Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Kangaroo Court: The 2016 Defensive Backs

I think we started off last year's list of defensive back prospects by claiming that the cornerback position was largely populated by bloodsucking parasites.  In particular, we expressed some doubts about the value of Byron Maxwell, and in a different post, Cary Williams.  As long as these players don't know our home address, I suppose that is a position we are willing to stand behind.

So, who does Reilly think will become a future highly paid disappointment?  Hmm, well, if I am interpreting Reilly's semaphore communications correctly, the cornerbacks he currently has the highest doubts about would be Josh Norman, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.  It seems amazing to us that they are currently among the most highly paid corners in the league, but as long as it's not our money, who really cares?  If they can continue to play behind an above average pass rush, maybe things will continue to work out for them.  They just aren't players that Reilly has ever had much confidence in.

The more important question might be, who will be this year's winner of the annual Captain Munnerlyn Award?  Every year, my father and I have bestowed this honor on the player who we felt had the most entertaining name.  Last year, the academy of voters unanimously supported Jazz King, a wide receiver from Marshall.  Next year, we will probably end up giving the trophy to Money Hunter, a defensive back from Arkansas State.  That is a name worthy of a 1st round draft pick.  Sure, his real first name is Monshadrik, but that would still probably end up being a contender.  This year, however, we haven't really zeroed in on a clear winner.  If any of you have a great suggestion for who this year's winner should be, feel free to let us know. 

Since I'm feeling a bit uninspired about working up a demented rant to precede this week's post, I thought I would take the lazy route.  So, we now invite you to be a witness to Nathan, the dancing Chinese Crested dog.

For reasons that I can't fully explain, Nathan absolutely kills me.  The best thing about this is that there are tons of videos of Nathan dancing to different songs.  It's as if they thought that being exposed to this horror a single time just might not be enough.  I'm not mocking this decision by Nathan's owner, because I think he was right.  I genuinely support his decision to repeatedly film his dog dancing like a fool.

Okay, let's move on to this year's demented and untrustworthy speculation.

Besides the player's Agility Score, we will also list their 2nd Gear score, and their average number of passes defended in their last two years in college.  We're basically just looking for a pleasantly reassuring combination of speed, agility, explosiveness and power, as well as statistical production that met or exceeded their assumed physical potential.  For safety prospects, our expectations for the Agility Score will go down a bit, but we hope to see an increase in their Kangaroo Score (our measure of lower body power), which is also given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is away from the average result for someone in their position group.

This list will continue to be modified and updated as new data, and additional prospects, come to my attention.  Not every prospect will be included here, but instead, just the ones that I find interesting for one reason or another.  Updated: 4/25/16

Jalen Ramsey  CB/S, Florida St.  Ht:  6'1.3"  Wt.:209
40 time: 4.42  2nd Gear:  0.10   Agility Score:  -0.119   Avg. PD:  12
This is probably going to sound like we don't like Ramsey, but we actually think he is a fairly interesting player.  Just bear with us.  When it comes to the idea of a team employing him as a cornerback, we won't deny that his physical measurables are possibly acceptable for that role.  Our only concern here, is that it would probably be a bit risky to play him off of the line, since his biggest advantage is his physical power (with a ridiculous 2.407 Kangaroo Score).  If he played off of the line, and faced some of the league's more nimble receivers, he might have some issues, based on his agility results.  As a safety, however, his combination of speed, power, explosiveness and just moderate agility, is pretty much a perfect match.  Whether a team put him at strong safety or free safety, probably wouldn't matter too much.  When it came to his statistical production, we would also say that his results were above average when playing safety, and a tiny bit worse than we would like when he played corner.  Based on the games we have seen, our lying eyes generally thought he looked pretty good, though perhaps not as other-wordly as he is sometimes made out to be.  One of the peculiar things to us, is how athletically similar he is to the Rams' safety, T.J. McDonald, who wasn't selected until the 3rd round in 2013.  That might sound like an insult, but it shouldn't.  Ramsey is a tad faster, and perhaps a hair more explosive than McDonald, but beyond that, they are actually very similar athletes.  We actually liked McDonald quite a bit too, back in 2013, and thought he was drafted lower than he possibly should have been.  Regardless, we think Ramsey has a good shot at turning into a pretty good player, which is about all you can reasonably hope for.  Whether he becomes a great player, and someone who is worth selecting in the first 3 picks of the draft, is debatable.  In the end, we'd be willing to select him in the 1st round.

Vernon Hargreaves MMXVI  CB, Florida  Ht:  5'10"  Wt.:204
40 time: 4.50  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  1.272*   Avg. PD:  10.5
The NFL and their stooges have been meddling with the results from players' 40 times again, but this is something we've grown used to.  According to Hargreaves "official" results, his speed would be somewhat average, though his 2nd Gear Score does suggest that his deep speed is still probably a tad better than his timed 40 might suggest.  The odd thing is that when we look at his unofficial results, his 40 time jumps to about 4.41 seconds, with a 2nd gear score of 0.19.  Those would be some very impressive results.  Either way, Hargreaves speed shouldn't be a huge problem.  At worst, it is just average.  I just marvel at the idiotic way that the NFL modifies these numbers with no clear explanation as to their methods.  While we have to currently base his agility score on just his short shuttle time, since he didn't do the 3-cone drill, his results here are excellent.  It seems unlikely to us that his eventual 3-cone results would significantly alter this score.  Then we come to one of the more interesting aspects of Hargreaves' results.  While much of the criticism of Hargreaves has been directed towards his lack of size, his Kangaroo Score of 1.392 suggests that he has significantly better lower body power and explosiveness than you typically see in a corner.  These are actually the sorts of results you more typically find in a safety, and a reason why we aren't terribly surprised to see that he does in fact appear to be a fairly physical player, who can also be effective against his opponent's running game.  While his statistical production took a dip in 2015, his overall results were above average, and he appeared to show an above average ability to force turnovers.  Based on the little we have seen of him, he appeared to live up to the expectations we might have based on his results.  We would feel quite comfortable taking him in the 1st round.

Eli Apple  CB, Ohio St.  Ht:  6'1"  Wt.:199
40 time: 4.40  2nd Gear:  0.13   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  11
Unless this bozo is going to eventually complete the other combine drills, which he also avoided at his pro day, then we're not interested in him.  Sure, he ran the 40 yard dash, and did fine there, but that really doesn't provide us with nearly enough information to estimate what his true strengths and weaknesses might be.  When someone is trying this hard to avoid doing all of the drills, we generally suspect it is because they know they are going to perform poorly.  While we realize that many people seem to have a high opinion of Apple, we're also not inclined to watch any of his games to form a more subjective opinion.  For us, that's like eating the icing, without ever baking the cake.  We also suspect that the judgment of our lying eyes could be warped by the favorable circumstances that Apple found himself in at Ohio State.  Their defense had a sack rate of 8.4% in 2015, and a sack rate of 8.3% in 2014.  The likelihood that this made it significantly easier for this Apple to shine, seems rather high.  Until we get more objective facts, we can't feel comfortable with pursuing Apple.

Mackensie Alexander  CB, Clemson  Ht:  5'10"  Wt.:190
40 time: 4.49  2nd Gear:  0.07   Agility Score:  -0.824   Avg. PD:  5.5
Reilly is somewhat mystified about the assumption that Alexander could be a 1st or 2nd round draft pick.  It's caused him to start drinking again, and I have to admit he is a fairly surly and difficult drunk.  Oh well, let's consider the objective facts here.  According to Alexander's measurable traits, we seem to run into numerous issues.  Athletically, his numbers would suggest he is a player with average speed, average power and average explosiveness. There's nothing wrong with any of that, but there's also nothing that screams "stunning physical potential" or "high draft pick".  Then we come to his agility results, where he put up some worrisome numbers.  Now, we could throw out his poor 3-cone result, if we were feeling whimsical, and pretend that this was an anomaly.  That would still only boost his agility results to -0.306, which still isn't anything better than slightly below average.  Now, I also seem to recall that Reilly was muttering something about Alexander appearing to be a bit grabby with his opponents, and maybe it's this lack of agility that is causing him to resort to this.  Of course, Reilly's speech is a bit slurred right now, so I might have misunderstood him.  Finally, we have to look at Alexander's production in college.  Does it seem odd to anyone else how rarely this guy got his hands on the ball?  Beyond his low number of batted passes, it also appears that he has never recorded a single interception.  You would think that playing on a college team with an insanely effective pass rush would have put him in a pretty good position to make some turnovers, but evidently this was not the case.  We're really having a hard time seeing what the hype is all about.

William Jackson DCLXVI  CB, Houston  Ht:  6'0.4"  Wt.: 189
40 time: 4.37  2nd Gear:  0.15   Agility Score:  -0.399   Avg. PD:  16
Well, he does appear to be fast.  He definitely has that going for him.  His 2nd Gear Score even suggests that his already impressive 40 time might not be fully capturing how fast Jackson really is.  Of course, if speed was all that mattered, I would be much more popular with the ladies.  So, let's examine the issues that worry us about Jackson.  First of all, we could throw out his wretched short shuttle time, but this would still only make his agility result 0.261, which is just a hair above average.  Against more nimble receivers, like Amari Cooper or Odell Beckham Jr., we have to wonder if Jackson would have a hard time keeping up with their ability to change direction.  Then we have to consider his lower body power and explosiveness, where he produced a Kangaroo Score of -1.170.  Admittedly, our data here is incomplete, since he didn't do the vertical jump, but this does worry us.   It would suggest that against bigger more powerful receivers, like Demaryius Thomas or Mike Evans, Jackson might just get trampled or flung out of the way.  So, umm, yeah, this does create an interesting question as to who he does match up well against.  Maybe small fast receivers who only run in a straight line?  Okay, let's try to be a bit more positive for a second.  There is the fact that this guy seemed to get his hands on the ball with some regularity.  There is something to be said for that, and many people seem to be willing to overlook a player's struggles in coverage, so long as a player produces enough turnovers.  Personally, it's a potential trade off that we're not particularly fond of, so we would probably pass on Jackson.  It's not that he can't succeed, it's just that we view the risk versus reward of spending a 1st round pick on him as being well outside of our comfort zone.

Kendall Fuller  CB, Virginia Tech  Ht:  5'11"  Wt.:187
40 time: ?  2nd Gear:  ?   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  17*
It's looking more and more unlikely that we will ever get any measurable results for Fuller, which is a shame.  All we can say at this point, is that his statistical production was rather impressive, though we have some concerns about the extent to which he might have benefited from a Virginia Tech pass rush that was significantly above average in the two seasons that Fuller produced his best results.  Without more information, we can't say too much, and wouldn't feel comfortable spending a draft pick on him without more data.

Vonn Bell  FS, Ohio St.  Ht:  5'11"  Wt.:199
40 time: 4.53  2nd Gear:  0.07   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  11.5
Bell barely participated in the combine or his pro day.  That doesn't give us much to go on, when trying to concoct our normal half-assed theories.  The only measurable data we have, beyond his perfectly acceptable 40 time, is the result from his vertical jump.  This produced a Kangaroo Score of -1.517, which is well below what we would want to see from either safety position, and suggests rather meager lower body power and explosiveness.  The possibility that he might be able to play somewhere else in the secondary is difficult to really make any guesses about, because of a shortage of other measurable data.  Yes, we should also mention that we are listing him here as a free safety, while some sites are putting him down as a strong safety.  That's just one of our little judgment calls, and you can feel free to disagree.  We would probably classify his statistical production as only moderately acceptable, and suspect his high rate of interceptions in 2014 is influencing peoples' opinions of him quite a bit.  Like many of the highly touted Ohio State players, we would feel extremely concerned about the extent to which Ohio State's pass rush, and overall team success, might be influencing how we perceive someone like Bell.  Based on the little we have seen of him, we didn't find Bell to be very interesting.

