06  Speed Score: 116.2  Kangaroo Score: 2.810  Agility Score: -0.778
Henry is kind of a weird prospect.  His measurable traits suggest he has incredible lower body power, but just average speed and below average change of direction ability.  Basically, he is probably just a human battering ram.  The peculiar thing is, for a guy that should have great power, we felt that he routinely allowed himself to be tackled without the sort of resistance that you might expect.  There's also the nagging issue that he has so far shown very little evidence that he can be useful as a receiver, which is a bit of a problem.  Can a modern running back really succeed without contributing as a receiver?  We have some doubts about that.  People seem to enjoy comparing him to Brandon Jacobs, which is understandable, but this is also a bit perplexing.  After all, Jacobs was only selected in the 4th round, largely because he had a lot of the same limitations that Henry seems to possess.  Andre Williams might be another good comparison for Henry, though he was also selected in the 4th round, and arguably a somewhat better athlete.  So, why are people suggesting that Henry should be a 2nd round pick?  We have no idea.

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah  Ht: 5'11"  Wt: 219
40 Time: ?   2nd Gear: ?   Speed Score: ?   Kangaroo Score: ?  Agility Score: ?
Without much in the way of measurable data, there is very little that we can say about Booker.  While he had steady and respectable production in college, the true value of some of this is murky.  His average yards per carry tended to be unexceptional, though we could possibly blame his offensive line for some of that.  It's also hard to weigh his impact relative to the other Utah State running backs, since so few opportunities were given to other backs.  In 2015, yes, there is some evidence to suggest that the team did better when Booker was handed the ball, rather than another back.  Prior to that season, it is hard to say for sure.  The main thing that stands out about Booker, is his above average production as a receiver.  We obviously like that.  On the other hand, Booker will already be turning 24 this coming May, so the window for how much a team can get out of him during his physical peak is relatively small.  Since he is coming off of a November knee injury, which could impact his usefulness as a rookie, this window may get even smaller.  In the little that we have seen of Booker, he struck us as a respectable player, but not as someone who was a terrifying talent.  He seemed to take the yards that were available to him, but not someone who could regularly create additional yards on his own.  Some people seem to think that Booker will be a 2nd round pick, and while we wouldn't bet against him becoming a useful player, we think he's probably worth significantly less than that sort of investment.

Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech  Ht: 5'10.25"  Wt: 215
40 Time: 4.56  2nd Gear: 0.01  Speed Score: 99.4  Kangaroo Score: 0.562  Agility Score: 0.109
Except for his moderately above average lower body power and explosiveness, Dixon appears to generally be a very average athlete.  While he was a productive running back, his rushing numbers were also probably inflated by playing against a lower level of competition.  We suspect it is mainly his production as a receiver which is drawing some people to him, though this might be offset by his above average number of fumbles.  He didn't make too much of an impression on either Reilly or myself, but we suppose he could do okay if he is put behind an above average offensive line.  Really though, we suspect there are comparable free agent running backs floating around, who could be signed for practically nothing.

Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas  Ht: 5'10"  Wt: 217
40 Time: 4.59  2nd Gear: 0.03  Speed Score: 97.7  Kangaroo Score: -0.467  Agility Score: ?
For a player of his size, it is a bit odd to see that his results don't suggest that he has particularly impressive lower body power.  There also doesn't seem to be much evidence of great speed.  It would be nice to have agility results to help explain his rather steady production as a runner, but that data is still unavailable.  In the little we have seen of Collins, he actually struck us as a fairly nifty runner.  Unfortunately, without some sort of confirmed data to suggest above average athletic potential, we would have a hard time trusting such subjective opinions.  There are also a few additional problems here. For one, Collins has never demonstrated much as a receiver, which should probably be a requirement when drafting a running back.  We were also somewhat concerned by the comparable effectiveness that his teammate Jonathan Williams had at Arkansas.  Similar to what we see with Collins, Williams also possesses few signs of athletic superiority, but they both produced nearly identical results.  Maybe the offensive line at Arkansas deserves a fair bit of credit?  While we enjoyed watching Collins, and would be perfectly happy to see him succeed despite our cautious pessimism, he just isn't the sort of prospect that the computer would allow us to select.

Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana  Ht: 6'  Wt: 230
40 Time: 4.59  2nd Gear: 0.07  Speed Score: 103.6  Kangaroo Score: 0.929  Agility Score:-0.499
We're still having a hard time finding sufficient data related to Howard, so we just have to make our guesses based upon what is available.  One of the few things we know about his athletic ability, is that he should possess somewhat above average lower body power, according to his Kangaroo Score.  While that score adjusts his vertical and broad jump results to account for weight, his non adjusted numbers suggest just average explosiveness, relative to other running backs.  When it comes to Howard's speed and agility results, these also fall into a fairly mediocre range.  The more interesting aspect to Howard, is his statistical production.  Beyond just the volume of his numbers, we liked how Howard appeared to be a significantly more efficient runner than his peers at Indiana and also at UAB.  At Indiana, his rushing average was 1.7 yards higher than that of Devine Redding, who had a roughly similar number of carries.  At UAB, Howard's average gain was 1.2 yards higher than the next most frequently utilized running back on the team.  We like these sorts of results, because they at least suggest that his production wasn't purely a product of the offensive line, or a result that any average player would have wound up with.  On the flip side, Howard never produced much as a receiver, which is a bit of a problem.  While we only saw him targeted a small handful of times as a receiver, we wouldn't say that he looked bad at all in this area, though there just isn't enough data to say anything conclusively.  In the few games we saw Howard play, we wouldn't say that we were blown away by his performance, but he at least struck as somewhat more interesting than a number of the other mediocrities in this draft class.  Without more data, we probably wouldn't pursue him ourselves, but if a team chose to pick him up in the 4th round, it wouldn't strike us as a terribly unreasonable gamble.

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas  Ht: 5'11"  Wt: 220
40 Time: 4.63  2nd Gear: -0.06  Speed Score: 95.7   Kangaroo Score: ?  Agility Score: 0.075
We might as well repeat what we said about his teammate Alex Collins.  Considering the lack of evidence to support the idea that Williams possesses any sort of superior athletic traits, and the relative interchangeability of the Arkansas running backs, we have to lean towards the possibility that Arkansas' offensive line might deserve a lot of the credit for the success of these players. 

Kenyon Drake, RB, Alabama  Ht: 6'0.5"  Wt: 210
40 Time: 4.45  2nd Gear:  0.19  Speed Score: 107.1  Kangaroo Score: -0.009  Agility Score: 0.179
This must be the yin to Derrick Henry's yang.  Drake is sort of an odd duck.  Athletically, the numbers suggest that his lower body power and explosiveness is merely average.  The same could be said of his agility.  The weird thing is his 40 time.  While he had a moderately impressive result here, his 2nd gear score would suggest that this is still underestimating his deep speed, possibly by a good bit.  The question is whether this speed alone is sufficient for success in the NFL.  Because of his other results, we wouldn't expect him to have significant success pounding the ball between the tackles.  We also wouldn't expect him to prove to be terribly elusive.  Based on the limited opportunities he had in college, we also don't have much to suggest that he can be a team's primary back.  His results seem to point to him being a guy who can hit an occasional home run, but will also probably get stuffed on more plays than you might like.  While he's shown some ability as a receiver, we also can't look at his results in this area as being terribly shocking or unusual.  He sort of looks like the type of guy who becomes a 3rd down dump off option, but that isn't necessarily the hardest sort of player to find.  We seem to see a number of sites projecting Drake as a mid-round selection, but that seems just a bit steep to us.

