Justifying the Picks: Matthew Stafford UPDATED


Hello all, I thought I’d explain myself a bit after making my debut over the weekend. I’m this site’s author’s brother. You can find my other work on the mostly defunct Pre-Marital Sax. I thought I would do a little explaining for my picks, since you all have been sending me emails asking me why I took who I did (OK, I haven’t actually received any email, but my email hasn’t been made available so I probably would have if it had been). Anyway, here are my thoughts trying to justify my Stafford pick:

1. Matthew Stafford.

I, unlike most Lions fans, did NOT want Aaron Curry. When your team is basically an expansion team, you draft for value, not to fill holes. And I didn’t like the idea of drafting a guy at number one, and then moving him to another position. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Jason Smith with this pick if the Lions wanted to sign someone for less than what Stafford wanted, given the importance of left tackle and their low odds of being bust, but his agent’s conflict of interest prevented that from happening.

So why Stafford? Because he played in a pro-style offense against the toughest defenses in the country, has a strong enough arm to make all the throws, is adequately mobile, has a good memory, and showed consistent improvement in his 3 years at Georgia, finally reaching over 60 percent passing in his junior year. His total completion percentage was under 60 percent, but he started since his freshman year and improved every season. But what encourages me, and maybe I’m foolish for thinking I’m smart enough to ascertain this, is that he seems to have the intangibles that good quarterbacks do. He talks, acts, and just looks like a successful NFL QB. Something about the way he carries himself reminds me of Brett Favre, John Elway or Troy Aikman. I am not saying he’s going to be as good as those guys, but he has an air about him that reminds me of them. I can think of certain busts (Ryan Leaf, Joey Harrington, and Jeff George) who it was clear did not have that attitude. Drafting a QB in the 1st round is a 50/50 proposition at best, and no one really knows how to improve the odds (except maybe this guy), but I get the sense that Stafford has a better than average shot. Watching Stafford skeet shoot with a football:

was reminiscent of what Elway did during his Homecoming show with Rick Reilly. I’m not going to pretend to look into his eyes and get a sense of his soul, but I think he has a huge shot at succeeding.

His biggest negative is that he came out early (mitigated somewhat by being a 3 year starter) and that his accuracy was pretty inconsistent. Those are concerns, but if you're waiting for the perfect QB prospect to come around, you're going to draft a QB once every 20 years.


I foresee him getting little playing time this season, having a promising, yet inconsistent season in year 2, and making major strides in year 3, just as the Lions begin to form a respectable team. His arm strength is a perfect fit with Linehan’s offense and Calvin’s deep playmaking ability. Or he could be a bust and struggle to hold onto the starting job. But you have to try, and I think it is worth the risk at this point. Best case scenario he’s your franchise quarterback you can build around. Best case scenario for Aaron Curry: he’s a great middle linebacker. How many games did Patrick Willis win for the 49ers or Urlacher for the Bears last year? But most importantly, how many games did the Patriots lose because they had Matt Cassel instead of Brady?

For a REALLY early update on how Stafford looks, click here or here.  He'll be wearing number 9.

"Goodbye Ladies" Picks Draft Recap


Here is a recap of the "Goodbye, Ladies" Draft picks (which we made live during the draft) including the draft picks from "Chuck Longin' For You":

"Goodbye, Ladies" Detroit Lions:

1(1) Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
1(20) Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
2(33) Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
3(76) Kraig Urbik, OG, Wisconsin
3(82) Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina
4(101) Jason Phillips, ILB, TCU
4(115) Duke Robinson, OG, Oklahoma
6(192) Mike Mickens, CB, Cincinnati
7(228) Sammie Stroughter, WR, Oregon State
7(235) Zack Follett, OLB, California
7(255) Mitch King, DT/DE, Iowa

Where the "Goodbye Ladies" Detroit Lions were actually drafted:

1(2) Jason Smith, OT (St. Louis Rams)
1(24) Peria Jerry, DT (Atlanta Falcons)
2(41) Darius Butler, CB (New England Patriots)
3(79) Kraig Urbik, OG (Pittsburgh Steelers)
3(89) Jared Cook, TE (Tennessee Titans)
5(137) Jason Phillips, ILB (Baltimore Ravens)
5(163) Duke Robinson, OG (Carolina Panthers)
7(227) Mike Mickens, CB (Dallas Cowboys)
7(233) Sammie Stroughter, WR (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
7(___) Mitch King, DT/DE (Unrestricted Free Agent)