Jeremy Cash  SS, Duke  Ht:  6'  Wt.: 212
40 time: ?  2nd Gear:  ?   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  6.5
Give us some data, and we'll offer some half-assed opinions.  We're still waiting for his pro day results.

Artie Burns  CB, Miami  Ht:  6'  Wt.: 193
40 time: 4.46  2nd Gear:  0.10   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  8.5
Yup, we're still waiting for data.

Xavien Howard  CB, Baylor  Ht:  6'0.1"  Wt.: 205
40 time: 4.58  2nd Gear:  0.03   Agility Score:  0.058   Avg. PD:  16
Howard is kind of an interesting prospect, though we have to tinker with his numbers quite a bit.  Based on his 40 time at the combine, which is listed above, there isn't much to suggest that he has anything more than a fairly mundane variety of speed.  We could give some consideration to his improved times at Baylor's pro day (where had runs of 4.45 and 4.41), but that might be a bit risky.  After all, Andrew Billings and Shawn Oakman also dropped 0.13 and 0.11 seconds respectively from their 40 times at this pro day, which is similar to the jump in speed we are seeing from Howard (0.13 seconds).  Suspicious, suspicious, suspicious.  Regardless, we're perfectly willing to accept Howard's more pedestrian results, as they are still within a tolerable range for a somewhat larger cornerback.  Then we get to his agility results, which are also pretty much the definition of average.  That would normally be a bit of a problem, but we have seen a number of larger corners who were able to succeed with those sorts of results, if they had the power to compensate for their lack of agility.  That's where Howard becomes a bit more interesting.  With a Kangaroo Score of 1.018, he does appear to have some ability in this area.  It's not awe inspiring, and his results would suggest he is probably less explosive than he is powerful, but it is interesting.  Really, his physical traits come rather close to what we normally like to see in a free safety, which we think would be an interesting position to transition Howard to.  Based on the little we have seen of Howard, he appeared to do okay as a corner, though he had his occasional struggles.  He did, however, seem to have a knack for getting his hands on the ball, when he was in the right position.  If he was moved to free safety, we just suspect it would accentuate his strengths, while minimizing his weaknesses.  Right now people seem to be suggesting that he will be selected in the second round.  If we were certain that he was going to be used as a safety, we might feel relatively comfortable with that.  If he is truly going to be used as a corner, we would probably prefer to see him drop to the 4th or 5th round.

Jalen Mills  FS, LSU  Ht:  6'  Wt.: 191
40 time: 4.61  2nd Gear:  -0.03   Agility Score:  0.698   Avg. PD:  4
I have to admit that we haven't explored Mills very deeply.  Based on the data we had, we just didn't think it was probably worth devoting much time to him.  While we could give him some praise for having above average agility results for a safety, that would be about all the flattery we could give him.  When it comes to speed, power and explosiveness, his results fell a bit short of what we would normally like to see.  When we looked at his statistical production, there was also nothing that really leapt out at us as being particularly noteworthy.  We can't say that a player is going to fail in the NFL, and such predictions wouldn't exactly fill our hearts with glee.  We're not quite that depraved.  Still, we can say that for the 2nd to 3rd round pick that some people are suggesting Mills will cost, the risks seem to outweigh the potential rewards.  This seems like someone who should be selected quite a bit later than what many people are currently projecting.

Will Redmond  CB, Mississippi St  Ht:  5'11"  Wt.: 182
40 time: ?  2nd Gear:  ?   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  5.5
Give us data, or give us death!  Because of a knee injury in October, we may never get to have the data related to his athletic ability that we would like to have.  All we can say at this point, is that for a slightly older prospect, his statistical production didn't overwhelm us.

Karl Joseph SS, West Virginia
40 time: ?  2nd Gear:  ?   Agility Score:  ?   Avg. PD:  5
Were all of this year's defensive backs in a bus crash?  It certainly seems like we are dealing with an abnormal number of injured players.  Normally, in situations like this, we would suspect this is the result of the Lizard People, and their fiendish plots.  Oh well, we're still waiting for more data.

KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame   Ht:  5'11.25"  Wt.: 194
40 time: 4.49  2nd Gear:  0.11   Agility Score:  0.748   Avg. PD:  8.5
Since we finally have a fuller set of data for Russell, we decided to add him to the list.  Right now, he sort of strikes us as an odd prospect.  Athletically, he generally meets most of the standards we would want to see in a corner, with adequate speed, good agility, and above average lower body power and explosiveness (with a 0.882 Kangaroo Score).  He might not be an overwhelmingly gifted athlete, but he is probably a pretty good one.  The problem we had with Russell was that we sometimes felt he didn't live up to his potential.  While he had some occasional bright moments, he seemed to allow his opponent to catch the ball a bit more than we would ideally like to see.  He also appeared to be less likely to make a play on the ball himself, than we really felt was ideal.  It's not that we felt he was bad, but he frequently appeared to be "just a guy", rather than someone who was likely to make a noticeable impact.  That seemed like a shame, considering that he is probably physically capable of being more than that.  If he was projected to be a 5th round pick, this might not bother us so much, but since people seem to be moving him up towards the 3rd round, we've been feeling a bit more uncomfortable about whether there is sufficient value to Russell.

Maurice Canady, CB, Virginia   Ht:  6'1"  Wt.: 193
40 time: 4.49  2nd Gear:  0.10   Agility Score:  -0.036   Avg. PD:  10.5
The NFL is once again playing their little games when it comes to "official" 40 times here.  Canady's unofficial results were a fair bit worse than what we have listed above, but we'll pretend to go along with the program.  Overall, Canady's athletic results were pretty much average in every way.  Average speed, average agility, average explosiveness and average lower body power.  That's nothing to worry about, but it also doesn't excite us very much.  We'd also say that his statistical production at Virginia generally appeared to be a bit pedestrian, except perhaps during his 2014 season.  The rate at which he got his hands on the ball noticeably rose that year, though it should also be noted that his team's sack rate was also a bit better at 7.9%.  When Virginia's sack rate dropped back down to a more commonplace 6.7% in 2015, so did Canady's results.  Is this a coincidence?  Maybe, or maybe not.  For the most part, Canady didn't make much of an impression on us.  He didn't strike us as being exceptional, but he also didn't appear to be horrible.  Considering how many people seem to be listing him as just a mid-round pick, that's perhaps not an unreasonable area to acquire someone like him.

T.J. Green, SS, Clemson   Ht:  6'2.5"  Wt.:209
40 time: 4.34  2nd Gear:  0.18   Agility Score:  -1.310   Avg. PD:  2
Okey-dokey, let's talk about that 40 time.  That's probably the first thing people notice about Green, and it is mighty impressive.  The interesting thing is, when we look at his 2nd Gear Score, there is some suggestion that we are still underrating his straight line speed by a fair bit.  Just wanted to throw that out there.  Then we look at his fairly horrific Agility Score, and we start to wonder if that glorious speed is being wasted on a clumsy oaf..  It's a bit odd, because we really didn't think he looked nearly as awkward as this result would suggest, though the value of trusting our lying eyes is debatable.  We should also give him credit for a 1.122 Kangaroo Score, which does suggest that he has at least adequate lower body power for a safety.  Some sites seem to be listing Green as a free safety, but we are definitely leaning towards the idea that strong safety is the better position for him.  Beyond the possibility that his athletic traits are a better match to the strong safety position, he also just didn't make many plays in coverage.  If he was noticeable in a game, it almost invariably seemed to be within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, though we still wouldn't say that he was anything more than just an average tackler.  As an athletic specimen he is kind of interesting, but his college production, as well as the impression he made on us was fairly underwhelming.  The best thing he might have going for him is his youth, as he is still one of the younger defensive backs in this draft.  If he was available in the 4th or 5th round, we might consider him, if we were a bit tipsy.

Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma   Ht:  5'11"  Wt.:185
40 time: 4.50  2nd Gear:  -0.01   Agility Score:  -1.703   Avg. PD:  14
Has there ever been a successful cornerback with a short shuttle time of 4.51 seconds?  Seriously, I really want to know.  I suspect the attraction some people have to Sanchez must come from the rather absurd number of interceptions (13) that he has recorded in the past two seasons.  That is kind of a nifty stat to have on your resume.  We're probably not going to spend much time exploring Sanchez, because at the end of the day, he's just a little to weird for our tastes.  If he succeeds in the NFL, he would be something of an anomaly, which isn't what we are looking for.

Darian Thompson  FS, Boise St.  Ht:  6"1.8"  Wt.:208
40 time: 4.69  2nd Gear:  -0.03   Agility Score:  -1.437   Avg. PD:  8.5
People seem to be claiming that Thompson could be selected somewhere around the 3rd round, but none of his results so far have been encouraging enough to make us want to spend much time studying him.  When it came to his speed, quickness, agility, explosiveness and lower body power, all of his measurable results were significantly lower than what we would normally expect to see in a successful safety.  We would give him credit though, for having some rather interesting results when it came to his statistical production.  Particularly when it came to his high rate of interceptions, we could understand why people would be curious about him.  Unfortunately, we would still be worried that he was benefiting from a significantly above average Boise State pass rush, and might not be able to continue producing in this manner once he gets to the NFL.  We would probably feel forced to bet against him.

Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama   5'9.8"  Wt.: 197
40 time: 4.49  2nd Gear:  0.06   Agility Score:  0.354   Avg. PD:  12.5
Despite our typical mockery of most Alabama prospects, we are slightly curious to see what will become of Cyrus Jones.  It's true, he isn't very big, or particularly fast.  His agility results also appear to be a bit mediocre, though the differences between his short shuttle (-0.306) and 3-cone (1.014) times might make this look worse than it really should.  Our bigger concern would probably be related to his vertical and broad jumps, which did seem to suggest somewhat below average lower body power and explosiveness.  So, in general, he's a fairly commonplace athlete.  On the flip side, his college stats are somewhat better than your typical prospect, and he appeared relatively immune to the high and low points of Alabama's pass rushing efforts.  In the little we have seen of him, we wouldn't say that he appeared to provide particularly tight coverage, but he seemed to indeed have above average hands when forcing turnovers.  We probably wouldn't want to see Jones as a starting cornerback, but he might be an acceptable depth sort of player.  Some people seem to have a much higher opinion of him, and we occasionally see him projected as a 3rd or 4th round pick.  That seems a bit high to us.  At best, we might see a prospect who could be taken in the 5th or 6th round.  One funny thing that we were struck with when looking into Jones, was the regularity with which former classmates seemed to refer to him as an asshole.  It was kind of astounding and peculiar.  Make of that whatever you wish.