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA  Ht: 5'11.5"  Wt: 208
40 Time: 4.54  2nd Gear: 0.08  Speed Score: 97.9  Kangaroo Score: -0.397  Agility Score: ?
Is it starting to feel as if we constantly criticize running backs, and never give them much respect?  Yes, we are aware of the fact that we tend to be downers, when it comes to our views on players at this position.  Even Reilly and I get tired of being so pessimistic, though I doubt we are going to change our ways any time soon.  While we lack any agility data for Perkins, his other results suggest a rather common and unexciting variety of speed, lower body power and explosiveness.  Athletically, he's probably like a whole slew of running backs prospects in this draft, and somewhat average.  While Perkins was a highly productive runner, it is also moderately difficult to say that the other running backs on his team wouldn't have produced similar results, which somewhat troubles us.  His contributions as a receiver are moderately intriguing, but also don't appear to be clearly out of line with what other UCLA running backs might have done, if given similar opportunities.  Like a fair number of players we have discussed, he struck us as a respectable college running back, but not necessarily an electrifying one.  One of the main things he has going for him, is that he is one of the younger prospects, and won't turn 22 until November.  He also probably presents better value than some of his similar peers, since a lot of people seem to be projecting him as nothing more than a mid-round prospect.  Like a lot of these players, we think the extent to which they succeed or fail, is going to be more determined by the team they wind up on, and the line they play behind, rather than their individual talent.  In the little we have seen of him, he appeared to be respectable, and capable, but not someone we would probably worry about pursuing.

C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame  Ht: 5'11"  Wt: 219
40 Time: 4.48  2nd Gear: 0.09  Speed Score: 109.2  Kangaroo Score: 0.555  Agility Score: -1.403
Based on his production in college, we were kind of excited about taking a look at Prosise.  When you consider his high yards per carry, and his production as a receiver, he looks fairly ideal.  Unfortunately, we didn't like all of the things that turned up when we started to poke around.  First of all, it was hard to say that his rushing results were significantly different than those of his fellow Notre Dame running backs, though this is a bit tough to gauge since Procise was really only the starter for one season.  His receiving numbers are also a bit odd, since we don't normally expect players with his sort of abysmal agility results to be terribly effective in this area.  Of course, we have to admit that the relationship between a running backs ability as a receiver and his agility results, isn't always reliable, but this still seems odd to us.  His other athletic results also didn't strike us as being anything better than just okay.  He seems to have lower body power and explosiveness that is just a tad better than average.  His speed, was likewise respectable, but nothing that should frighten people.  In the handful of games we have seen him in, he struck us as a respectable running back, though our nipples never got more than lukewarm watching him.  While we weren't overwhelmed by him, we suppose he could do okay, so long as he isn't tossed into a terrible situation.  Since he is generally projected to be a 3rd or 4th round pick, the potential risks versus rewards of selecting him is probably reasonably acceptable.  Still, there are probably going to be cheaper options that we like even more.

Daniel Lasco, RB, California  Ht: 6'0.3"  Wt: 209
40 Time: 4.44  2nd Gear: 0.09  Speed Score: 107.5  Kangaroo Score: 1.517  Agility Score: -0.420
I guess we should just be happy that people aren't talking about turning him into a fullback, eh?  Okay, we're not exactly breaking new ground by suggesting that Lasco has interesting athletic potential.  His numbers would suggest that he has good speed, excellent lower body power and explosiveness, and agility that is at least close enough to average to not cause great concern.  If we were willing to consider his pro day results, we could also boost this agility score to a significantly more impressive 0.927.  Suddenly, you are talking about a very well-rounded athlete.  The main knock on Lasco probably has to do with his production in college.  He only really had one complete year as a starter, and while his numbers were okay, some might fret over his rushing average of just 5.3 yards in that season.  We're sort of leaning towards the possibility that his team's offensive line might have been to blame for some of that.  In the little we have seen of Lasco, there seemed to be no shortage of examples of an opponent meeting him behind the line of scrimmage, just a split second after he was handed the ball.  You can't really blame the running back for that.  The Cal offensive line also seemed to struggle with not getting Jared Goff killed, so I think we can assume that their line mostly sucked.  When given halfway decent blocking, we think Lasco actually looked pretty damn good, and was one of the more exciting guys in this class.  He also showed at least a reasonable amount of ability as a receiver, which we think is fairly critical nowadays.  There are really only a couple relatively minor concerns that we have with Lasco.  First of all, he will already be turning 24 this coming October, which is a bit older than what we would prefer.  Secondly, he has already dealt with a couple injuries, and when you consider how few games he has played in, it makes you worry how he will handle a steady stream of physical abuse.  We're currently seeing people project Lasco as a 4th round pick, which seems fairly reasonable to us. 

Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose State   Ht: 5'9.7"  Wt: 192
40 Time: 4.41  2nd Gear: 0.15  Speed Score: 101.5  Kangaroo Score: -0.074  Agility Score: -0.236
Except for his above average straight line speed, Ervin appears to be a fairly average athlete.  There's nothing wrong with that, but it does make guessing whether he will succeed or fail a bit more difficult.  Give him a good offensive line, and he might do okay.  Give him a terrible one, and he might suck.  When we looked at his statistical production, two thoughts occurred to us.  One, his rushing numbers seemed to get inflated a bit by beating up on some terrible teams.  Two, he does appear to have some value as a receiver.  Considering his smaller size, and modest athletic traits, he would appear to be the type of running back that teams trot onto the field for 3rd downs, as a dump off option.  It's kind of hard for us to imagine him being a team's primary running back, but we're open to the idea that he could do okay in a rotation.  Since CBS seems to project that he will just be a 4th or 5th round selection, we don't necessarily have any significant complaints about him.  Still, he's probably not someone we would strongly pursue.

Darius Jackson, RB, Eastern Michigan  Ht: 6'1"  Wt: 220
40 Time: 4.40  2nd Gear: 0.16  Speed Score: 117.3  Kangaroo Score: 2.006*  Agility Score: 0.314
When it comes to physical potential, very few running backs can challenge Darius Jackson.  Lower body power and explosiveness?  His Kangaroo Score suggests that he has significantly more than his fair share.  Speed?  Well, his 40 time is impressive, but his 2nd Gear Score suggests that this is still probably underestimating his deep speed by quite a bit.  Agility?  Well, Darius evidently didn't feel like showing off, and decided he should only allow himself to be a little bit above average in that department.  Athletically, he is basically everything that Adrian Peterson is, but better.  Of course, we're only talking about physical potential here, and you never can tell whether a player is going to choose to live up to their abilities.  When it came to his statistical production in college, his results can give you somewhat mixed feelings.  In general, we would say that his rushing numbers were relatively solid, for a guy who didn't get a ton of carries.  Why didn't he get more carries, if he is so talented?  Well, basically, Eastern Michigan sucked.  They were routinely blown out, which limits the likelihood that a team is going to stick with their running game.  His rushing average was also a bit pedestrian (just a 5.2 YPC average in his final season), but there's so little data on Jackson, that it makes it hard to determine whether this was his fault, or the fault of his offensive line.  His receiving numbers may only appear to be borderline adequate, but we think they are actually fairly impressive relative to the limited effectiveness of his team's overall passing offense.  We've had very few opportunities to see samples of his play, but for the most part we were impressed with what was available.  We were particularly surprised to see how natural he appeared as a receiver, which we view as a huge bonus.  As far as his blocking, umm, we really couldn't care less.  Some people like to fuss about that, but it strikes us as a bit silly.  We currently see CBS listing him as a player who might get selected somewhere around the 6th round, but this feels like a rather low appraisal of Jackson.  While it might be a bit of a gamble, based on how little data there is on him, we think it wouldn't be unreasonable to start considering him as high as the 3rd or 4th round.