By Joe Landers
The final ingredients to my rookie projections are the physical attribute test results. Incorporating 2,108 test results doesn’t happen overnight and while many lament the extra time leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, I have appreciated the extension. If you saw my 2012 piece on OVA (Over Veteran Average), you saw that I projected the 62 rookies that would perform better than the average veteran. I worked within the confines of what the annual averages have been for the last seven seasons. Last year, I cut it down to the top-25 rookies, 1 for every starting position on the field. It’s less thorough, but more easily digestible.
Yes, plenty of opportunity in my model, but success was found. 11 of the 25 performed over veteran average. Injuries, poor fit, misuse, and imperfect formulas all contributed to the misses. At quarterback, E.J. Manuel did not come in Over Veteran Average in 2013, but he did finish 3rd among rookie QBs behind Geno and Glennon. Both Trufant and Xavier came in over veteran average, but they weren’t #1 and #2 among rookie corners. Trufant was #2, Xavier was #9. Neither receiver came in over veteran average. Franklin did not come in OVA as a running back. Juszczyk was the #2 rookie fullback, but he did not perform OVA. At OT, Joeckel was injured early and Lane came in OVA as the #3 rookie OT. Joe Madsen didn’t even approach performing over veteran average. Thornton finished OVA and was the #4 rated rookie guard. Winters barely missed the cut by 0.08 points as the 5th rated rookie guard. Furstenburg saw the field, but not nearly enough – he did not come in OVA.
Neither Datone nor Devin Taylor performed above veteran average in 2013. The finished as the #6 and #7 rookie defensive ends. Kawann came in OVA at DT and was the #4 rookie DT. Sharrif was the #8 rookie DT and just missed coming in OVA. Bostic and Te’o both came in OVA at linebacker and ranked 5th and 7th, respectively among rookie LBs. Jamie Collins came on late, but came in 11th overall and did not finish Over Veteran Average. Rambo did not come in OVA at safety (he was the 13th ranked S), but McDonald did come in OVA as the #8 safety in the ’13 class. Jeff Locke was the #2 rated rookie punter, but he missed the veteran average by 5.23 points. Dustin Hopkins did not make the cut and did not see the field. I’m tweaking the way I come up with this list by incorporating college productivity scores and not looking at EPA as a standalone formula.
As you can see, I didn’t toe the company line and simply project the top picks at each position to perform. The above list goes from the 1st round to undrafted free agents. There’s risk, but it’s far more real than just starting from the top of the draft and filling in slots as you go. (Note to self: I need to run that model for the past couple of seasons and see what the success rate has been using top picks at each position.)
Below are the 25 from 2014 with the methods. These prospects each pair the ideal physical attributes for their positions with the highest collegiate productivity. I’m shooting for a better than 55% success rate this season. Poor fit, misuse, injuries, and flaws in my formulas will result in some misses, but 14 out of 25 would be a 10% lift year over year.
|OG||Chris Watt||Notre Dame|
|TE||Austin Seferian- Jenkins||Wash|
|QB||Logan Thomas||Virginia Tech|
|DE||Kareem Martin||North Carolina|
|DE||Jadeveon Clowney||South Carolina|
|LB||K. Pierre-Louis||Boston College|
|SS||Deone Buchanon||Wash State|
|CB||Bradley Roby||Ohio State|
If you find yourself looking at the 2014 list and you disagree, you’re not alone. I don’t agree with it either. If you were to ask me if I thought Greg Heban, Chris Watt, or Logan Thomas would make this list, I’d say no, hands down. I can’t change the formulas just because I don’t agree with the output. To recap, I hit 11 out of 25 last year using EPA (physical attribute Exceeds Peer Average modeling) as my primary success predictor. This year, I used EPA as the list eligibility qualifier and college productivity as the ranking tool of the eligible prospects.
Check back in January and we’ll see how far off my gut was and how accurate the data output was. While you’re at it, make a similar list and play along.
Follow Joe Landers on Twitter @Jlanders0