Miles Killebrew  SS, Southern Utah  Ht:  6'1.8"  Wt.: 217
40 time: 4.65  2nd Gear:  -0.00   Agility Score:  -0.094   Avg. PD:  8.5
Because of his production in college, as well as some of his favorable measurable traits, we were fairly curious about Killebrew.  Unfortunately, the more we thought about it, the less excited we were with him as a draft prospect.  We don't have any complaints about his agility results, because they are actually fairly respectable for a strong safety.  While his Kangaroo Score of 1.904 suggests ideal lower body power for a strong safety, when you remove mass from the calculation his explosiveness measured up as a more modest 0.874.  Really, we can't complain about either of those results, as they are both pretty encouraging.  When we look at his timed speed, we start to potentially see greater issues.  His 40 time is just a bit further out on the fringe than we would like, and his 2nd Gear Score suggests that this wasn't just the result of a poor start to his run.  Even at this point, we should still have felt pretty excited about him.  In the end, I think our opinion of him was probably actually influenced by something that falls disturbingly close to having a subjective opinion.  While he does make the occasional flashy knockout hit, as his Kangaroo Score would suggest he would, he also frequently seemed slow to react to what was going on.  Perhaps even more concerning, we were annoyed by the number of times we saw people escaping from his grasp.  When the most striking thing on your resume is that you are a tackling machine, we just don't think that should be happening, especially at the lower level of competition he faced.  The more we thought about whether his tackle numbers might be inflated, the more we questioned what would be left to praise if we weren't drooling over his tackles.  After all, his abilities in coverage would seem to be mediocre at best.  It's hard for us to ignore the computer's pleas to take Killebrew seriously, but we just didn't fall in love with him.  With projections for where he will be selected ranging from the 4th round, and occasionally going much higher, we also have to wonder if we would simply prefer to wait for someone like Kavon Frazier, who has a lot of the same strengths as Killebrew, but did a better job of setting our panties on fire.

Kevin Byard  SS/FS, Middle Tennessee State  Ht:  5'11.5"  Wt.: 212
40 time: 4.45  2nd Gear:  0.15   Agility Score: 0.509   Avg. PD:  7.5
Byard is a weirdly interesting prospect.  His agility results and timed speed would seem like a good match for a free safety.  When we looked at his Kangaroo Score of 0.428, that would also seem like a respectable result for a free safety.  The odd thing is that there were some huge differences between his vertical and broad jump results.  If we only looked at his Kangaroo Score from the vertical, we would get a result of 1.417, which is entering fairly ideal territory to also play strong safety.  So, he should be able to play either safety position.  While we haven't had many opportunities to watch Byard play, the little we saw of him made it look like he was much more inclined to drop into coverage, rather than to try to level someone.  That's not a criticism, just a worthless observation of ours.  It's not that he wasn't a willing and capable tackler, he just didn't strike us as an enforcer.  So, maybe viewing him mainly as a free safety is the best idea.  His statistical production was quite steady and impressive over the last four years, including a fairly ridiculous number of interceptions, which is always nice to see.  One of the few minor quibbles we might have with Byard, is that he will already be turning 23 this coming August, which is a tad older than what we feel is ideal.  We suspect he could be a fairly interesting pick, maybe somewhere in the area of the 3rd round.

Eric Murray  CB, Minnesota  Ht:  5'10.6"  Wt.: 199
40 time: 4.50  2nd Gear:  0.04   Agility Score:  -0.025   Avg. PD:  8
There were some fairly significant differences between Murray's short shuttle and 3-cone times, which makes judging his agility a bit murkier than we really like.  Instead of picking apart these results, we'll stick with the overall grade that suggests his agility is just average.  Even with this middle of the road view, we have to say that he did appear to have a tendency to grab at his opponents in the games we saw, which could cause some concerns as to how NFL referees will respond.  The frequency with which Murray got his hands on the ball was also a bit pedestrian, and didn't seem to point to him becoming a huge turnover machine.  If there was one positive aspect to him that seemed to stand out, it was probably related to his above average effectiveness and willingness as a tackler.  Considering that his Kangaroo Score of 0.793 points towards a moderately above average measure of lower body power and explosiveness, this ability as a tackler doesn't surprise us very much.  Though we seem to say this about everyone, we sort of think he might make a better free safety than a corner.  CBS is currently listing him as a potential 4th round pick, which strikes us as an unrealistic appraisal.  We'd probably wait until the 5th or 6th round before seriously considering him.

Sean Davis  CB/S, Maryland  Ht:  6'1"  Wt.:201
40 time: 4.48  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  1.353   Avg. PD:  7
At the moment, CBS is still listing Davis as a potential 4th or 5th round draft pick.  Based on his measurable characteristics, we sort of doubt he will last that long.  Athletically, he is arguably one of the best physical specimens among the defensive backs in this draft.  The problem comes in deciding which position he should end up playing, though he has at least had some experience getting moved around the secondary in college.  While he is physically fairly ideal for a corner, we're just not sure that this would be the best position for him.  He appeared to make his biggest mistakes when he had his back to the quarterback, and was beaten a bit more than we would like while lined up at the corner position.  As a safety, he seemed to do quite a bit better, and this position seemed to suit his willingness to attack ball carriers.  Even here, we sort of suspect his high number of tackles might be a bit misleading, as he also missed a few more tackles than we would ideally like to see.  With a 0.741 Kangaroo Score, we also have a result that suggests that his lower body power and explosiveness is above average for a corner, but a tad lower than what we would ideally want in a strong safety.  So, free safety it is then.  It wouldn't be the least bit surprising if Davis turns out to be one of the better defensive backs to come out of this draft, but we also think that he currently runs some risk of getting overdrafted, based on his measurables.  He undeniably has great potential, but we're not sure that his history of performance completely lives up to some of the hype.  If he was available in the 3rd round, we would certainly consider him.  In the 2nd round, that decision might be a bit riskier than we would feel comfortable with.

Kalan Reed CB, Southern Mississippi   Ht:  5' 11.2"  Wt.:192
40 time: 4.49  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  -0.196   Avg. PD:  17
We haven't had a lot of time to look into Reed, but there seems to be some increasing interest in him, so we thought we should add him to the list.  Athletically, his results are sort of a mixed bag.  His agility results are probably a little bit below what we would ideally like to see in a corner, though not exactly terrible.  The issue of his 40 time is also a bit peculiar.  We've listed one time here, though other reports put his 40 in the 4.38 second range.  Who should we believe, when reports diverge this much?  We have no idea.  The more interesting physical trait for Reed is related to his lower body power and explosiveness.  His overall Kangaroo Score would me a fairly tame 0.514.  If we only considered his vertical jump, his results move to a much more impressive 1.287.  In the little we have seen of Reed, we were left with somewhat mixed feelings.  A lot of the hype with Reed seems to relate the the above average rate at which he got his hands on the ball, which we would agree is an area that he seemed to have a knack for.  At the same time, we think you have to look at how his results in this area varied, from the 2014 season to the 2015 season.  In 2014, his team had a fairly poor sack rate of 3.7%, and he produced a moderately impressive 11 passes defensed.  In 2015, when his team's sack rate improved to a somewhat more average 6.1%, Reed's number of passes defended leapt to 23.  Coincidence?  Well, probably not.  You also have to consider the level of competition he faced, which was relatively poor.  While we're open to the possibility that Reed could be an interesting prospect, and that some of the projections which place him as a 5th round pick aren't outrageously off base, we currently feel a bit divided about him.  Still, if someone wanted to select him in the 5th or 6th round, that wouldn't strike us as a crazy investment.

James Bradberry CB, Samford   Ht:  6'0.8"  Wt.:207
40 time: 4.46  2nd Gear:  0.08   Agility Score:  -0.147   Avg. PD:  9.5
With larger corners like Bradberry, you are rarely going to see them producing exceptional agility scores.  Physics is a bitch, and their center of gravity is working against them.  Still, his results are at least in a respectably average range.  We would normally expect a larger players like this to compensate for their mediocre gracefulness by physically manhandling their opponents.  With a 1.250 Kangaroo Score, there does seem to be evidence that Bradberry has the lower body power and explosiveness to succeed with those methods.  In the very little we have seen of him, we think this theory probably fits.  When allowed to jam his opponents at the line of scrimmage, he seemed to do a pretty good job.  When playing off of the line, and allowing his opponent a clean release, he was a bit more likely to get himself into trouble.  In many ways, we think he is athletically similar to Ravens' cornerback Jimmy Smith.  They both possess similar size, speed and quickness.  Smith might be a tad bit more nimble, but Bradberry appears to be a little more explosive and powerful.  Depending on how they are used, either jamming their opponent at the line or playing off, they also seem to succeed or fail in similar ways.  Even their statistical production in college is fairly similar, though we think Bradberry might have a slight edge here, even if we have to take into account the lower level of competition he faced.  Then there is the murky area of subjective opinions.  Honestly, I think we might have enjoyed watching Bradberry play a bit more than we did with Smith back in 2011.  Smith just didn't strike us at the time as a guy who routinely took full advantage of his physical size as much as we would have expected him to.  Bradberry seems a bit more willing to attack people.  Compared to Smith, Bradberry also seems to have shown a significantly better ability to get his hands on the ball.  While there are certainly some increased risks that come with selecting players from lower levels of competition, we would also say that this could be somewhat diminished by the possibility that Bradberry could also transition to one of the safety positions, where his physical traits are an even better fit.  We might be gambling on upside potential here, but seeing as how most people are projecting him as a mere mid-round pick, we think the risk versus reward is somewhat favorable.  We'd probably start to give him serious consideration in the 3rd or 4th round.

Justin Simmons FS, Boston College   Ht:  6'2.3"  Wt.:202
40 time: 4.61  2nd Gear:  -0.01   Agility Score:  1.915   Avg. PD:  7
Because of Simmons exceptional agility results, as well as a Kangaroo Score of 1.178 which suggest a respectable degree of lower body power and explosiveness, the computer was urging us to take him somewhat seriously.  The issue we couldn't get past was his timed speed.  Normally, we could overlook his 40 time, if there was some suggestion that the player just had a bad start to their run.  Not everybody is going to be a former track star, after all.  The problem is that his 2nd Gear Score of -0.01 sort of suggests that his time of 4.62 is probably an honest depiction of his real speed, and probably points to a potentially significant limitation in his effective range.  His statistical production in college was fairly respectable, though we didn't see anything that stood out as being particularly unique.  It wouldn't surprise us if he had some limited success in an NFL secondary, with speedier teammates who could compensate for the potentially small window within which Simmons probably operates, but he isn't someone we would feel highly compelled to pursue.

Jordan Lucas  FS/SS, Penn State  Ht:  6'  Wt.:203
40 time: 4.45  2nd Gear:  0.07   Agility Score:  0.447   Avg. PD:  6
This strikes us as a rather interesting situation.  Last year, we talked about his former teammate, Adrian Amos.  In general, Amos met most of the minimal requirements we desire to see in a safety prospect, both athletically and in terms of statistical production.  Despite that, we still weren't huge fans of him, though he was eventually drafted in the 5th round.  In many ways, we think that Lucas is probably a better prospect, though a lot of people seem to be ranking him even lower than Amos was.  This just strikes us as a bit odd.  According to the computer, Lucas is most likely quicker, faster and more explosive than Amos.  Despite their difference in size, Lucas' Kangaroo Score of 1.176 is also pretty much just as impressive as what the larger Amos produced.  So, despite being physically smaller than Amos, Lucas is arguably just as powerful.  This result also fits well with the sort of lower body power we like to see in our safety prospects.  While Amos did have more interceptions in college, we would also suggest that Lucas probably outperformed in him pretty much every other area of statistical production.  While he is sometimes listed as a strong safety prospect, we'd say that his athletic results could actually make him capable of playing either safety position (though we prefer him as a free safety), which provides some additional benefits in terms of flexibility.  In a pinch, he could also probably fill in as a halfway respectable cornerback.  While we won't go so far as to suggest that Lucas is going to become a star, we do think he probably has a realistic shot at becoming at least a respectable and serviceable player.  Since people seem to be ignoring him, we might feel tempted to consider snagging Lucas around the 4th or 5th round.

