Lowering the Barr

“But he had ten sacks this year…”

I saw this tweet this week, not just once (and I’m paraphrase-twitter-ing), “Why are people off the Anthony Barr bandwagon?”  When I saw a similar tweet on the All-American UCLA OLB more than a couple of times, I did what I always do.

I put the film on…bro.  Okay, that’s a shameless brand plug and I apologize.  (But I actually did.)

Since the USC game last year, Barr was one of the most talked about NFL prospects in the nation.  He played at a Pac-12 school.  He faced excellent competition week in and week out.  He more than looks the part.  He’s pretty, football pretty, I mean.  He’s fast.  He redirects and changes directions on a dime.  But, when I studied him closely last summer, I was left wanting more.  A whole lot more.  He was lauded for his performance against USC in which he knocked former Trojan star QB Matt Barkley out of the game with a vicious hit.  Upon further review, that highlight worthy sack was more about missed assignments and poor offensive line pass protection than it was anything Barr did or didn’t do.  Either way, there seemed to be a disconnect with what many analysts were writing and what I saw.

I even wrote this in his scouting report”

“Barr will have everybody eating out of the palm of his hand with the Underwear Olympics about to unfold over the next few months.  But, Barr, the football player, has plenty of work to do to make the transition to the next level.”

Throughout the season, there were times, I’ll admit, when I started to doubt myself a tiny bit as well known, reputable draft analysts placed him as high as the number on pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.  But, I trusted what I saw and what I was seeing during the 2013 season.  Barr finished with some solid numbers, including double digits in sacks, but “beyond the numbers” told me a different story.

Against Nevada 2013, he finished the game with two TFL and no sacks.  Why?  He didn’t do anything.  Not that he didn’t play hard.  He just couldn’t do anything at all vs. Nevada LT Joel Bitonio.  Here is my play by play chicken scratch; I’ll assess what it means below.

  • Play 1 – run play, blocked easily
  • Play 2 – three step, cut
  • Play 3 – swing pass – handled one on one
  • Play 4 – QB flushed, split B gap, got heat – essentially no one blocked him
  • Play 5 – No one blocks him, runs zone read down from behind for 2 yd gain
  • Play 6 – Run play, Bitonio handles him
  • Play 7 – Zone read, QB runs to him, can’t stop him for TFL
  • Play 8 – TE blocks him on inside zone
  • Play 9 – Pass Play – Bitonio handles him one-on-one
  • Play 10 – Run play – Bitonio mashes him
  • Play 11 – Pulling guard engages, play away from him
  • Play 12 – Drops in coverage
  • Play 13 – Pass rush, chipped by TE, no factor
  • Play 14 – Blocked inside, although he’s contain player on zone read
  • Play 15 – Drops in coverage
  • Play 16 – Bitonio cuts him on 3 step
  • Play 17 – Best pass rush on 3rd and six, bursts hard upfield, uses rip under and forces QB to move
  • Play 18 – Turned inside by TE on zone run toward him
  • Play 19 – Unblocked, gets shoulders turned, QB pulls it runs for big gain
  • Play 20 – Lines up in space, inside run
  • Play 21 – 4th and 1 – TE blocks on, doesn’t disengage
  • Play 22 – TE blocks on, finally shucks him, forces RB to help
  • Play 23 – Not blocked, fade route – no factor
  • Play 24 – Goalline – Bitonio blocks on, knocks him into the end zone
  • Play 25 – Drops in coverage, jumps wrong WR
  • Play 26 – Best play of night, slips pulling guard and fullback for TFL
  • Play 27 – Rushes on pass play, not even blocked, nothing
  • Play 28 – Bitonio blocks on – stones him on inside run
  • Play 29 – Slips Bitonio, barely, on run away from him
  • Play 30 – Cut block attempt, Barr evades it, harasses throw slightly.
  • Play 31 – Bitonio stoned Barr on pass rush
  • Play 32 – Used spin move and Bitonio stoned him on pass rush
  • Play 33 – Stabbed Bitonio then spun, not a factor as Bitonio does nice job again.
  • Play 34 – Bitonio again stoned his initial rush, very physical with him
  • Play 35 – Quick throw
  • Play 36 – Pass, threw stab under Bitonio chin, still stoned at point of attack. can’t disengage
  • Play 37 – Same as previous play, QB hurried from interior
  • Play 38 – Counter at him, takes on pulling guard and makes a tackle for short yardage
  • Play 39 – Pass, Bitonio stoned him
  • Play 40 – Cut on three step
  • Play 41 – Cut again on three step
  • Play 42 – Run away from him, unblocked, no factor
  • Play 43 – Cut again on three step
  • Play 44 – DOES. NOTHING. Stoned again by Bitonio
  • Play 45 – Stoned on pass rush by Bitonio again
  • Play 46 – TE blocks on, Barr spins and makes his TFL
  • Play 47 – Starts rush, redirects to back out of the backfield on swing route

