Monday, April 18, 2016

Kangaroo Court: The 2016 Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


Player     Stat Score     Ath. Score
Will Fuller 0.517 -0.495

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 comment:

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