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.

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