Kavon Frazier  SS, Central Michigan  Ht:  6'  Wt.:215
40 time: 4.58  2nd Gear:  0.07   Agility Score:  -0.724   Avg. PD:  4.5
We probably like Frazier a great deal more than will make sense to a lot of people.  Yes, his agility results are a tad disappointing, and fall a bit below our normally accepted range for a strong safety (though many list him as a free safety, which we think is a bit peculiar).  We'll also admit that, yes, he didn't get his hands on the ball quite as often as many of the other prospects.  To some extent, we think Central Michigan's horrible pass rush probably didn't help him in this area, as he struck us as a player who has decent hands when he is given an opportunity.  Still, we will admit that being a dominating player in coverage might not be his strong suit.  The reason we like him is that he appeared to be a heat seeking missile, whose mission was to punish opposing players.  Forget about covering people, he is just there to hit you.  With a rather exceptional Kangaroo Score of 2.233, his game is probably built around his lower body power and explosiveness.  These are the kind of traits that get us excited about strong safeties.  He probably won't appeal to some of the teams in the league, but for someone who wants an enforcer, he strikes us as a very neat prospect.  We'd probably give some serious consideration to selecting him as high as the 5th or 6th round, which appears to be a bit higher than where many people have him ranked.  Yes, we're fully aware of the fact that this sort of crush will probably end with similarly disappointing results to what we suffered last year with Cedric Thompson.  Unfortunately, Reilly and I are romantics at heart, and we won't give up on our foolish ways.

Mike Jordan  CB, Missouri Western State  Ht:  6'  Wt.:200
40 time: 4.63  2nd Gear:  0.00   Agility Score: -0.218   Avg. PD:  19
There's still a fair amount of information that we can't seem to get our hands on, when it come to Mike Jordan.  One of the more annoying issues is that we still have no idea what his 40 time is.  Still, based on his results in all of the other drills, it would seem unlikely that he wouldn't wind up at least in the 4.5 second range, which would be perfectly adequate (Ooops! We now know he ran a 4.63, so off to the dumpsters with him!).  It's also probably a bit odd that we find ourselves so interested in a corner who's agility results are so incredibly average.  All we can say is that we do lower our expectations a bit for late potential round draft picks.  While his 40 time is unknown, and his agility might be unexceptional, his results did suggest a somewhat higher degree of lower body power and explosiveness, with a 0.734 Kangaroo Score.  That's a pretty good result for a corner, and actually is getting close to what we like to see in a safety.  The thing about Jordan that really draws our attention, is his extremely high level statistical production.  He appears to get his hands on the ball at an incredible rate, and turns a lot of those opportunities into interceptions.  In the little we have seen of him (because there is very little available to see), he actually struck us as a rather impressive player.  He seemed to cover opponents tightly.  He did a good job of jumping routes.  He even appeared to be a willing and capable tackler.  While he might just be a slightly above average physical specimen, he seemed to have a lot of the statistical and subjective traits that we look for.  Since he is only projected to be a late round draft pick, we think he could be an interesting player to gamble on.  We'd probably start to give him some serious consideration as early as the 7th round.

Ian Wells  CB, Ohio   Ht:  5' 10.5"  Wt.:199
40 time: 4.49  2nd Gear:  -0.06   Agility Score:  0.860*   Avg. PD:  11
It would be nice if there was more information available on Wells, but we are sort of stuck here, without much to go on.  From the little we can gather, he has adequate speed, respectably above average agility (though we only had his short shuttle results), and exceptional lower body power and explosiveness (with a 1.698 Kangaroo Score).  His statistical production appears to have been adequate, especially when you factor in Ohio's somewhat mediocre pass rush.  Still, it would have been nice to see some clips of his actual games, in order to gain a bit more perspective on him.  Since he is generally only projected as someone who might be selected in the 7th round, or perhaps go undrafted, we'd probably be willing to take a shot at him, based solely on his physical potential, and the limited data we have.

Kamu Grugier-Hill  SS, Eastern Illinois   Ht:  6' 2"  Wt.:208
40 time: 4.45  2nd Gear:  0.07   Agility Score:  -0.063   Avg. PD:  2.5
We can't really find too much information on Grugier-Hill, but we're still somewhat interested in him.  While he seems to have mainly played linebacker in college, his size and athletic traits seem to clearly point towards him transitioning to the safety position, where he is possibly a very interesting fit.  While his agility result are just average compared to the entire pool of defensive backs, this is actually pretty respectable result for a strong safety.  His Kangaroo Score of 1.520 is also rather ideal for this position.  While he may not have gotten his hands on the ball very frequently, he still amassed 6 interceptions during his college years, and this might have been improved upon if he had been used as a defensive back.  In his final year, he also had 16.5 tackles for a loss, as well as 6.5 sacks, despite being an undersized linebacker who missed two games due to an injury.  While we wish we knew more about him, he still strikes us as someone who might be interesting to pick up in the 7th round, or bring in as an UDFA.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Kangaroo Court: The 2016 DEs & 3-4 OLBs

Sometimes occupying this weird and quiet little corner of the internet makes us feel like the 52 hz whale, the loneliest whale in the world.  Other times, we imagine ourselves more like cookiecutter sharks, vicious and disturbing creatures taking little bites out of the NFL's belly.  While we occasionally question why we continue to put up these demented posts, there does seem to be a shark-like compulsion to continue moving forward.  So, much like we did last year, and in the years before that, we'll just keep swimming along as we take a look at this year's crop of outside pass rushers. 

We've been a bit busy lately, which has slowed down our progress in examining this year's prospects.  Perhaps too much our our time has been invested in trying to arrange a parade to march Courtney Upshaw out of town.  His impending departure absolutely fills us with joy, though it doesn't appear to have infected the other nearby sports fans with the same sort of enthusiasm.  That has left just Reilly and myself to construct our parade float, artistically depicting Upshaw's athletic ability in the form of a papier-mache tree stump. 

It's fair to say that we have never been fans of Upshaw.  We've expected him to turn into a dismal failure for quite a while now.  The odd thing is, that while his performance would seem to have confirmed our initial assessment of him, the locals have tended to be much more forgiving of his shortcomings than we ever would have imagined.  The argument they raise in his defense consistently seems to refer to his supposed ability to "set the edge", as they say.

This has made us curious about how people can see the silver lining in a bad situation.  After all, what does "setting the edge" really mean, other than "he is a fairly immobile/unmovable lump, who opponents could potentially trip over"?  While we certainly wouldn't want to deny that having the ability to hold your ground is a worthwhile trait in a defensive linemen, it doesn't suggest that a player is terribly dynamic or impactful, if that is all they are really doing.  Surely, this sort of "stand in one place and don't fall down" skill set can be accomplished fairly easily, can't it?

So, let's pretend that we decided that an unexceptional lump-like presence, similar to what Courtney Upshaw offered, was a perfectly acceptable outcome from one of our defensive ends or outside linebackers.  Like Upshaw, this imaginary player would not need to show any real ability to drop into coverage.  Also, like Upshaw, we would feel no great need for this player to reach the quarterback more frequently than a fat man touches his toes.  We also would have very limited expectations that this player would be able to pursue running backs to the sideline.  Nope, we just want a guy who can occasionally make a tackle when an opponent runs straight into his waiting arms.  How the Ravens managed to find such a rare gem with just a mere 2nd round pick is a bit amazing.

Then, while contemplating Upshaw's glorious accomplishments, a thought crossed our mind.  If this is all we want out of our DE/OLB, why not just put one of the team's defensive tackles on the field, in Upshaw's place.  Would he be any less likely to match Upshaw's incredible 7 defensed passes over the past 4 years?  Or what about the 5 sacks Upshaw produced during the same period of time?  Would a typical 3rd string defensive tackle likely be any less stout against the run?  It may sound a bit stupid, but we even think the team could have put a random undrafted nose tackle on the field, and there would have been very little difference in the actual outcome.  It's not like such a player would have been sacrificing any sort of athleticism at the position, because Upshaw really possessed none in the first place.

Yet, despite our complaints about Upshaw, a surprisingly significant portion of local fans seem willing to defend him.  The Ravens have put him on the field for every single game since the day he was drafted, even listing him as the starter in 52 games (81.2% of the time).  It is...confusing.  All we can really figure is that this is an amazing testament to the power that a player's draft status has on the opportunities that are presented to him.  We also have little doubt that we still have not seen the end of this peculiar and vexing anomaly.  Some other team will surely employ him, though it is hard to guess whether they will be as forgiving.

Oh well, I suppose that's all we have to say on this little rant, so let's move on to this year's crop of future disappointments.

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

While we know that many people prefer to take a more subjective approach to judging NFL prospects, we generally feel that produces much more erratic and undependable results.  To illustrate this, we had the computer play a little game to demonstrate what players it would have selected over a ten year period, under fairly restrictive guidelines.  We then made a separate post to show how this compared to the results of a select group of NFL teams, during the same period.  While there is no way to guarantee success, we do think the more objective approach of the computer does tend to improve a team's chance of a positive outcome.  Maybe you will agree, or maybe you won't.

We should also mention that while we tend to use the Kangaroo Score as a general tool to capture a player's explosiveness and power, there are are some times where this runs into potential issues.  Particularly with a position group like this, where the weights of the players covers a broader range than in most position groups (perhaps from 235 pounds to 285 pounds).  So, we sometimes need to clarify things a bit more.  Generally, lower body power and explosiveness go hand in hand to a large degree.  Sometimes they don't.  The discrepancies that arise are all a product of how we value mass, and sometimes we need to sort things out a bit more, in order to get a better picture of how a player is likely to perform.

For instance, you could have a heavier player, say a 275# defensive end, with a Kangaroo Score of 1.500.  That would suggest a rather impressive amount of lower body power.  Despite that, this player might also have a non-weight adjusted explosiveness result of perhaps 0.500, which is fine but not nearly as impressive.  This is a player that we might expect to be stout against the run, and perhaps capable of pushing his opposing blocker backwards, but not what we might consider a speed rusher.

At the same time, you might have a smaller 240 pound defensive end, with a mildly respectable Kangaroo Score of 0.500.  This player's relative lack of mass is not doing them any favors.  Still, this player might have a non-weight adjusted explosiveness result of 1.500, which would be exceptional.  We would expect this player to be a bit less likely to hold his ground in the running game, but have much more of an explosive first step when rushing the passer.  This is perhaps a player who is more likely to fit the mold of a speed rusher, who can get to the quarterback very quickly (assuming that other physical traits don't hamper him).

This is just an issue that tends to come up a bit more frequently with this group of players, and something that we will try to make additional comments about. We wouldn't say that one type of player is necessarily better than the other, just that there is more than one way to skin a cat.  The way these results can tilt things in one direction or another just helps to better understand how a player might succeed, and perhaps how they should best be utilized.