Chuck Longin' For You's Detroit Lions:

1(1) Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia
1(20) Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
2(33) Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
3(76) Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina
4(82) Terrance Taylor, DT, University of Michigan
4(115) Louis Murphy, WR, Florida
6(192) Gerald Cadogan, OT, Penn State
7(228) Danell Ellerbe, ILB, Georgia
7(236) Will Johnson, DT, University of Michigan
7(255) Tim Jamison, DE, University of Michigan

Where Chuck Longin' For You's Detroit Lions were actually drafted:

1(1) Matt Stafford, QB (Detroit Lions)
1(23) Michael Oher, OT (Baltimore Ravens)
2(38) Rey Maualuga, ILB (Cincinnati Bengals)
3(89) Jared Cook, TE (Tennessee Titans)
4(136) Terrance Taylor, DT (Indianapolis Colts)
4(124) Louis Murphy, WR (Oakland Raiders)
6(___) Gerald Cadogan, OT, Penn State (Undrafted Free Agent)
7(___) Danell Ellerbe, ILB (Undrafted Free Agent)
7(___) Will Johnson, DT (Undrafted Free Agent)
7(___) Tim Jamison, DE (Undrafted Free Agent)

* Chuck Longin' For You would like to note that he made homer picks in the end because he didn't know any other players.

The Detroit Lions Draft Matt Stafford, World Ends


The Detroit Lions signed Georgia Quarterback Matt Stafford last night to a contract with 41.7 million dollars guaranteed. The world ended shortly afterwards.

Saginaw resident Joe Wareowski's life was shattered into a billion tiny pieces following the announcement. "How could they do this to me?" Wareowski told the "Goodbye, Ladies" Draft Report. "I have lived through a lot. Andre Ware, getting blown out during the NFC Championship Game, one playoff appearance in 50 years, Matt Millen, four wide receivers drafted in the top 10 within six years, the game we lost because we missed a freakin' extra point, and the only season in major professional sports history where the Detroit Lions lost every single game."

"But drafting a quarterback with a high round pick? That's by far the worst thing that the Detroit Lions have ever done."

"It doesn't make any sense to me" said Royal Oak resident Deborah Long, "everybody knows that the best way to get a quarterback is to draft one in the seventh round and let him sit for twenty, thirty years--you know, give him time to develop. Isn't that what the Colts did with Peyton Manning?"

Reports have also surfaced that in the wake of the Stafford signing, the hit television show "The Office" has been cancelled, the U.S.S.R. has reformed and resumed their nuclear weapons program, alien life forms from the Andromeda System have decided to commence their invasion of Earth, and the boy band O-Town has reunited and will be touring this Summer.

Round 1 (1 Overall) Jason "Physical Assault" Smith, OT, Baylor


Although you wouldn't guess it from listening to Mel Kiper (who insists that the Detroit Lions would be crazy to pass on quarterback Matthew Stafford) or most Detroit Lions fans (who insist that the Detroit Lions would be crazy to pass on linebacker Aaron Curry), I believe that there are only two picks that make sense for the Detroit Lions from a value standpoint: Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe.

First, here's why I believe that Aaron Curry would be the wrong pick for the Detroit Lions. It is important to distinguish between the more popular term, "best player available," and what I think is a more solid draft philosophy: "most valuable player available." The distinction is that the prospect with the highest chance of success is not necessarily the most valuable. Imagine that this year's NFL Draft contained the best punter prospect in the history of the draft. The punter would barely command a first round pick, if at all. Although one could get into superlatives such as a "punter who could pin the other team at the 1 yard line from any place on the field" if we're speaking realistically, a punter will never go particularly high in the draft simply because the position holds little value relative to the other positions on the team.

