So far, this year's draft has been fairly entertaining, with plenty of stories that are probably worth commenting on. The Rams traded away much of their future to acquire a quarterback that we like, Jared Goff, despite having a questionable offensive line and no wide receivers. How could that possibly turn into a disaster? The Cowboys selected running back Ezekiel Elliott with the 4th overall pick, in an obvious attempt to challenge anyone's belief that running backs are overrated commodities. The Browns, a seemingly perpetual joke of an organization, appear to be...umm...making intelligent decisions and behaving responsibly.
Still, we wanted to briefly turn our attention to the Ravens' selection of offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, and the way this relates to the player he might be replacing, Eugene Monroe. There's just something about this situation that strikes us as a bit peculiar.
We've talked about Eugene Monroe a couple of times in the past. When the Ravens initially traded for him, we expressed our doubts. When the Ravens decided to sign him to a somewhat costly extension a few months later, we expressed even more doubts. We also suggested that Jared Veldheer would have been a more desirable target for the team, which seems to have turned out to be true, and found it particularly amusing that Veldheer ended up signing a slightly less costly contract than the one given to Monroe. For the most part, we felt that Monroe was probably a mediocrity, who was mainly coasting along on the goodwill that teams bestow on former 1st round picks, regardless of their actual performance. As always, our reasons for betting against Monroe were somewhat half-assed and perhaps foolish sounding.
Now, as we approached the 2016 NFL Draft, speculation mounted that the Ravens might be interested in drafting a left tackle, to replace the disappointing and often injured Eugene Monroe. Okey-dokey, that sounded like a swell idea, even if we suspected that the team wouldn't acknowledge the possible mistakes that might have led them to this point.
Different people will have different views on how to appraise offensive tackles. Most folks seem to lean towards the more subjective approach of film study. That's fine, though it doesn't really appeal to either Reilly or myself. We prefer to make somewhat blind guesses, based on a player's measurable physical traits, as well as whatever concrete data can be taken be taken from the games they played in. We've discussed why we feel that this blind approach is likely to produce results that are just as good as the more traditional methods, and possibly superior to them. Of course, luck is still a factor in all of this. We've also talked about how certain athletic traits might matter more at different positions along the offensive line. We've also compared the measurable traits of some highly drafted "busts" to some late round "successes". This led us to the bonkers and highly irresponsible conclusion that successful athletes actually tend to have measurable athletic ability that is better than a tree stump. It's crazy, I know!
These half-baked thoughts were the main reason for our doubts about Monroe, and they are also the reason why we find the Ravens' 1st round pick in 2016 a bit suspicious. Essentially, Ronnie Stanley appears to be virtually the same player as the one he is attempting to replace.
|Player||Height||Weight||Arm||40 yard||10 yard||Kangaroo||Agility||Expl.|
When you compare them side by side, it paints a peculiar picture. Their general physical dimensions are hardly any different, though Stanley does potentially have a better reach due to his longer arms. Their 40 times, as well as their 10 yard splits fall into a very similar range, with Monroe perhaps having a slight edge. Still, these results interest us less than the final three scores we have listed above. According to their Kangaroo Scores, both players had little more than average lower body power (though Stanley's could only be calculated off of his vertical jump), but Monroe still posted the better result of the two. If we removed weight as a factor in their individual jumps, Monroe produced a significantly better explosiveness result than what we see with Stanley (where we again have to base things solely off of Stanley's vertical jump). When it came to agility, Monroe seems to crush Stanley, but if we used Stanley's pro day results, his Agility Score would jump to -0.185, which is effectively just about the same level of mediocrity that we see with Monroe. In the end, the differences between both of these players is most likely extremely minor. They both appear to be incredibly average athletes.
We certainly wouldn't want to say that an average athlete can't succeed, because that isn't true. There are tons of very average athletes in the NFL, some of whom are doing quite well. We just think these more pedestrian athletes are significantly less likely to become exceptional players, which is what you should be aiming for with the sixth overall pick. Our data just suggests that more exceptional athletes tend to have a better chance of paying off.
So, watching the Ravens invest so much in someone to replace Monroe, who was the 8th overall selection just a few years ago, despite appearing to be a virtual clone of Monroe, strikes us as a bit bizarre. Maybe things will turn out better this time, though we see no objective reason to believe that this will be the case. All we can say is that the Ravens appear to be making decisions the exact same way that they did when they felt that Monroe was a desirable player to acquire, and when they proceeded to pay too much to extend his contract. We would have hoped that they would have reconsidered their approach to these sorts of decisions, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
If there's one significant factor in the Raven's favor, it's that we feel the actual performance of offensive linemen is scrutinized much less than it probably should be, and that high draft picks are given a lot of leeway. After all, that's how the Raven's convinced themselves to acquire Monroe in the first place, despite his less than impressive resume. So, regardless of his qualifications, Stanley will become a starter. When he becomes a starter, people will assume that he earned this opportunity. If he struggles people will be inclined to make more excuses than they would for a 5th round pick. When he does well, people will start to have visions of Canton. When/if Stanley is released in 4-5 years, people will have largely forgotten that there was ever any controversy about having made this pick in the first place. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.
Ravens fans often say "In Oz we trust", and we don't think it would be wise for us to argue with people that have such blind faith and loyalty. While we certainly wish Ronnie Stanley and the Ravens the best, because none of this will affect us one way or another, we do think it would be somewhat funny if the outcome of this decision making process turned out to be somewhat predictable.