This list will continue to be modified/updated as new data and prospects come to my attention.  I don't plan to list every prospect here, but instead will just show the ones that I think are interesting for either good or bad reasons.  Last Updated: 4/16/2016

Joey Bosa, DE/OLB, Ohio State
Kangaroo Score:  0.763   Agility Score: 1.064   Avg TFL:  18.5
Based on our normal methods for doing this, Bosa is someone we should probably be excited about.  When examining his athletic traits and college production, this is someone that the computer would allow us to select in the 1st round.  Still, there are some odd details and concerns about Bosa that make us scratch our heads a bit.  His Kangaroo Score suggests that he should have the lower body power to bull rush, as well as stand up against the opponent's running game.  The score above actually might underestimate his power a bit, as the results from his broad jump would produce a result of 1.601, which is a significant improvement on his overall result.  Then we have his agility results, which are also really quite good, especially for someone of his size.  The one odd thing about his results was what happened when we removed mass as a factor.  Suddenly, his lower body explosiveness was appearing to be just "okay", with a result that came in between 0.208 and 0.823.  That result is a tad lower than what we normally see in most of the NFL's top level pass rushers, but not necessarily a significant problem.  These results would suggest that he is probably more of a bull-rushing torque machine, and less of a blow past the tackle at the snap kind of player.  That also probably fits with what we have seen of Bosa in the few games we have watched.  The most similar athletic comparison we can make, is probably Kyle Vanden Bosch.  Yes, we feel a bit awkward about making a white-guy-to-white-guy comparison.  Then we come to Bosa's statistical production in college, which is a whole other can of worms.  Because of the recent successes of the Ohio State football program, it is a bit more difficult to tell who is benefiting from being in an potentially advantageous situation.  In 2014, we would say that Bosa's production was quite good, though still perhaps a hair short of what we typically find with top level pass rushers.  In 2015, we run into much bigger problems.  Bosa took a rather severe tumble in production, and we don't have an adequate explanation for why that is.  Some people will say that it was caused by Bosa being double-teamed more often, but we're not so sure about that.  Considering that his team was actually improving the rate that they were getting to the opposing quarterback (going from an 8.3% sack rate in 2015, to an 8.4% in 2015), and that Bosa was frequently benefiting from being able to go after the opponent's right tackle, his slump bothers us a bit.  We'd also say that while Bosa appears to be active against the run, he was probably making about 10% fewer plays in this area than we would really like to see.  Admittedly, part of the reason we are being so critical of Bosa is because of some of the similarities he possesses to another former Ohio State player, Vernon Gholston.  Like Bosa, Gholston was an extremely gifted athlete whose market share of his team's pass rushing success was less impressive than his stat sheet might make you suspect.  You could say, that for as gifted as Bosa/Gholston appeared to be physically, we actually think they both should have been even more productive in college, especially considering the beneficial environment they found themselves in.  Maybe that seems like nitpicking.  Despite all of this criticism, we still think Bosa is probably one of the better pass rushing prospects in this draft, and worth a 1st round pick.  We just aren't certain that he should go in the top 5.

Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Kangaroo Score:  0.700   Agility Score: 0.544   Avg TFL:  18.5
What can we really say about Lawson?  Well, he did produce the sort of good but not great athletic results that would allow the computer to give him a 1st round grade.  Lawson also had the sort of statistical production that would merit a 1st round grade from the computer.  So, why are we feeling so underwhelmed by him as a draft prospect?  Of the three outside pass rushers that the computer gave a 1st round grade to this year, Lawson was the one that seems to bother us the most.  We could complain that he was a bit of a late bloomer, who only really produced to a significant level in his final collegiate season.  We could point to the way that Clemson seems to currently be able to turn anyone into a productive pass rusher, similar to what Missouri has done in the past few years.  Along with this, there is the concern that Lawson's numbers in 2015 might have been inflated due to the overall success of the Clemson pass rush, which lessened the extent to which opponents could focus on stopping just him.  Really though, Reilly and I were mainly disturbed by how little excitement we felt when we watched him play, and we think this might be related to a potential athletic deficiency that gets ignored in the scores we listed above.  While Lawson has respectably adequate agility, and his Kangaroo Score suggests he has good lower body power (which could be rated at an even higher 1.202 if we only looked at his broad jump), there is still something missing.  When we remove weight as a factor from his vertical and broad jumps, to just look at his explosiveness, his results fall somewhere between 0.264 and 0.655.  Those aren't bad results, but they also aren't particularly exceptional.  In the end, this creates a fairly specific sort of athletic profile.  It would suggest that Lawson is probably stout enough to hold up against the run, as well as having the power to occasionally push offensive tackles around, but he probably isn't going to consistently explode past/through the blocker to create the sort of quick sacks that we associate with some of the more exciting pass rushers.  None of this should necessarily change the grade that the computer gave him, of alter our expectations that he can become a good player, we just suspect that he might be a bit less of a dynamic player than the top NFL players at his position.  We're leaning towards the idea that his best position might be as a left end in a 4-3 defense, since we think his physical traits would probably match up better against the types of athletes you typically find among right tackles.

Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
Kangaroo Score:  0.829   Agility Score: 0.201   Avg TFL:  9.5
With Leonard Floyd, we have a very different sort of prospect than what we see among the other players that are generally projected to be taken in the 1st round.  Athletically, he is actually kind of interesting, and his overall results would allow the computer to give him a 1st round grade.  Unfortunately, when the computer looks at his statistical production, the best assessment it can give Floyd is a 6th round grade.  That imbalance between physical potential, and proven productivity is a huge problem for us.  As a pass rusher, he simply never reached any of the benchmarks that we generally associate with top level players at his position.  His athletic results also point in a different direction than many of the other prospects for this year.  While he appears to have perfectly adequate agility, and above average lower body power, his explosiveness (when weight isn't factored into it) appears to be his best trait.  Here, his result would be about 1.773 standard deviations above average, which is pretty exceptional.  His results would suggest to us that his best opportunity might come as an OLB in a 3-4, or perhaps even in a 4-3, where he could be positioned further outside, in order to try to explode past the offensive tackle rather than bull rushing through him.  Based on the little we have seen of him, our observations seemed to line up with the computer's suspicions.  He does appear to be less inclined to try to physically maul his opponents.  While some people have talked about adding weight to his relatively slim 6'6" and 244 pound frame, we think that could be a bit of a complicated proposition.  That added mass shouldn't really improve his Kangaroo Score, but it should reduce his agility and explosiveness to some degree.  Overall, we don't think that would be a great idea.  We also have some concerns about the fact that Floyd will already be turning 24 this upcoming September, and the possibility that his Georgia teammate Jordan Jenkins might present better value as a draft pick.  While Floyd is a somewhat interesting physical specimen, and has the physical traits to perhaps exceed our conservative expectations, the computer would suggest that his overall results present too much risk relative to where he is expected to be selected.

Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky
Kangaroo Score:  0.213   Agility Score: 0.060   Avg TFL:  18.5*
Reilly and I really have no idea what to make of Noah Spence.  Based on the little we have seen of him, our lying eyes thought he looked fairly impressive.  Of course, these things are a bit hard to judge when he was typically playing against such a low level of competition.  Athletically, there was little to complain about with his results, but also little to praise.  His numbers were pretty much average across the board.  While his Kangaroo Score doesn't suggest that he has the sort of lower body power we typically like to see in these sorts of prospects, when mass was removed as a factor, his results did suggest a slightly above average level of explosiveness (with a result of 0.599), though nothing terribly impressive.  We think those results generally fit with what we saw of him.  He seemed like he wanted to be more of a speed rusher, rather than someone who could consistently drive an offensive tackle backwards.  At the end of the day, we just don't like to bet on players with these sorts of physical traits, especially not with high draft picks.  Though they can occasionally succeed, we feel falling into a pattern of making these sorts of selections will eventually get you into trouble.  If somebody wanted to select Spence in the 4th or 5th round, sure, we could perhaps understand that gamble.  In the 2nd round, not so much.  Of course, all of this speculation doesn't even take into account his issues with ecstasy.  We're not trying to be judgmental, because drugs can be a great way to get through the weekend, but there are some clear reasons to be concerned here.  I mean, what's going to happen if an opposing offensive tackle pulls out a glow stick, and starts to wave it around?  Is he just going to start dancing as if he is attending a rave, and forget to go after the quarterback?  It seems like a legitimate risk.

Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma St
Kangaroo Score:  1.326   Agility Score: -0.450   Avg TFL:  15.25
The main thing we like about Ogbah is his potential lack of complicating issues.  Unlike Bosa or Lawson, the only two other players that the computer gave a first round grade to, Ogbah is a bit more straightforward.  While the rate at which Ogbah made plays behind the opponent's line of scrimmage is a tad short of what we associate with top level pass rushers (which also applies to Bosa and Lawson), the were fewer issues to suggest he was benefiting from other players on his own team's defense.  His results were also a bit more consistent over the past two years, though we personally think his 2014 season was more impressive (relative to the opponents he faced), at least as a pass rusher.  Athletically, because of the way Ogbah's athletic results tilt significantly towards power over agility, we would probably say that he is best suited to remaining as a 4-3 defensive end.  Like Bosa and Lawson, his results suggest he is somewhat less explosive than he is powerful, though he probably has more of a burst than Lawson.  We would also mention that Ogbah's exceptional arm length of 35.5" makes our nipples tingle a bit.  Based on the little we have seen of him, there did seem to be a bit of inconsistency to his performances, but at his best he still struck us as fairly impressive.  Another thing we like about Ogbah, is the possibility that he will be taken a bit later than some of the other top prospects, perhaps even as late as the end of 1st to early 2nd round range.  If so, that sort of relative potential value would be rather appealing to us.

Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
Kangaroo Score:  -0.204   Agility Score: -0.400   Avg TFL:  13
Just like we said when discussing his teammate, Shaq Lawson, we have some concerns about how these two players might have benefited from each other's presence, as well as the overall environment at Clemson.  That they were similar in being one year wonders, also makes us nervous.  Unfortunately for Dodd, he has significantly more issues that worry us than Lawson did.  For one, Dodd will already be turning 24 this coming July.  We don't particularly like it when players take this long to start performing at a high level.  Secondly, Dodd's athletic traits suggest just average lower body power, below average agility and significantly below average explosiveness (-1.133).  For someone who is often projected to be taken in the first 2 rounds of the draft, these issues would make us extremely concerned.  While we could try to draw parallels to someone like Tamba Hali, who also had extremely questionable athletic traits, trying to find future successes by looking towards past anomalies doesn't strike us as a great idea.  Even if he fell to the 7th round, we would have a hard time selecting someone with these issues.

Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida
Kangaroo Score:  0.949  Agility Score: -0.713   Avg TFL:  13
We still haven't really made up our mind about the possibility of using Bullard as a defensive end.  As we suggested in an earlier post, we kind of prefer the idea of using him as a defensive tackle.  It should also be noted how differently his athletic traits appear under these two different scenarios.  While we can't rule out the possibility of using him as a defensive end, we just think lining him up inside might give him more physical advantages with fewer potential weaknesses, than putting him on the edge of the line.  He's a fairly interesting guy, but we suspect that the way he is utilized could have a much larger impact on his ability to succeed than what we see with many other players.