During the entire night, I’d say play No. 46 was his best play of the night, a tackle for a loss when he spun away from the tight end, avoided the H-back and tackled the running back for a two yard loss.  But, look at how many times I wrote “stoned”, “handled” or “mashed.”  Those feats accomplished by a left tackle that was good, not great, at the Senior Bowl.  Now, trust me, Nevada is a tough team to prepare for as an edge player, but there were plenty of times that Barr had opportunities to make plays once UCLA had a lead and forced Nevada to the air.

Then I charted the Stanford game.  A more traditional offense but with a physical front and backs.

  • Play 1 – buries tackle playing TE, best play I’ve seen in two games on 3rd and one.
  • Play 2 – TE blocked on, can’t disengage on isolation run
  • Play 3 – Play action, dropped in coverage
  • Play 4 – One on one with first year starter Andrus Peat on pass rush – stoned.
  • Play 5 – Unblocked, ran up field forced bad toss on shovel pass underneath him
  • Play 6 – Rushed past Peat upfield on middle screen to RB underneath
  • Play 7 – Zone lead at him, FB kicks him out, doesn’t disengage
  • Play 8 – Ran upfield out of control on zone read, missed tackle
  • Play 9 – Dropped in coverage on pass, lost sight of WR, completed behind him
  • Play 10 – Dropped in coverage on pass, sprinted over to help on tackle
  • Play 11 – Initially stoned on upfield rush by Peat, helped by Yankey
  • Play 12 – Lined up in space, run lead at him, again FB kicks him out easily
  • Play 13 – TE blocked on, knocked him eight yards off the ball, never disengaged
  • Play 14 – Good read here, saw RB flare out for screen, then missed the tackle after throw
  • Play 15 – Power play, FB kicked him out again, technically it’s fine, but not getting off blocks to make plays
  • Play 16 – 3rd and five run play, avoided TE, not a factor on play
  • Play 17 – Quick throw
  • Play 18 – 3rd and one – driven back three yards
  • Play 19 – TE stunt, bull rushed center and knocked him back into QB, plus play (barely)
  • Play 20 – Peat lost feet as Barr used hands to get inside to harass QB, plus play
  • Play 21 – TE stunt again, C was in better shape, Barr still bull rushed to force QB to move
  • Play 22 – T dressed up as TE handled him at point of attack on inside run
  • Play 23 – Power play, tried to avoid FB this time and run around him, RB darts inside then out for good gain
  • Play 24 – Dropped in coverage
  • Play 25 – BEST play by far, redirected on a reverse for big TFL, plus play
  • Play 26 – Power again, T dressed up as TE buried him again
  • Play 27 – Speed upfield forced Peat to lose his balance, redirected inside, C helped on him
  • Play 28 – TE hit and released, Peat doesn’t have much of a chance as ball ran right into Barr
  • Play 29 – Best play all day v. Power, slipped inside “fake” TE block and makes tackle
  • Play 30 – Perfect example of Barr, when engaged, he’s cooked but once he freed himself, he ran to ball for tackle
  • Play 31 – Power right at him, FB got under his chin and stoned him
  • Play 32 – Isolation, Peat tried to get him upfield, he didn’t bite, so Peat then handled him for big Stanford gain.
  • Play 33 – Finally used his hands to violently to get loose on Power

There’s much more game film to study, but here are a couple of things that stand out in just these two games, consistent with Barr’s entire season.  Barr is hardly ever doubled.  Not initially and rarely during the play.  Many people see a great player’s numbers go down and instantly the thought is, “Well, Team A is doubling him on every play.”  Not the case for Barr.

Not once in two games was he doubled and seldom was he even chipped by a RB.  He didn’t produce one sack in these two games.  He did force the QB to move once, maybe, in the Stanford game, but of the 80+ plays in these two games, not one sack.  His two best pass rush plays were on T/E stunts.  Take the numbers away.

