Stats are for Losers…Or, are they?

Keenan Allen may be among the best WR’s on film but how will he stack up metrically speaking? (Photo: US Presswire)

BBD Writer Tony Wiltshire

What if I told you that I knew before any of you that Victor Cruz was going to be a star? It all starts with the Combine in a few weeks, and today we’re going to look at the WR position and I knew all along about how good Cruz could be. WR is obviously an area of need for Buffalo, and there will be several prospects in this year’s class that should be able to help the team based on my metrics.

While most talent evaluators refer exclusively to the tape, I prefer to focus on the physical metrics. The tape is obviously the first and most widely used evaluation tool, but most people can’t tell the difference in a player who is flashing versus another who isn’t. Our eyes trick us, and they do it all the time. I realize there is nothing a player will do at the combine (or pro day) that will come close to what he’ll be challenged with on an NFL field. This study isn’t an “end-all.” It’s just another tool in the evaluation process.

For the purposed of this study I looked at 780 players from the 2000-2012 NFL Drafts. The Metrics I used to compile my measurements are the same as you’d receive at the NFL combine. I used the Height, Weight, 40 Yard Dash, 10 & 20 Yard Splits, 3 Cone Drill, Short Shuttle, Vertical Jump, and Broad Jump. I utilized these metrics and combined them together through formulas to come up with this unique way of analyzing prospects.

Below are the results of the study:

The first group is comprised of players I consider to be the top prospects. I’ve sorted them from highest to lowest by the Explosive Power (ExPwr) Ratio, a metric comprised of a player’s height, weight, vertical jump and broad jump. It attempts to quantify how much power and explosion a player can physically generate in his play. Each one of these players scored greater than 0.85 in this ratio. Obviously, higher is better.

I also used a few other filters in this sort. In addition to the Explosive Power Ratio, each prospect had a Speed Score greater than 100, the Speed Score was initially derived by Bill Barnwell at Football Outsiders and is a combination of a player’s weight divided by his forty time (Formula: [Weight * 200]/[40 Time ^ 4]. I also required a 3-Cone time less than 7.15 and a Production Ratio (PR) greater than 80.00. For the Production Ratio, I calculated their final season of production as a percentage of their team’s total passing yards and passing touchdowns. I choose the additional factors in order to make sure I was measuring for all the desired athletic traits, speed, quickness, and leaping ability.

When I look at the results, I prefer not to label any of the players instead I want to see how these players have performed at the NFL level, and if they’ve outperformed their draft position. In my opinion, there are two players (Calico & Kasper) that haven’t. As the 190th selection, Kasper wasn’t much of a reach. He actually had somewhat of a productive career as a kick returner. Calico had some injury issues with his knee, but he should be considered nothing more than a bust. There are a couple of other players, Rishard Matthews and Stephen Hill, that haven’t been in the league long enough to form a solid conclusion. The others have proven to be studs. While Calvin Johnson topping the list may not surprise you the ability of this measurement to identify star WR’s Victor Cruz, and Miles Austin along with rising star Danarrio Alexander before they even hit a NFL field gives you a good idea of what kinds of conclusions can be drawn from this data.

With the exception of the Production Ratio (PR), the same filters used to determine the top prospects were used in this group. These players all had a PR greater than 50.00 but less than the 80.00. The players are sorted from highest to lowest according to the Explosive Power Ratio. Here are the results:

The results aren’t as good, but they still offer some intrigue. The players I consider to be busts are highlighted in orange. Here you continue to see where the data could help cut through some of the questions that exist based on level of competition that hurt a WR like Marques Colston. However if you’re able to look at the data set and see him grouped with highly thought of prospects like Julio Jones, Jonathon Baldwin, and Darius Heyward-Bey you may suddenly want to think twice about your previous assumptions about a kid coming out of Hofstra.

There are three other players (Dale Moss, Toney Clemons, Eron Riley) where I was forced to use their pro-day data since they weren’t invited to the NFL Combine. I use the combine data when it’s available. Another prospect, Donald Jones, will probably surprise many. I’m certainly in the minority, but I’m not prepared to give up on his game yet. From an athletic standpoint, there are only a few players in the league who can match his physical tools.

This is my favorite list in the study, and three filters were used in it. First of all, it includes players that had an Explosive Power Ratio less than 0.85. Secondly, they all scored greater than 1.15 in the Twitch Ratio category. The Twitch Ratio is a simple measurement that uses the short shuttle and the 10 yard split with a constant subtracted to make the result easier to read. It attempts to quantify a players change-of-direction ability, or football speed. Finally, these players were all drafted. The list is sorted by their original draft position, from highest to lowest.

Since there are some studs (Jordy Nelson, Sidney Rice, Randall Cobb, etc.) in this category, I almost labeled it “Boom or Bust.” However, there are far more busts (Marcus Easley, Reggie Williams, Mike Walker, etc.) in the list than booms. I’ve highlighted the players I consider to be busts. There are some players included that haven’t been in the league long enough to be fully evaluated yet (Brian Quick, LaVon Brazill, Justin
Blackmon, T.Y. Hilton). If I was a GM, I would use caution before I drafted a player in this group.

Finally, I’ve included the Production Ratios for the top rated prospects in the 2013 WR Class. Since Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson contributed so much in the run game, I included those numbers in their ratio. Once we have the combine data, we’ll be able to include them in the study and project how they should do in the NFL. I’ll also include another study comprised of slot / inside receivers in the next report.

The next series will focus on the pass rushers.

2 Responses to “Stats are for Losers…Or, are they?”

  1. MJP says:

    Research like this gives me production of an explosive, quick twitch ratio capable of an all-pro performance, in my pants.

    Seriously, this is awesome stuff, can’t wait for the combine.

  2. RamsHerd says:

    Fantastic stuff. Makes the decision to let Danario Alexander walk away all the more galling, of course, when no other Ram receiver comes even close to his scores. Out of curiosity, where does a guy like Titus Young fit? I expected to find him nestled alongside Eddie Royal and the like.

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