Shilique Calhoun, OLB, Michigan St.
Kangaroo Score:  -0.188  Agility Score: 0.800   Avg TFL:  13.75*
Players like this tend to be a great source of annoyance to us.  It's hard to say that there is necessarily anything wrong with them, and there are clearly a few positive traits that they bring to the table.  They just aren't the sort of athletes we prefer to bet on.  Calhoun's results would place him in the high agility group of pass rushers, which can be a strange and unpredictable group to deal with.  Even when players like this do well, they still don't tend to become nearly as productive as their peers who have a higher degree of lower body power and explosiveness.  When these players do thrive, we also tend to suspect that they do better when given a bit more space to operate, because if an offensive tackle gets their hands on them, they frequently get buried.  This usually means that a player like Calhoun would do better if they went to a team that uses a 3-4 defense.  We should also say that while Calhoun may be agile, his results probably still aren't quite good enough for us to feel very optimistic about how this will turn out.  His agility results are just good, not great.  As far as his statistical production is concerned, we would say that his results were a bit mediocre.  While he produced okay results as a pass rusher, this appeared to come at the expense of his efforts as a run defender.  He seemed to either reach the opposing QB, or he just got run over.  People seem to think that he will be selected somewhere in the 2nd round, but we think he presents way too man risks, and would probably avoid him completely.

Carl Nassib, DE, Penn St.
Kangaroo Score:  -0.070  Agility Score: -0.110   Avg TFL:  11.5
For someone who is often projected to be selected somewhere around the 3rd round, we don't have a great deal of confidence in Carl Nassib.  While we could try to pick apart his athletic results, and say that there was at least some evidence of lower body power suggested by his broad jump, but we don't want to pursue that argument.  His overall results point to the possibility that Nassib has only moderate lower body power, average agility, and significantly below average explosiveness.  When we also consider that he will be turning 23 in April. and didn't show significant statistical production until this past season, that creates additional areas of concern.  That this late statistical surge coincided with somewhat similar difficult to explain performances from teammates Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel (to a lesser degree), makes us suspicious about how this all occurred.  Much like Nassib, these other players also seemed to lack the sort of athletic traits that we normally associate with highly successful NFL players.  While it is impossible to say that a player is doomed to become a failure, we would suggest that consistently overlooking the objective and measurable facts that a prospect like this presents should eventually erode a team's chances of success in the draft.  We currently don't see any potential situation in which we would select Carl Nassib as an outside pass rusher.  The computer does, however, view Nassib as a moderately interesting prospect as as a 3-4 defensive end, as his athletic results come out much better when compared to players in that weight class.

Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise St.
Kangaroo Score:  -0.567  Agility Score: 1.011   Avg TFL:  15
Since we finally have updated information from Correa's pro day, we've had to adjust his results a bit.  While he did improve his Kangaroo Score since the combine, his results still suggest that he has below average explosiveness and lower body power for a 3-4 OLB.  On the other hand, we did expect him to turn out to be a fairly agile player, and his results in that area were significantly better.  Unfortunately, we usually find that high agility pass rushers don't tend to be quite as productive as the more explosive and powerful players in this position group, and also have a lower rate of success in general.  Because of this, we tend to be wary of selecting these sorts of players in the first couple of rounds.  While his statistical production looks impressive at first glance, there are some potential problems there as well.  First of all, it is troubling how his numbers dropped in 2015, versus what they were in 2014 when his team's overall pass rushing success was much better.  It creates the possibility that Correa was making plays behind the line of scrimmage because his opponents were more engaged with some of his teammates.  Even if that wasn't the case, the rate at which he was making plays behind the line of scrimmage in 2014 (his best season) still falls a fair bit below what we would expect to see in a top level prospect.  Based on the information we currently have, we would have a hard time envisioning a situation where the value that the computer places on Correa lines up with the 2nd to 3rd round grade that some people have proposed.  On a more positive not, we think his results do a rather nice job of fitting the mold for an outside linebacker in a 4-3. 

Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma
Kangaroo Score:  0.881  Agility Score: ?   Avg TFL:  7.5
Without having all of the data we would like on Tapper, it is a bit difficult to speculate about his future.  It becomes even more challenging when we consider the way that Oklahoma frequently used him as an undersized defensive tackle on so many snaps, which makes examining his production a bit murky, and somewhat problematic.  While we can give him credit for appearing to have somewhat above average lower body power, we wouldn't say that his results suggest he has a matching level of explosiveness.  If we can eventually get some agility results for Tapper, that would probably help to clarify what sort of athletic potential he really has, so we may have to reevaluate him once that comes in.  So far, and based on what we have seen of Tapper, the expectations that some people have that he will be selected in the 2nd or 3rd round strikes us as a bit ridiculous.

Kyler Fackrell, OLB, Utah St.
Kangaroo Score:  -0.137  Agility Score: 0.113   Avg TFL:  14
At 245 pounds, Fackrell is sort of on the fringe when it comes to whether he could fit as a 3-4 OLB, or whether he would be a better fit as a 4-3 OLB.  Since we now have Fackrell's pro day results, we can toss out our wild and irresponsible hunches about his future.  Athletically, he sort of falls into a no man's land, where there seems to be nothing particularly interesting about him, but also nothing worth condemning.  Since some people seem to be projecting him as a 3rd round pick, we would hope to see more dynamic physical traits.  If it wasn't for his statistical production, we would probably ignore him completely.  The problem is, while he was quite productive, he didn't produce exceptional results in the areas that interest us for an outside pass rusher.  Right now we are leaning towards the 4-3 OLB option as being a better fit for someone with his physical traits, which we'll explore in a later post. 

Bronson Kaufusi, DE, BYU
Kangaroo Score:  0.371  Agility Score: 0.684   Avg TFL:  15
We already kicked around the idea of using Kaufusi as a 3-4 defensive end in one of our earlier posts, but we thought we should include him here as well.  Depending on what position he is going to play, we have to compare him to a different set of athletes, so his scores come out quite a bit differently on this list.  He's kind of an odd prospect, who may not perfectly fit any one particular position.  Teams may need to move him around a bit, in order to get the most out of him, though that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  At the end of the day, he is a fairly gifted athlete, who was rather productive in college.  Those are things we appreciate.  Based on his overall results, the computer would give him a 3rd round grade.

Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia.
Kangaroo Score:  1.042  Agility Score: -0.241   Avg TFL:  10.75
The similarities and differences that exist between Jenkins and his college teammate Leonard Floyd, strike us as rather interesting.  While Jenkins Kangaroo Score suggests he might have slightly more lower body power than Floyd, their agility results would give a slight edge to Floyd.  When weight isn't a factor, Floyd is clearly quite explosive, though Jenkins result of 1.158 is still quite impressive.  While Floyd's athleticism might suggest he would benefit from being utilized as a 3-4 or 4-3 outside linebacker, where he would have more space, Jenkins results might point towards a career as a 4-3 defensive end.  While their are potential differences, we wouldn't say that their is really an enormous divide between them when it comes to athletic ability.  They are perhaps different sorts of athletes, but not from entirely different planets.  When we look at their statistical production, we also don't see much to separate them, as the computer feels that both of them were just fairly average in college.  The real difference, at least to us, comes in the possibility that Jenkins might only be selected somewhere between the 3rd to 5th  round range, while Floyd is talked about as someone who will be taken much higher.  We think that might tilt the potential question of value in Jenkins direction.  We would also say that the fact that Jenkins is about 2 years younger than Floyd is another factor we appreciate.  Based on our normal method of doing things, the computer gives Jenkins a 5th round grade.

Jason Fanaika, DE, Utah
Kangaroo Score:  0.735  Agility Score: 0.239   Avg TFL:  10
We have a very, very, very modest level of interest in Fanaika.  Athletically, his results suggest that he has a respectable amount of lower body power, and could be someone that can hold up against the run, and perhaps bully his way towards an occasional sack.  At the same time, he probably only has average agility and explosiveness.  These are not the results of a highly dynamic player, but perhaps a serviceable one. From what we have seen of Fanaika, he plays pretty much the way his athletic results would suggest.  When we consider his statistical production, there was a similar pattern of being serviceable but not spectacular.  He was probably more of a contributor to his team's run defense, than he was to their pass rush, where his results were rather bland.  In the end, the computer views him as possibly being worth a pick in the 6th round, though that appears to be a bit later in the draft than many are expecting him to be selected.

Matt Judon, DE, Grand Valley State
Kangaroo Score:  0.590  Agility Score: -1.296   Avg TFL:  21.25
Because of the rather wildly divergent outcomes from Judon's vertical jump and broad jump, it is possible that his Kangaroo Score is underestimating his lower body power a fair bit.  If we only considered the results from his vertical jump, his result would move to 1.032, which is a bit more impressive.  Still, while he may have some measure of power, his results don't suggest a high degree of explosiveness.  We also worry that his rather poor agility results might make him a bit too stiff to really capitalize on the few strengths he does have.  His statistical production is arguably more impressive than anyone else in this position group, and even more notable for having extended over multiple seasons.  Granted, he was playing at a lower level of competition, but even when we attempt to adjust for that, his results are still quite good.  Based on the very limited amount that we have seen of him, he made a reasonably good impression on us.  Of course, we don't trust our lying eyes very much.  Unless he shows significantly improved results at his pro day, we would have a hard time feeling that he has the sort of athletic traits that can produce any sort of consistent success in the NFL.  Some people seem to think he will be a mid-round selection, but that strikes us as a bit too much of a gamble for our tastes.

Tyrone Holmes, OLB, Montana
Kangaroo Score:  0.196  Agility Score: 0.603   Avg TFL:  19
Every single year there is some small school player who puts up goofy pass rushing stats, and 50% of the time they seem to come from Montana.  We've had Zach Wagenmann in 2015, and Brock Coyle and Jordan Tripp back in 2014.  Really though, we should primarily just be comparing him to Zach Wagenmann, who went undrafted last year but has a temporary home with the Cardinals.  Like Wagenmann, Holmes overall athletic scores were fairly pedestrian, but there are some moderately interesting signs of potential buried underneath it all.  If we separate the two aspects of the Kangaroo Score, and only looked at the results from his vertical jump, we would wind up with a result of 0.879, which suggests a moderately intriguing amount of lower body power.   Also, like Wagenmann, Holmes statistical production clearly stands out as being unusually strong, though Holmes period of productivity was mainly limited to one season, unlike his former teammate.  Initially, we suggested giving Holmes a 6th or 7th round grade, but we've changed our minds about this.  Our cowardice, that stems from a lack of confidence in the Montana football program, might have been clouding our minds.  If we strictly adhered to what the computer was telling us to do, our Banana 6000 Data Thresher would allow us to pick him as high as the 4th round.  Holmes may be one of the few mid-to-late round pass rushing prospects who has a legitimate chance to exceed peoples' expectations.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kangaroo Court: The 2016 Offensive Linemen

Reilly and I have seen some strange things over the years.  Whether we give off some sort of pheromone that attracts lunatics, we can't say for sure.  All we know is that we seem to keep finding ourselves in peculiar and difficult to explain situations, that frequently make us marvel at the insanity of the world.