How often was Barr shut down with little impact?  Often.  How often did Barr get off a block and make a tackle?  Not often.  When Barr wasn’t blocked how effective was he?  Very.  Will this happen at the next level?  Nah.

I spared you the “play-by-play” during the Oregon game, but even as he registered two sacks against the Ducks, he wasn’t blow you away impressive.  He whipped Oregon LT Tyler Johnstone with impressive speed on the first series for a strip sack and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota ran right into him when Barr was blocked for the other.  Johnstone consistently whipped Barr’s spin move and rarely needed much help throughout the day as he handled the Pac-12’s star pass rusher.

Had Barr declared early in 2012, he probably would’ve gone third over Dion Jordan to Miami in what many thought was a weak draft.  But this draft isn’t quite that way.  Barr’s athleticism is attractive, but Buffalo’s Khalil Mack has athleticism and nasty and a full complement of “wrecking shop” skills.

South Carolina edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney is freakish and he DID get doubled/chipped most of the season.  With three top QBs, a couple of solid prospects at tackle and the aforementioned edge rushing freaks, Barr should fall behind them due to the problems outlined above.  If it’s been a little shocking to see Barr’s name take a hit lately, now you know — if you didn’t already, of course.

Grading the NFL Draft – Four Years Later

For the past two years, I’ve given out grades for the NFL Draft, but not for the draft most immediately completed.  Everyone always says that you can’t grade these drafts for like three or four years, so okay, here you go.

These are the draft grades from the 2008 Draft and it’s not pretty.  I’d like to think I graded on a little bit of curve, but I had to…in some sense.  A few overall “stats” stood out.  First off, of the 252 players drafted, only 13 players have made just one Pro Bowl.  Outside of that, only 41 players drafted in this draft are projected as starters in the 2012 season. I’d venture a guess that’s a little below average.  So, with no further ado, here are my 2008 NFL Draft grades.

Arizona Cardinals

  • 2012 Grade: C
  • Original Grade:  B+
  • 7 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – 2009
  • Two players remain on roster – Early Doucet and Calais Campbell

The Cards top three picks in the draft – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (1st), Calais Campbell (2nd) and Early Doucet (3rd) – contributed to the Cardinals, but none of the three have been dominant, some not even contributors. Campbell has become one of the pieces of the foundation on defense for the Cards. However, DRC was traded to the Eagles and Doucet will be a bit muted now that WR Michael Floyd is coming Arizona. Tim Hightower (5th) gave them decent touches for a while and Brandon Keith was decent value in the seventh.

Atlanta Falcons

  • 2012 Grade: B
  • Original Grade:  C+
  • 11 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – Matt Ryan – 2010
  • Six players remain on roster – Matt Ryan, Sam Baker, Harry Douglas, Thomas DeCoud, Robert James and Kroy Biermann

The Matt Ryan Draft. This draft grade will continue to change as Ryan (1st – 3rd pick) rises or falls. But, the Falcons did find value throughout the draft.  Curtis Lofton (2nd) was the team’s leading tackler for two years before moving on to New Orleans this off-season. Harry Douglas (3rd) is an important slot receiver who has to stay healthy. Cal’s Thomas DeCoud (3rd) one of my favorites, has been a starter for those past couple of seasons. Montana’s Kroy Biermann (5th) is a relentless pass rusher who has contributed more than expected.

Baltimore Ravens

  • 2012 Grade: B
  • Original Grade:  C
  • 10 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – Ray Rice – 2009 and 2011
  • Two players remain on roster – Joe Flacco and Ray Rice

I seemingly always love the Ravens draft and this one was no exception. Pro Bowl RB Ray Rice was taken at #55, if you can believe that, while QB Joe Flacco was the team’s necessary first round selection. They didn’t get much from the rest of the draft, outside of Notre Dame’s Tom Zbikowski (3rd), but Flacco and Rice in the first two rounds are good enough to rate at least a B.

Buffalo Bills

  • 2012 Grade: D
  • Original Grade:  B-
  • 10 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Two players remain on roster – Leodis McKelvin and Stevie Johnson

The Bills missed on nearly every pick in this draft. The only exception was finding two starters in the 7th round – Demetress Bell and Stevie Johnson.  Bell moved on to Philadelphia in the off-season, while Johnson is on his way to being one of the top receivers in the AFC. Leodis McKelvin (1st)? James Hardy (2nd)? Chris Ellis (3rd)? Reggie Corner (4th)? Derek Fine (4th)? Shall I continue? Okay, moving on.