Although this is an extreme example, it gets at why Curry does not make sense with the number one overall pick: a true linebacker (i.e. not a rush linebacker) simply does not add the same value as a top flight quarterback, left tackle, defensive end, or cornerback. This, I think, is what people are really arguing when they say "you can't spend that much on a linebacker." The point is not that there is something inherently wrong with spending a lot of money on a linebacker, it is a recognition that the market for NFL players puts so much less value at the linebacker position than, say, offensive tackles. A great linebacker will be less valuable than just a "good" offensive tackle.

I understand why Aaron Curry is such a popular choice amongst Detroit Lions fans. Lions fans have been subject to terrible drafting where many highly touted players at the "glamour" positions have failed. Thus, it is only natural that many will gravitate towards a "lunch pail" type of player with very little downside. However, it is possible to be too risk averse. If that's the way you draft, you'll end up with a team full of linebackers, interior offensive linemen, and safeties, and you won't have anybody to pass, protect the passer, or rush the passer. These prospects are inherently more risky because they are so rare and the positions that they play are so difficult to master.

Aaron Curry has taken on a near mythic status. However, the simple truth is that he is not the greatest linebacker prospect in the last ten years. In his top 100, Rick Gosselin, who has as much access to NFL scouts as anybody, acknowledged that most scouts actually would prefer Jerod Mayo to Aaron Curry. Jerod Mayo is a nice player, but he is not quite ready for his Hall of Fame induction yet, and neither is Curry.

Matt Stafford, the choice of the Mel Kiper's and pundits of the world, holds a special initial appeal due to the position that he plays. Make no mistake, quarterback is the most valuable position on an NFL team. To win a championship with only an "average quarterback" requires a dominating defense in the mode of the 2000 Ravens or the 2002 Buccaneers. Although finding a great quarterback is difficult, it is much easier, and much faster, to find that single special quarterback than to assemble a defense with eleven special defenders.

However, although Matthew Stafford plays the most valuable position, in my opinion he is a below average quarterback prospect: he simply lacks the accuracy necessary to succeed at the next level. This is not to say that Stafford will be a bust, but simply that as a calculated risk, the smart play is probably to avoid him. Also, as David Lewin found in researching quarterbacks, draft position within the first round does not correlate to NFL success. In other words, on average, a quarterback drafted at #1 overall has no additional value than a quarterback drafted at #15. This is not true for other positions, such as defensive end and linebacker, where a player's draft position is a significant factor in projecting their likely success. Also, given the likely quality of next year's class, I believe that it would be best for the Lions to defer. Deferring comes with a cost: you set back your franchise at the most important position for a whole season. However, the cost is significantly less than drafting a quarterback high in the draft who ends up a bust.

Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe, however, in my estimation have passed both prongs of the "most valuable player" analysis. Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe play a premium position: left tackle. Moreover, left tackles taken in the top 5 picks more often than not play at a pro bowl level at some point in their careers. Both players are widely acknowledged as elite pass blockers. Jason Smith is recognized as raw, but is also recognized as exceptionally strong, as possessing great feet for the position, and as having a terrific work ethic.

I also strongly considered Eugene Monroe, who like Smith, has elite pass blocking skills but is only average in the running game. Eugene Monroe is perhaps more polished than Smith but he has a much more extensive history of injuries, especially knee problems. Staying healthy is a skill, and when offered the choice between two similar players, one with an injury history and one who has been relatively healthy, the choice is clear.

That's why I would draft Jason Smith, OT, Baylor

As a special bonus, I am also playing this particular contest against my brother, who has a standing invitation to post on this blog as "Chuck Longin' For You." Chuck Longin' For You selects Matthew Stafford, Quarterback, Georgia.

UPDATED: 2009 NFL Draft Defensive End/3-4 Rush Linebacker Projections!


Since I am at least slightly more reliable than a Detroit Lions first round draft pick, as promised, I am updating my Defensive End/3-4 Linebacker Projections with the release of Rick Gosselin's Top 100 list. Rick Gosselin's Top 100 list is the most historically accurate gauge of how highly NFL scouts value players.