For instance, in high school, the older brother of one of our closest friends used to insist that the state of Wyoming didn't exist.  He was absolutely adamant about this.  His defense of this theory was also surprisingly difficult to refute.  Had we ever been to Wyoming?  Had we ever met someone from Wyoming?  The answer to both questions was no.  Our friend's brother suggested that this was ample evidence that this supposed land south of Montana was entirely made up, and perhaps part of a grander conspiracy.  We eventually came to the conclusion that it was simpler just to accept his views on this subject, rather than to pack up a camera and make an 1,800 mile road trip.

We also had the opportunity to meet someone who sincerely believed that the government was watching us through the light bulbs in our homes (when any sane person knows that they watch us through our electrical outlets).  We'll call this guy George.  George happened to live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Baltimore, which made it all the more entertaining that he covered his windows with aluminum foil.  He also had AR-15 assault rifles positioned by every window in his house.  You know, just in case.  Years later, we would learn that George died under mysterious circumstances while running a brothel in Mexico.  True story.

Reilly and I have also been exposed to the philosophical teachings of Drukpa Kunley, and eventually decided to place our spiritual well-being in his capable hands.  Not only did he introduce phallus paintings to Bhutan, but his dong was referred to as "The Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom".  That is what we call a role model.  It is even claimed that he defeated a demon by beating it into submission with his "thunderbolt".  It may all seem a bit demented, but I don't think most guys would be opposed to leaving behind such an impressive legacy.

When it comes to bat-shit craziness, Reilly and I would also have to include the current 2016 presidential campaign.  It's not that we want to pick on any particular candidate, because we think they are all probably a bit loopy.  The bigger issue for us has been the way that this has convinced us that the average American might be much crazier than we ever thought was possible.  We didn't think we would need to lower the bar, for our expectations of most people, but it now seems to be necessary.  When Ra's al Ghul's plan to destroy Gotham, in order to start over from scratch, starts to seem like a sane alternative, you might have a problem with your elected officials.

So, yes, we've seen some crazy shit in our time.  What we haven't seen is any clear evidence that the experts who work for NFL teams actually have an eye for offensive line talent.  At best, they appear to be guessing, just like the rest of us.  Because of this, Reilly and I have decided that this is the one position where we actually won't bother to watch any of the prospects.  Based on a little game we played, which we refer to as the Lobotomy Line, we tend to think that you're probably just as well off picking your offensive linemen based on the more objective facts that come from the combine.  The fact that this also allows us to be a bit lazy is purely a coincidence.

As always, we'll be judging the players based on a few very idiotic basic criteria.  We will measure their Kangaroo Score (our measurement of lower body power), and their Agility Score (based on their short shuttle and 3-Cone drills).  These scores are given in the form of how many standard deviations that the prospect is away from the average result for an offensive linemen.  If you are curious, you can take a look at Athleticism and the Offensive Line part I and part II, to get some sense as to how this relates to offensive tackles and guards.  For centers, we place more importance on their short shuttle times, as you can read about here.  There are, of course, other factors such as injuries, inability to elude the law, playing time, comically unnecessary punctuation in a player's name, and positional versatility that also somewhat weigh into our views on a prospect, as well as a few other minor measurable athletic traits.

This list is still under construction, as we await the complete sets of data for individual draft prospects.  The list will continue to grow, and be updated with additional players.  Individual Agility Scores are unlikely to be changed, but based on the results from college pro-days, Kangaroo Scores may be adjusted.  The order the players are listed in will also periodically be adjusted to roughly coincide with the CBS' rankings.  Last Updated: 4/5/2016

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
Arm Length: 34.25"   Kangaroo Score: 0.612  Agility Score: ?
Wait a second, is he from Wyoming?  Oh never mind, he spells it Laremy, not Laramie.  I guess this doesn't solve our long-standing mystery about government conspiracies in the 44th state.  Since we only have his pro day results for the vertical jump and the broad jump, we are still a bit more limited in our ability to examine him than we would really like to be.  We can say that his Kangaroo Score does suggest that he has the sort of lower body power and explosiveness we look for in an offensive tackle, and that this might still be underrating him a bit.  The results from his broad jump would have actually been an even more impressive 1.237.  Based on this limited information, we see good reasons to be optimistic.  Still, we would feel slightly annoyed about having to make this sort of selection in the top 5, without a full set of data.

Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Arm Length: 35.625"   Kangaroo Score: -0.067  Agility Score: -0.823
If a team we were rooting for selected Stanley in the 1st round, we would feel just a little bit terrified.  The measurable results that have come in so far, that relate to Stanley's athletic ability, are well below what we are normally looking for in successful NFL offensive tackles.  Average lower body power, below average explosiveness, below average agility, below average speed and quickness, these are not the sorts of things that make us quiver with delight.  Even if we accepted Stanley's improved agility results from his pro day, he would still only get a score of -0.185, which is still a hair below average.  About the only positive we can see is Stanley's rather exceptional arm length, but that isn't something we like to bet on without other supporting factors.  People might point towards someone like Cordy Glenn, as a below average athlete (at least according to his measurable data) who has supposedly done well.  Personally, we've never had much confidence in Glenn, and still think his performance has been fairly erratic.  You can judge that for yourself.  The role that having a high draft status plays in boosting peoples' opinions of players like that is a peculiar but interesting subject.. While Notre Dame has had a reasonable amount of success protecting their quarterbacks the last few seasons, we would say that was also a situation that preceded Stanley's arrival.  In fact, the team's sack rate has gradually declined over the last three years.  What is Stanley's role in all of this?  We really can't say.  We would let some other team find out whether he can outperform his measurable traits.

Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Arm Length: 35"   Kangaroo Score:  0.020  Agility Score: 0.692
We normally wouldn't be very supportive of a player with these kinds of scores.  These results would put him in the dangerous Luke Joeckel zone.  It's possible that Conklin's 2015 leg injury is still a nagging issue, so perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt here.  We also would give him a slight boost for his fairly exceptional arm length.  While some quarterbacks can improve our perception of an offensive line's perception, we also suspect that Connor Cook does not fall into this category.  Still, he was the quarterback throughout Conklin's career at Michigan State, which is sort of nice because it eliminates one potential variable.  The main thing that worried us about Conklin related to his 2014 season.  As his team's offensive line seemed to have its most success as a pass blocking unit (2.67% sack rate) during Conklin's time at Michigan State, and as Cook started to achieve higher YPA results as a passer (8.6 YPA), Conklin started to give up a higher than expected share of his team's sacks.  In his two other seasons as a starter, there appeared to be a potentially similar pattern that might suggest he was either benefiting from an offense that was less aggressive, or possibly looking better simply by comparison to fellow offensive linemen who were under-performing, and thus were more appealing targets for opposing defenses to attack.  We're not going to bet against Conklin, because he does have some rather positive attributes buried within his assorted results, but there are some strange issues that surround him which cause us a bit of concern.  We wouldn't be surprised if Conklin turns out to be a good player, but we would tend to bet against him becoming a great one.  In the 1t round, where he is projected to be taken, we think you should have a higher expectation of greatness than what we are seeing here.

Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Arm Length: 33.75"   Kangaroo Score: -0.198  Agility Score: -0.103
I guess it's time to continue this year's rant against the current crop of Ohio State prospects  Our concern with Decker is that he reminds us just a little too much of Adam Terry.  They have similarly average explosiveness and lower body power.  They also have similarly average agility.  Being average might not be a bad thing at some positions, but for an offensive tackle, it is unusual to have a great deal of success with these traits.  The only thing we can figure that might explain why people are interested in Decker, is that he is ridiculously tall.  At a hair over 6'7" tall, he probably looks like someone who should be a good player.  It's sort of like the way you would expect a DeLorean to be fast, even though it is a bit of a slug.  Unfortunately, we think Decker's height is possibly working against him here, much like it did with Adam Terry (who was 6'8").  The problem, as we've discussed in the past, is the way that arm length relates to a player's height.  When you are as tall as Decker is, while having somewhat shorter arms, you can actually wind up in a position where your effective reach is even shorter that what your arms measure.  Suddenly, Decker's somewhat below average arm length, becomes ever so slightly worse worse.  There are just a few too many areas of concern with Decker.  While people have suggested that he will be selected in the first two rounds of the draft, we wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole, though a much sorter pole is all that is probably required to keep your distance from him.

Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
Arm Length: 33.625"   Kangaroo Score:  0.136  Agility Score: 0.732
Just for a change of pace, we're going to talk about an Alabama player, and not say something terrible.  While Kelly doesn't precisely fit our ideal mold for a center, he isn't that far off of the mark.  The first thing we always geek out about with centers is their short shuttle time.  We generally want a result of about 4.50 seconds or better.  In Kelly's case he had a 4.59, which isn't stunning, but is close enough for us to not eliminate him from consideration.  The more peculiar issue with Kelly is his Kangaroo Score.  Centers tend to post up rather poor results here, that frequently go into the negative range.  So, while Kelly's result is just average, relative to all offensive linemen, this is actually a fair bit better than you normally see for someone at his position.  This sort of lower body power certainly can't hurt.  Among all of his other measurable traits, everything checks out as either good or at least within the average range.  Finally, we look at the fact that he has been a 3 year starter, who has yet to give up a single sack, despite playing in the SEC.  All things considered, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he turns out to be a pretty respectable player.  The only potential concern we have is that people are expecting him to be selected somewhere around the late 1st to early 2nd round range.  Maybe that's fair, but as we've said in the past, teams have routinely shown that you are just as likely to find a quality center in the 5th round or later.  While Kelly might turn out to be a good player, we think you could probably also find someone to fill this role at a significantly cheaper price.

Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
Arm Length: 33.625"   Kangaroo Score: -0.416  Agility Score: 1.216
Whitehair actually comes pretty close to fitting the prototype of what we expect to see in successful offensive guards.  While his Kangaroo Score is a little bit below average for an offensive lineman, suggesting somewhat below average power, it is actually well within the range of what we would feel comfortable with at the guard position.  Most quality guards tend to produce results that lean much more towards agility, rather than raw power.  In fact, this score is possibly being unfairly weighed down by his results from the vertical jump, as his broad jump results would have produced a result of 0.419.  So, he might actually be a bit more explosive than your typical guard prospect.  While we don't tend to care about bench press results, unless they are extremely abnormal, the fact that Whitehair only benched 225 pounds 16 times is a bit curious.  That is a rather peculiar result, and something we would like to see him improve on at his pro day.  It's also somewhat annoying that he will already be turning 24 this upcoming July, making him one of the older prospects in this draft.  We think Whitehair is an interesting prospect, who could possibly turn out to be pretty good, but we're just not sure if we would spend anything more than a 2nd or 3rd round pick on him at this point.

Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn
Arm Length: 35.125"   Kangaroo Score: ?*  Agility Score: ?
We're still waiting for data.  All we can say at this point, is that drafting him in the first few rounds might be pretty risky considering his medical history.  We can applaud him for coming back from cancer, but we still have to view that as a bit terrifying.  He is also currently dealing with an injury to his MCL.  For now, we'll just keep waiting for his pro day.

Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Arm Length: 34.125"   Kangaroo Score: 1.328  Agility Score: 1.471
It looks like interest in Jason Spriggs has picked up a fair bit since the combine.  People seem to be projecting that he will be taken in the 2nd round, or perhaps even the late 1st, and based upon his athletic ability we think he could be a very interesting pick.  Spriggs seems to have the explosiveness (2.188 standard deviations above average), agility and quickness to become a solid pass protector.  He also appears to have the lower body power (Kangaroo Score) to hold his ground or perform well as a run blocker.  While we have adjusted his scores a bit, because of his recent pro day, this largely just evened out some of the unevenness from his combine numbers.  It's nice to know that even if things didn't work out at left tackle, he should have the ability to move to the right tackle position, which should somewhat minimize the risks of selecting Spriggs.  While Spriggs did occasionally surrender some sacks, we don't think the rate at which he did so was out of line with what we would have expected from his team's offense, and the instability at his team's QB position over the past few years.  We're leaning towards the idea that Spriggs may eventually be viewed as one of the better offensive tackles in this draft, and probably well worth a 2nd round pick, and possibly even a 1st round pick.

Vadal Alexander, G, LSU
Arm Length: 35.25"   Kangaroo Score: -0.880  Agility Score: -0.841
Outside of his exceptional arm length, we're having a difficult time seeing anything we find encouraging about Alexander.  Having results that suggest a player lacks speed, quickness, power, agility or explosiveness, would make us extremely nervous about spending the 2nd round pick people claim he will cost.  Nope, we don't like this situation at all.

Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
Arm Length: 36"   Kangaroo Score: 1.491  Agility Score: -0.017*
We still don't have all the data we would like to have for Ifedi, but so far his results are looking pretty good.  While his scores might suggest that he doesn't have the quickness or agility to play left tackle, his overall numbers look like a rather good fit for the right tackle position.  When you look at his extremely long arms, significantly above average lower body power and explosiveness, he probably has a pretty good chance of succeeding against the players he would face on the right side of the offensive line.  He might not become a top level pass blocker, we suspect he should be capable of becoming a pretty good run blocker.  He strikes us as a fairly exciting prospect, and if he was available in the 2nd round we would probably give some serious consideration towards selecting him.

Le'Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
Arm Length: 36.125"   Kangaroo Score: 0.534*  Agility Score: ?
It looks like we're never going to get a full set of data for Clark, since he didn't do all of the drills at his pro day.  Normally, when players duck out of doing the agility drills, we suspect they made this choice because they knew that their results were going to suck.  Outside of this issue, Clark seemed to have okay, but not really exceptional, lower body power and explosiveness.  We might also give him a slight boost for going through with the surgery to have gorilla arms transplanted onto his body.  Our picture of him so far is incomplete, but reasonably promising.  Still, if he is really going to be selected in the first few rounds, as people are suggesting, we wouldn't feel thrilled about making that pick without more data.

Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame
Arm Length: 32"   Kangaroo Score: -1.041  Agility Score: 0.431
We could possibly overlook his poor Kangaroo Score, since we generally expect centers to do poorly in that area.  Really though, even for a center his results here were rather terrible.  While his agility results aren't quite as bad, and we have seen interior linemen who have gotten by with less, this score also fails to excite us very much.  Perhaps the most worrisome issue we have is with his short shuttle time of 4.72 seconds, which is a fair bit below what we prefer to see in centers.  We're gradually coming to the conclusion that there was something fishy going on at Notre Dame, that might have inflated peoples' opinions of some of their offensive linemen.  While we had mixed feelings about his brother, Zach Martin, Nick's measurable traits are nowhere near what his brother produced.  Maybe Mrs,. Martin should have stopped having children after her first son?  While we certainly can't say that Martin is sure to fail in the NFL, we will say that his chances of success would probably be slightly improved by becoming a guard, rather than a center.  As things currently stand, there is no way we would feel comfortable selecting him in the 2nd round, and we would probably avoid him altogether.

Landon Turner, G, North Carolina
Arm Length: 32.875"   Kangaroo Score: -2.055  Agility Score: -1.247
As far as we can tell, Turner is so lacking in lower body power, that a gentle breeze might knock him over.  Fortunately, he seems to make up for this with horrible agility.  His 40 yard dash time of 5.56 seconds is also so far outside of the normal range for successful guards, that we almost wonder if the folks who are projecting him as a 2nd or 3rd round pick were watching tape of him without knowing that the fast forward button was still being held down..

Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford
Arm Length: 32.875"   Kangaroo Score: -0.269  Agility Score: 0.538
For someone who is supposedly viewed as a potential 2nd round pick, we're having a hard time finding any sort of objective numbers to justify that position.  If he turns out to be good, well, congratulations to Mr. Garnett.  It still wouldn't strike us a a sensible investment to make at that point in the draft.  Players with results like this can really go in any direction, so we try to avoid placing bets on these situations.

Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU
Arm Length: 34.25"   Kangaroo Score: -1.276  Agility Score: -1.082
The only explanation we have for Hawkins' terrible scores is that he wanted to make his teammate Vadal Alexander feel better about also putting up a disastrous performance at the combine.  CBS claims that Hawkins will be selected somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd round, but we suspect that is unlikely, unless all of the GMs are extremely drunk.

Connor McGovern, G, Missouri
Arm Length: 32.875"   Kangaroo Score: 0.820  Agility Score: 0.726
Hey, it's the new  -- .. - -.-. .... / -- --- .-. ... .!  So far, we're finding the superficial similarities between McGovern and Mitch Morse to be kind of eerie.  The main difference is that while both of them are rather gifted athletes, and have played numerous positions on the offensive line, we suspect Morse is the only one that was likely to potentially thrive as an NFL center.  McGovern's short shuttle time of 4.65 is just a tad slower than we would like to see for that position.  Outside of that minor complaint, we think McGovern is a very interesting prospect, much like we felt with Morse.  He has above average agility, which fits the mold we like to see in a guard, but his results also suggest he has significantly better lower body power and explosiveness than you commonly find at this position.  The numbers would suggest that he is possibly one of the most interesting mid-round offensive linemen in this draft, and we're not just saying that because he recognizes that Top Gun is a cinematic masterpiece.  Like his former teammate, we wouldn't be surprised if he is taken a bit higher than the 3rd to 4th round range that some are currently predicting.  If he is still available in the middle rounds, Reilly and I would be quite willing to take a shot at him.

Joe Haeg, T, North Dakota State
Arm Length: 33.75"   Kangaroo Score: 0.476  Agility Score: 1.221
It's a bit harder to find all of the information we would want for a prospect that come from lower levels of competition, but Haeg is somewhat interesting, if also a bit peculiar.  For a tackle, his arm length is perhaps a bit on the fringe of what we would like to see, particularly for a slightly taller tackle (6'6").  His Kangaroo Score might not look very impressive, though his results from the broad jump would produce a result of 0.768, which is at least respectable.  Then we get down to his agility results which are really quite good.  For someone who is generally projected to be a mid-round pick, he might not be a terrible gamble.  If we were going to guess, we would say that his best chance of success might come as a guard.  His measurable traits are a much better match for that position.  We probably wouldn't pursue him ourselves, unless he fell to the 5th or 6th round, but we could see how some teams might find him interesting. 

Willie Beavers, T, Western Michigan
Arm Length: 33.5"   Kangaroo Score: -0.069  Agility Score: -0.234
We don't really have anything interesting to say about Willie Beavers.  We just enjoy saying his name.

Isaac Seumalo, C, Oregon State
Arm Length: 33"   Kangaroo Score: -0.621  Agility Score: 1.222
For the most part, Seumalo's results line up pretty close to what we look for in NFL centers.  His Kangaroo Score suggests that he has the sort of mediocre lower body power that we could probably accept in a center.  His above average agility is fairly ideal for the position, especially his 4.52 second short shuttle time.  One of the few things we might quibble over is his explosiveness, when mass isn't factored into the results of his vertical and broad jumps.  His results there are a tad bit lower than what we would really like to see, though they are merely average and not outright wretched results.  Still, he is one of the more experienced centers in this draft, and if he is still available in the 5th round or later, he's probably not an entirely unreasonable gamble.

Brandon Shell, T, South Carolina
Arm Length: 34.75"   Kangaroo Score: 1.403  Agility Score: 0.587
We're still trying to find more data related to Shell's time at South Carolina, but at least we now have his pro day results.  His Kangaroo Score suggests that he does have the sort of lower body power and explosiveness that we like to see in an offensive tackle.  His agility results, while not quite as exceptional, are still somewhat above average.  Overall, he appears to be a rather good athlete.  One of our concerns with Shell is that he is already 24 years old, which might somewhat limit his upside and continued development. CBS is currently projecting that he will only be a 5th or 6th round selection, and at that point in the draft we think selecting someone like Shell makes quite a bit of sense.  There's minimal risk, because of the low cost of investment, but significant physical potential that compares favorably to players who have historically been successful at his position.

Joe Thuney, G/C, North Carolina State
Arm Length: 32.25"   Kangaroo Score: 0.142  Agility Score: 1.049
We haven't come across a ton of information on Thuney, but we like what we have seen so far.  He seems to be another one of those oddballs that has played pretty much every position along the offensive line, which shows some versatility.  Still, with that average arm length, we'd guess that his days of playing tackle are over, though his reach should be perfectly fine for an interior lineman.  Fortunately, he has the sort of above average agility, that we tend to find among successful guards and centers.  His short shuttle time of 4.52 seconds also meets our criteria for a center.  While his lower body power is merely average compared to the entire pool of linemen, it is actually a fair bit above what you see with your normal guards or centers.  When we also eliminate mass as a factor in his vertical and broad jump result, the numbers would suggest that he might also be more explosive than he is powerful.  All things considered, we think he probably deserves a bit more attention than he has currently received, as CBS is still just listing him as a 6th or 7th round prospect.  We wouldn't be surprised if he is selected a bit higher than his current projections.  We'd probably start to give him some consideration in the 4th or 5th round.  If we had any significant concerns about Thuney, it would probably stem from the fact that he is a ginger.  They are the spawn of Satan, after all.

Jake Brendel, C, UCLA
Arm Length: 31.5"   Kangaroo Score: -0.113  Agility Score: 1.894
When we saw Brendel's short shuttle time of 4.27 seconds, we instantly thought "This guy had to have been a center in college".  Sure enough, that did turn out to be his position at UCLA, where he was a four year starter.  While we would normally salivate over that sort of short shuttle time, and what it could mean for his potential as an NFL center, there are a few minor issues that worry us about Brendel.  First of all, his arm length is potentially a bit of a problem.  It is somewhat less common to see interior lineman have a high degree of success with such a limited reach, though it can happen.  Secondly, he will already be turning 24 this September, which makes him a bit older than we would really like him to be.  Still, people seem to be suggesting that he is someone who would only be selected at the very end of the draft, and if that is true, we think he could be a interesting lottery ticket sort of pick.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai, T, TCU
Arm Length: 34.25"   Kangaroo Score: 1.547  Agility Score: -1.476
We really don't want to try to pronounce that name.  Regardless, what we have here appears to be a specimen that is pure power and explosiveness, with absolutely no grace.  It's true, that his pro day numbers did produce an improved agility result of 0.593, but we find this to be highly suspicious.  If it is accurate, he would appear to be a fairly interesting prospect.  The really interesting thing is that his Kangaroo score is probably underestimating his lower body power, due to some significant differences between his vertical jump and his broad jump.  If we just looked at his broad jump results, his score would be 1.850, which is a bit unusual.  With these sorts of results, we would suspect that he could be a real liability in pass protection (depending on how we view his agility score), but he might be useful as a run blocker.  We almost certainly wouldn't pursue him, but as a prospect who is only projected to be a 7th round to UDFA type of acquisition, we think some team will try to find a use for him.  He could be somewhat interesting.