Carolina Panthers

  • 2012 Grade: B-
  • Original Grade:  B+
  • 9 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Four players remain on roster – Jonathan Stewart, Jeff Otah, Charles Godfrey and Gary Barnidge

You could argue that 7th rounder Mackenzy Bernadeau was the best value in this draft for the Panthers, but I won’t because the first few picks were solid, just not spectacular. RB Jonathan Stewart (1st – 13th pick) has been the perfect complement to DeAngelo Williams. OT Jeff Otah (1st – 19th pick) was on his way to a stellar career, only to be derailed by knee injuries in the 2010 and 2011. Charles Godfrey has been a starter at FS since day one and has been the leader in the middle of the defense since his arrival.

Chicago Bears

  • 2012 Grade: B-
  • Original Grade:  B
  • 12 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – Matt Forte – 2011
  • Five player remain on roster – Chris Williams, Matt Forte, Earl Bennett, Craig Steltz and Kellen Davis

Similar to the Ravens and Ray Rice, the Bears found their star RB in the second round and Matt Forte saves this class, so to speak. WR Earl Bennett has been a contributor, but will never be the team’s go-to receiver. The rest of the draft is a bunch of names you won’t recognize, unfortunately the one that you do, first rounder Chris Williams (1st – 14th pick) hasn’t lived up to acclaim, whatsoever. He was injured in 2008, moved over to guard in 2010, missed a chunk of the 2010 season and then was put on IR in 2011 mid-way through the year.  Without Forte, this grade is a D at best.

Cincinnati Bengals

  • 2012 Grade: C-
  • Original Grade:  C+
  • 10 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Two players remain on the roster – Pat Sims and Anthony Collins

Very little to get excited about in the ‘Nati in this 2008 draft. First rounder Keith Rivers just got moved for a fifth rounder. Jerome Simpson (2nd) is known for one heck of a broad jump at the combine and a flip over an Arizona Cardinals defender. At least Simpson was a contributor, as was Andre Caldwell who caught 124 balls in 4 years. The rest? (Blowing raspberries, loudly). Stunk.

Cleveland Browns

  • 2012 Grade: D-
  • Original Grade:  B-
  • 4 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • One player remains on the roster – Ahtya Rubin

The Browns didn’t have a selection until pick 111 of the 4th round and they should’ve probably just stayed home. This draft was horrid.  Martin Rucker (4th), Ahtya Rubin (6th), Paul Hubbard (6th) and Alex Hall (7th). Rubin remains at DT and has been solid, but that’s all that ever came out of this draft.

Dallas Cowboys

  • 2012 Grade: C
  • Original Grade:  B-
  • 6 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – Mike Jenkins – 2009
  • Three players remain on roster – Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick and Felix Jones

I’m sure if I go back to my thoughts right after the draft, I liked what Dallas did. However, looking at the production over the past four years, yikes. Felix Jones (1st) hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but CB Mike Jenkins (1st) was a productive player until the 2011 season. Martellus Bennett (2nd) continues to live on his own planet and Tashard Choice (4th) had a higher opinion of himself than anyone else. The 5th and 6th rounds produced players but Orlando Scandrick (5th) is the only one to make it work in Dallas as Erik Walden (6th) moved on to Green Bay and contributed for the Packers 2010 Super Bowl championship team.

Denver Broncos

  • 2012 Grade: B-
  • Original Grade:  D+
  • 9 selections
  • One Pro Bowlers – Ryan Clady – 2009 & 2011
  • One player remains on roster – Ryan Clady

From the first moment I can remember seeing former Boise St. star LT Ryan Clady (1st – 12th pick) play, I was convinced he was a player.  He still is and the Broncos selection at #12 was the right one. He’s the star of this class, but getting value out of Eddie Royal (2nd) before he moved on in free agency was big. There wasn’t much else in this draft of much consequence other than the throw-in, last pick of the draft in the 7th round.  Some guy named Peyton Hillis.

Detroit Lions

  • 2012 Grade: C
  • Original Grade:  C-
  • 9 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Three players remain on roster – Cliff Avril, Kevin Smith and Gosder Cherilus

At the time, I know I loved the Cliff Avril pick in the 3rd round and still love it to this day. He’s been the biggest impact player in this draft class. Jordon Dizon (2nd) didn’t last two years and was a complete throwaway pick in the 2nd. RB Kevin Smith (3rd) gave the Lions a small bit of production, but could never stay healthy enough to be a consistent 1,500 yard/season running back. OT Gosder Cherilus will be moved to guard or moved altogether, but he was decent, not great, but not a complete bust at #17.