Most changes to the projections are slight. However, teams seem to be trending slightly towards the model: Maybin is slightly up, Orakpo is slightly down, Ayers is slightly down, and Everette Brown is way down. Cody Brown, who ProFootballWeekly projected as a late second round pick, loses his projection entirely because Gosselin does not even rank him in the top 100 players. However, the biggest revelation is the entrance of two new pass rushing prospects, whose projections I list below. First, however, here are the updated projections:

Aaron Maybin
Original Projection: 45.85 Sacks by Year 7
Updated Projection: 46.37 Sacks by Year 7

Brian Orakpo
Original Projection: 37.61 Sacks by Year 7
Updated Projection: 37.26 Sacks by Year 7

Larry English
Original Projection: 33.34 Sacks by Year 7
Updated Projection: 32.99 Sacks by Year 7

Michael Johnson
Original Projection: 30.47 Sacks by Year 7
Updated Projection: 26.49 Sacks by Year 7

Lawrence Sidbury
Original Projection: 19.45 Sacks by Year 7
Updated Projection: 18.93 Sacks by Year 7

Everette Brown
Original Projection: 23.71 Sacks by Year 7
Updated Projection: 18.00 Sacks by Year 7

Robert Ayers
Original Projection: 9.07 Sacks by Year 7
Updated Projection: 8.90 Sacks by Year 7

Cody Brown
Original Projection: 28.65 Sacks by Year 7
Updated Projection: No Projection

And now for the newcomers:

Connor Barwin, DE/OLB, Cincinnati
Projection: 48.50 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #40 Overall
Vertical Leap: 40.5"
Short Shuttle: 4.18 Seconds
Adjusted College Sacks/Game: 78.57%

The model projects Connor Barwin to be the best pass rusher in this draft. His projection is the strongest of any second round pick since 2001, with the exception of Aaron Schobel, who projected to have 49.99 sacks and who in fact had 67 sacks by his seventh year. Barwin has the ninth highest projection of any player in the data set, just edging out Terrell Suggs'. As an added bonus, Barwin is apparently also strong against the run. Connor Barwin was not originally included because ProFootballWeekly projected him as a third round pick. However, Gosselin has put him squarely in the second round, which seems to be more in line with the consensus on Barwin.

I have some reservations about whether Barwin will be able to meet his projection. Barwin has had only one year of playing defensive end. Barwin has less starting experience than any pass rusher in my data set. However, although there is some correlation between games played or started in college and NFL productivity, the correlation is not statistically significant. Barwin and Maybin will pose a great test case whether there is a "critical value" of playing time that a pass rusher needs in college to be successful. The fact that Barwin played for a smaller school may also make his projection more volatile.

Barwin's versatility may also preempt his projection. At the Football Outsiders forum, a Bengals fan and an Eagles fan, respectively, have noted that David Pollack and Chris Gocong were moved from the "pass rusher" position to linebackers in the 4-3, where their sack opportunities are obviously diminished, despite what would have been high projections by the model. Barwin has played defensive end, tight end, and various positions on special teams. Hopefully the team that drafts Barwin doesn't move him to kicker.

All in all, Barwin is a fascinating prospect and I am more eager to see how he turns out than any other pass rusher prospect in this draft.

Paul Kruger, DE, Utah
Projection: 20.38 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #36 Overall
Vertical Leap: 32.5" and 32"
Short Shuttle: 4.47 Seconds
Adjusted College Sacks/Game: 57.69 Sacks by Game 7

I am puzzled as to why Kruger is considered a high second round pick, and moreover, why he is more highly rated than Barwin. Kruger is obviously less atheltic than Barwin and was less productive than Barwin in college--posting 0.5 a sack less than Barwin in twice the playing time.

Interestingly, Kruger was one of the few pass rushers who did the vertical leap drill at both the combine and his pro day and actually posted a worse number at his second go.

7/15 Edit: Fixed typos and original post incorrectly stated that Barwin went to a non-BCS school.

Reminder: We're Coming at You Live During the NFL Draft!


This is just a reminder that the "Goodbye, Ladies" Draft Report (in other words, me) will be blogging live during the NFL and making draft picks in real time against Martin Mayhew. The original concept was to make draft picks against Matt Millen, when this blog was called "Me vs. Millen" and it was so much fun, I'm going to do it again this year. And, hey, if Mayhew is going to be nearly as bad as Millen, I want to get in on the ground floor this time.

Also, rosters carry over, so for instance, the "Goodbye, Ladies" Detroit Lions have Peyton Hillis and the actual Detroit Lions have Jerome Felton.

The rules are here and a breakdown of where the draft-off stands is here.

2009 NFL Draft Defensive End/3-4 Rush Linebacker Projections


Although the quarterback position receives most of the notoriety for producing first round busts, the 4-3 defensive end/3-4 rush linebacker ("pass rusher") position has had as many, if not more, highly touted players who ultimately disappoint. For example, of all of the quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2002, 28.5% have made the Pro Bowl, while only 25% of the pass rushers drafted in the first round within that time frame have earned the same distinction. However, with rushing the passer at a premium in the NFL, teams are still willing to roll the dice in the first round on a player who could just as easily be sitting on the bench as he could be sending the quarterback to the turf. Given the uncertainty surrounding the position, any metric that can shed light on the chances of success for pass rushing prospects in the NFL Draft would be welcome.

I combed through the college stats, combine, and pro day data for all of the 4-3 defensive ends/3-4 rush linebackers drafted in the first and second rounds since 2001. My ultimate result was a statistical regression that accounts for approximately 40% of the variation between first round prospects who end up terrorizing quarterbacks on Sundays and those who will end up doing their best Michael Haynes impressions. For instance, the model identified Dwight Freeney, DeMarcus Ware, Bryan Thomas, Julius Peppers, Mario Williams, Aaron Schobel, Shawne Merriman, Jason Babin, and Terrell Suggs as the most likely to become dominant pass rushers at the next level. Although Thomas and Babin have not produced as expected, in contrast, the most highly drafted players from the same time period are far less impressive: Mario Williams, Julius Peppers, Chris Long, Justin Smith, Gaines Adams, Vernon Gholston, Andre Carter, Jamaal Anderson, and Derrick Harvey.

The regression contains four independent variables. In order of importance, they are: the prospect's short shuttle time, the prospect's vertical leap, the prospect's draft position, and the prospect's per game sack production in college. I measured pro success by the total number of sacks that the player is projected to accumulate in his first seven pro seasons based on his production to date.

Although all of the factors in the regression are nearly of equal importance, the most important is the short shuttle. In my dataset, short shuttle seemed to function as a sort of gauge of "bust potential"--the top players often will have mediocre short shuttles, but the worst performers will have well below average short shuttles. Kenechi Udeze had great production in college and a good vertical leap, but he had the worst short shuttle of any first round pass rusher prospect with an absolutely molasses-like 4.73 seconds (as a little bonus for Lions fans, the second worst short shuttle recorded for pass rushers drafted in the first two rounds since 2002 is Ikaika Alama-Francis). As another example, Vernon Gholston, who after a sackless rookie year is widely believed to be a bust, had great workout numbers overall but posted a slightly below-average short shuttle at 4.4 seconds. The lesson from short shuttle seems to be that, no matter how productive a player is in college, no matter how much "vertical" explosion he can bring to bear on opposing offensive linemen, if he lacks the requisite level of agility to outmaneuver opposing offensive tackles after they "lock on," he will not be making Tom Brady or Peyton Manning's lives difficult anytime soon.

Nearly as important as short shuttle in the regression is the vertical leap. Of the top 5 first round pass rushers who have been drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft (Shawne Merriman, DeMarcus Ware, Dwight Freeney, Aaron Schobel, and Mario Williams), all achieved at least a 37" vertical leap at the NFL combine or at their pro day, which is well above average.

The final factor is a metric that I call "adjusted college sacks/game." Basically, it's calculated by dividing the prospect's sacks in college by games played without counting any sacks or games played during the prospect's freshman or redshirt freshman year. The adjustment is useful because some pass rushers early in their college careers receive a lot of token playing time and thus have their per game sack production in college unfairly reduced by a large "games played" denominator. Although straight college sacks/game also correlates to NFL success, the correlation of adjusted college sacks/game was much stronger, so I used that for my model. All in all, it's no surprise that the ability to sack the quarterback in college is a good indicator of ability to sack the quarterback in the NFL.

Anyway, enough with the boring stats stuff--on to the projections! I am currently using the ProFootballWeekly top 100 list for the "projected draft position" factor because it is the most accurate measure of player value that is currently and freely available. When Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News releases his top 100 list, which is based on numerous interviews with NFL scouting departments, I will update my projections.

Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB Penn State
Projection: 45.85 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #13 Overall
Vertical Leap: 38" and 40"
Adjusted College Sacks/Game: 92.3%
Short Shuttle: 4.38 Seconds

Make no mistake, Aaron Maybin has a monster projection, which puts him nearly at Terrell Suggs and LaMarr Woodley levels. Aaron Maybin's projection is all the more impressive considering that the model takes into account that an otherwise good looking prospect can possibly go all "Vernon Gholston" once he enters the NFL. Maybin's second vertical leap is particularly laudable, only Mario Williams and Shawne Merriman were able to match or exceed it. Maybin's vertical leaps corroborates the praise that he has received for being the most explosive pass rusher with the best first step in the 2009 NFL Draft. Maybin's agility drills, although actually just a hair below average based on historical levels, were among the tops in his position at the combine, with only Connor Barwin, Ian Campbell, and Michael Johnson scoring better.

There is also much that the model suggests about Maybin's chances to break the curse attached to pass rushers drafted out of Penn State: as Courtney Brown, Michael Haynes, and most recently, Tamba Hali have achieved various levels of busthood. Although I did not look at Courtney Brown, the projections for Michael Haynes or Tamba Hali give little cause for concern. Michael Haynes had a bad vertical leap at 30.5", mediocre college production, and no short shuttle time. Assuming an average short shuttle time, the model would have projected Michael Haynes to severely underperform his draft status with 26.71 sacks in his seventh year, which he underperformed by approximately 20 sacks by logging 5.5 sacks. Tamba Hali, on the other hand, was drafted late in the first round, had an even worse vertical leap, poor college production, and an average short shuttle. The model would have projected Tamba Hali as a bust, with a projection of 22.19 sacks in his seventh year, and although he was not especially good on a defense that absolutely could not pressure the quarterback last year, he has actually been a pretty useful player and is on pace to register 42.76 sacks by his seventh year. So basically, one Penn State pass rusher has overperformed, one has underperformed, and another pass rusher's career was derailed by a series of devastating injuries before it really got started. There is no intrinsic reason that Penn State pass rushers should not be able to make the transition to the NFL; it's not like Penn State faces teams without good offensive lines.

By far the greatest mainstream concern with Aaron Maybin is his lack of games played (26) which tends to create a "sample size" issue for him, where essentially his outstanding Sophomore season sack numbers become his "adjusted sacks/game" factor. Although there is no significant correlation between games played and success in the NFL, there is not a great historical analogue in any of my data for Maybin's relative inexperience, as the only two first round pass rushers who started less than the 30 games had poor projections notwithstanding their lack of college playing time. Still, Maybin's short college career is a legitimate concern.

On the other hand, how many first round pass rushers amassed as many as 12.0 sacks in their second season in college? Three: Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, and Mathias Kiwanuka. That is not a bad list.

And concerns about Maybin's size? DeMarcus Ware weighed in at 251 lbs. at his pro day, 1 lb. less than Maybin weighed in at his. How did that work out for DeMarcus Ware?

Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
Projection: 37.61 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #12 Overall
Vertical Leap: 39.5"
Adjusted College Sacks/Game: 62.34%
Short Shuttle: 4.45 Seconds

Back in January, I offered the pithy, but apparently unoriginal phrase "say no to Orakpo", based on my belief that his lack of college productivity would doom him to NFL failure. Orakpo's projection is only slightly above that expected of a pass rusher drafted in the first two rounds, which suggests that he may be slightly overvalued as a high first round pick.

There are significant concerns in Orakpo's data that bear mentioning. Orakpo's short shuttle time of 4.45 seconds is below average. Given concerns that Orakpo has a limited array of pass rushing moves, he may not have the agility necessary to beat offensive tackles that he cannot simply run around or bull rush. Orakpo's college production is also a concern: the best pass rusher in the first round with less than a 65% adjusted college sacks/game is Will Smith, who has been good, but not great. However, Orakpo's 39.5" vertical leap suggests rare explosion that could translate into healthy sack production at the next level.