Green Bay Packers

  • 2012 Grade: B+
  • Original Grade:  B-
  • 9 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Three players remain on roster – Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson and Josh Sitton

The Packers didn’t have a first round selection in this draft; I can’t remember why, maybe Brett Favre ate it, I don’t know. But, the Packers made the most of the rest of it.  The team’s first selection was Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson (2nd). Yeah, he’s good. Texas TE Jermichael Finley was there in the 3rd round, while the Packers found one of the league’s best young guards at the 135th pick in the 4th round Josh Sitton. And, then in the 7th, they selected Matt Flynn, who signed a three-year/$24 million deal up in Seattle after starting two games for the Packers. Of course, we won’t mention the Brian Brohm selection in the second round, but it won’t put any stench on this draft at all.

Houston Texans

  • 2012 Grade: C+
  • Original Grade:  C
  • 7 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers (yet)
  • One player remains on roster – Duane Brown

Thank god, Duane Brown has turned into a major stud at left tackle because the rest of it is a nightmare. Antwaun Molden, Steve Slaton, Xavier Adibi, Frank Okam, Dom Barber and Alex Brink. Outside of Slaton’s strong rookie campaign, not one positive thing was accomplished by this group from 2009 through 2011. Not one. And, not one of those players is still with the Texans. Again, thanks so much, Duane. You proved me wrong in a big way and I’m glad I get to watch you do your work on a daily basis.

Indianapolis Colts

  • 2012 Grade: C-
  • Original Grade:  B+
  • 9 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • No players remain on roster

The Colts didn’t have a first round, similar to the Packers, but didn’t have near the success in its draft. LB Phillip Wheeler (3rd) had some moments as a starter. TE Jacob Tamme (4th) was a sufficient player to back up Dallas Clark and Pierre Garcon in the sixth was a major steal. The rest of it? Best to just forget it even happened.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • 2012 Grade: F
  • Original Grade:  B
  • 5 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • No players remain on roster

What does it say when you draft not one, but two, defensive ends to solve your pass rush problems and neither one does a dadgum thing for you? Derrick Harvey (1st) and Quentin Groves (2nd) were major disappointments and it’s kept the Jaguars in the market for a pass rush ever since. The Jags had only three more selections the rest of the draft and trust me, you don’t even want to know.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • 2012 Grade: B-
  • Original Grade:  A
  • 12 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – Jamaal Charles – 2010
  • Four players remain on roster – Glenn Dorsey, Branden Albert, Brandon Flowers and Jamaal Charles

DT Glenn Dorsey (1st) and OL Branden Albert (1st) haven’t been outright busts like others taken in the first round, but they certainly haven’t made an impact as many expected. Now, Dorsey has been miscast from jump – he’s a bona fide 3-technique and he’s played every position but that one. RB Jamaal Charles (3rd) was a star in 2010, but tore his ACL in the second game of the 2011 season. The Chiefs found two stars at CB in this draft – Brandon Flowers (2nd) and Brandon Carr (5th). The sheer numbers helped the Chiefs in this draft.

Miami Dolphins

  • 2012 Grade: B-
  • Original Grade:  A
  • 9 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – Jake Long – 2009, 2010 & 2011
  • One player remains on roster – Jake Long

Long has been a Pro Bowler and the only reason this draft gets a B-. He was injured and placed on IR in 2011 and there are some who think he might be moved with such a hefty contract in 2012. Regardless, there was nearly nothing else to speak of in this draft. Chad Henne (2nd) could never put a strangle hold on the starting QB spot and DE Kendall Langford (3rd) had some decent moments. DE Phillip Merling (2nd)? Ouch. We’ll move on.

Minnesota Vikings

  • 2012 Grade: D+
  • Original Grade:  B
  • 5 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Two players remains on roster – John Sullivan and Letroy Guion

Here are the names – Tyrell Johnson, John David Booty, Letroy Guion, John Sullivan and Jaymar Johnson. Remember seeing any of them do anything of value in the last four years? Well, it’s hard to pick out what linemen Guion and Sullivan have done, Sullivan in particular. He’s started for the past three seasons, combining for 45 career starts. He signed a 5-year, $25 million deal in the off-season. Outside of those two, pfffffffffttt. Nothing.