Larry English, DE/OLB, Northern Illinois
Projection: 33.34 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #43 Overall
Vertical Leap: 36"
Adjusted College Sacks/Game: 80.26%
Short Shuttle: 4.38 Seconds

Although projected to be drafted much later than Brian Orakpo, the model believes that he is a much better value, as Orakpo has only a nominally better projection. His projection is buoyed by his solid all around computer numbers and his excellent production in college.

Interestingly, the model tends to over and under project players from non-BCS schools moreso than their Bowl Championship counterparts. This is probably because NFL scouts have difficulty properly grading pass rushers who face-off against less than elite offensive tackles in college. Thus, as a "boom or bust" prospect, Larry English would probably be a bad choice for a team like the Detroit Lions, who need to hit on all of their picks, and probably be a great second round pick for a team like New England, who can afford to "gamble on greatness."

Michael Johnson, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech
Projection: 30.47 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #39 Overall
Vertical Leap: 38.5"
Adjusted College Sacks/Game: 43.24%
Short Shuttle: 4.37 Seconds

I was a bit worried before I ran the numbers that Michael Johnson's gaudy combine workout would inflate his projection, while his well-reported lack of desire and work ethic would lead him to become an NFL bust. However, Michael Johnson's dearth of competitiveness showed up on the field where, despite his tools, he garnered an unimpressive 43.24% sack per game rate in his final three seasons. Michael Johnson's upside is probably Kamerion Wimbley, a player who posted good combine numbers and achieved some success in the NFL despite his gross lack of sack production in college.

Cody Brown, DE/OLB, Connecticut
Projection: 28.65 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #60 Overall
Vertical Leap: 36.5"
Adjusted Sacks/Game: 71.88%
Short Shuttle: 4.4 Seconds

No Everette Brown or Robert Ayers, yet? Oh my! Cody Brown, who is projected to be taken at the tail end of the second round, has a stronger projection than either, much more highly touted player. Cody Brown could be a great "under the radar" prospect with high character to go along with his good college production and passable short shuttle time.

Clint Sintim, OLB, Virginia
Projection: 28.29 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #31 Overall

Vertical Leap: 34.5"
Adjusted Sacks/Game: 64.86%
Short Shuttle: 4.42 Seconds

To his credit, Clint Sintim is the only high-level pass rushing prospect who actually played in a 3-4 defense in college, and he has been linked to the New England Patriots as a potential second round pick. However, Sintim is a similar prospect to Larry English, and scores just a little bit lower than he did on all of the relevant metrics besides draft position. Similar players include DeWayne White and Matt Roth.

Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State
Projection: 23.71 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #20 Overall
Vertical Leap: 31.5" and 31"
Adjusted College Sacks/Game: 76.92%
Short Shuttle: 4.53 Seconds

Perhaps the most fun part of devising a system like this is predicting who is going to bust. Everette Brown was a productive pass rusher in college, but based on a poor short shuttle time and not one, but two very poor vertical leap scores, the model thinks that he will suck out loud in the pro's.

Certainly, there are pass rushers who were productive in college, had below average computer numbers, and succeeded. However, none of them quite fit Brown. Terrell Suggs had a poor vertical leap at 33", but Terrell Suggs also had a godlike adjusted college sacks/game rating of 136%, as well as an average short shuttle. There are other analogues as well, like Jared Allen with his 33" vertical leap or Mathias Kiwanuka with his 32" vertical leap. However, again, Jared Allen had better sack production in college and an average short shuttle time, and Mathias Kiwanuka also had better sack production in college and recorded a great short shuttle time. Thus, there is a clear road map for pass rushing prospects to succeed despite a poor vertical leap score: they have no problem with the short shuttle and they were great, not just good in college. Everette Brown simply just doesn't fit the bill.

In fact, there is not a lot of evidence that a pass rusher with a 31.5" vertical leap can be a better than an average sack artist. The best pass rushers with a vertical leap of 32" or less that I'm aware of are Mathias Kiwanuka, Tamba Hali, Charles Grant, Darren Howard, Clark Haggans, Patrick Kerney, and promising but young Tennessee Titan Jason Jones. Kerney is very good, and many of those players are very solid, but it is not a particularly impressive list of players considering that it represents Everette Brown's upside.

Even more damning is Everette Brown's short shuttle time. There is a short list of first and second round pass rushers who had a short shuttle time worse than 4.5 seconds: Jerome McDougle, Calvin Pace, Kenechi Udeze, Dan Cody, Ikaika Alama-Francis, and Dan Bazuin. That is a pretty sad group: these players have a total of only 37 career sacks among them.

Of course, Everette Brown could still beat the odds and set the NFL on fire with his "impressive array of pass rushing moves," but to do so, he has a lot of history to beat.

Lawrence Sidbury, DE/OLB, Richmond
Projection: 19.45 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #64 Overall
Vertical Leap: 35"
Adjusted College Sacks/Game: 48.57%
Short Shuttle: 4.43 Seconds

Regarding Sidbury, Mel Kiper, Jr. recently went on record as saying "who's to say that he won't be better than Brian Orakpo?" Well, I'll say it: barring something horrible happening to Orakpo, it is highly unlikely that Sidbury will out produce Orakpo. Sidbury is the classic prospect who gets overhyped as a "sleeper" and then "sleeps" through his NFL career. Sidbury was not productive at all until his senior season at college, despite a very low level of competition.

Robert Ayers, DE/OLB, Tennessee
Projection: 9.07 Sacks by Year 7
Projected Draft Position: #26 Overall
Vertical Leap: 29.5"
Adjusted College Sacks/Game: 20.51%
Short Shuttle: 4.49 Seconds

As anyone who knows me can attest, I love me some Mike Mayock, and 99% of the time his list of the top prospects in the NFL Draft is beyond reproach. However, the remaining 1% of the time he'll do something completely batty like putting Chris Houston as the number nine overall prospect in the Draft. Chris Houston over Patrick Willis? That didn't make a lick of sense at the time, and it makes even less sense now. There's a reason that that article isn't posted on NFL.com anymore and I have to link to it through archive.org.

In this tradition, the otherwise esteemed Mr. Mayock has anointed Robert Ayers as number 5 overall prospect in the NFL Draft. At the time he released this list, I was highly skeptical that a player who played 48 games in college and only recorded 9 sacks could merit a first round pick based on his pass rush ability. What was happening in those games? How can a defensive end with so few actual sacks grade out so well on tape? Did he just knock the opposing quarterback over fifteen times per game but just missed the sack all but nine times over the course of his career? Well, now that I have fired up my Excel Spreadsheet and given the web site NFL Draft Scout about a bagillion hits, I'm ready to call Mayock's bluff.

Where to start? Robert Ayers's college sack rate of 20.51% is the worst ever for a first-round pass rusher. The closest is Tyler Brayton at 32.43%. Moreover, his vertical leap is better than that of only one first round prospect: Derrick Harvey's 28.5". Robert Ayers's best data point is his short shuttle, but that doesn't mean that it is to his credit: Robert Ayers only beats out the luminaries that I listed in the Everette Brown analysis.

So how bad is Robert Ayers's projection? Of the 50 players that are included in the regression, only one player has a had a worse projection, which is impressive considering that players get a bump for being projected to go in the first round. The one player who projects worse is Detroit Lion Ikaika Alama-Francis, who projected to have 8.68 Sacks by Year 7. Ikaika Alama-Francis, so far in his young career, has a grand total of one sack, and as I have detailed more fully before, he has even had trouble staying on the active list.

Short shuttle, vertical leap, and college production also correlate to NFL success even in the later rounds of the draft. As a few examples, Giants star Justin Tuck scored well in all three metrics, Trent Cole had a good vertical leap score and shuttle, and Jared Allen and Shaun Phillips each posted great college production and good to great short shuttle times.


NFL teams would be well-served to pay much closer attention to each pass rushing prospect's short shuttle times, vertical leap scores, and per game production in college. Although this model is not perfect, and I fully expect at least one or two players discussed here to significantly over or under perform their projections, it can still be a useful tool in player evaluation. So the next year when you see one of the NFL's newest defensive ends sacking the quarterback, don't be surprised if his ability to move quickly in 10 yard bursts or his ability to jump very, very high had something to do with it.

4/21/09 Edit: AlanSP pointed out some additional successful players with low vertical leaps, so I added them to the Everette Brown section. Also, for some reason I thought that Jason Jones was a Houston Texan, as was pointed out in the comments.


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