New England Patriots

  • 2012 Grade: C+
  • Original Grade:  B-
  • 7 selections
  • Two Pro Bowler – Jerod Mayo – 2010 and Matt Slater – 2011
  • Two remain on roster – Jerod Mayo and Matt Slater

Mayo (1st – 10th pick) has been a star when healthy and was the highest riser in this draft prior to draft day. And, now we can see the rise was with good reason. The rest of the draft? A Belichickian nightmare. The only player still anywhere near the squad was WR Matt Slater who played more on defense than offense; however, he made the Pro Bowler as a special teamer. The 2007 and 2008 draft classes were disasters for the Patriots, leading the way for much better classes in the three successive drafts.

New Orleans Saints

  • 2012 Grade: B-
  • Original Grade:  B-
  • 6 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – Carl Nicks – 2010 & 2011
  • Two players remain on roster – Sedrick Ellis and Adrian Arrington

DT Sedrick Ellis (1st – 7th pick) has been a solid selection for the Saints, but hasn’t made a Pro Bowl. Tracy Porter (2nd) made an impact early in his career, but moved on to Denver in free agency. Finding G Carl Nicks in the 5th round was a steal and he was one of the best guards in the NFL for years, but the Saints couldn’t afford to keep him and he moved on to Tampa Bay for big money.

New York Giants

  • 2012 Grade: B
  • Original Grade:  B+
  • 7 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Two players remain on roster – Kenny Phillips and Terrell Thomas

This group was drafted after the Giants won their first Super Bowl and drafting at the bottom of the round, the Giants success was better than expected. The 2007 haul was a bit better in numbers, but this group was solid with contributors all throughout. S Kenny Phillips (1st – 31st pick) and CB Terrell Thomas (2nd) have been leaders in the secondary, when healthy. WR Mario Manningham (3rd) probably had the most overall success, but he chose to sign with the 49ers in the off-season.

New York Jets

  • 2012 Grade: D-
  • Original Grade:  C
  • 6 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • One player remains on roster – Dustin Keller

Thank god for TE Dustin Keller (1st – 30th pick) or this one is a bona fide F.  Keller hasn’t been a star, but he’s been an effective contributor.  Unfortunately, that’s a lot more than the Jets can say for former Ohio State star Vernon Gholston (1st – 6th pick).  B-U-S-T. The rest of the draft is much the same – Dwight Lowery (wasn’t horrible, no longer there) Erik Ainge, Marcus Henry, Nate Garner.  Blech.

Oakland Raiders

  • 2012 Grade: B-
  • Original Grade:  C-
  • 6 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Two players remain on roster – Darren McFadden and Tyvon Branch

McFadden (1st – 4th pick) is a star when he can stay healthy and WR Chaz Schilens far out-performed his seventh round selection. S Tyvon Branch (4th) was a starter throughout the past few years. The Raiders didn’t have 2nd, 3rd and 5th round picks, so they did a solid job getting value out of the few picks they did have.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • 2012 Grade: C
  • Original Grade:  C+
  • 10 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – DeSean Jackson – 2009 & 2010
  • Two players remain on roster – DeSean Jackson and Mike Gibson

Throw it all completely away, with the exception of the 2nd round selection of Jackson (2nd).  Philly didn’t have a first rounder and its first pick of the second round was DT Trevor Laws, who had some moments as a player before he signed a FA deal with the Rams in the off-season. The rest of it is not even worth speaking of (Bryan Smith? Jack Ikegwuonu? Mike Gibson? Andy Studebaker?)

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • 2012 Grade: D+
  • Original Grade:  B+
  • 7 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Two players remain on roster – Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Mundy

Boy, on draft day 2008, this one didn’t look bad at all. Boy, on draft day 2012, this one is horrid, outside of Mendenhall. The former Illinois product has put together some strong seasons and some lousy seasons.  But, he’s a Hall of Famer compared to former Texas WR Limas Sweed (2nd). Yikes. T Tony Hills (4th) had to play given the injuries on the offensive line, but he was well below average (and I’m being nice).

San Diego Chargers

  • 2012 Grade: D
  • Original Grade:  B
  • 5 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Two players remain on roster – Antoine Cason and Jacob Hester

The Chargers only had five selections in this draft and didn’t do much of anything with them. CB Antoine Cason (1st – 27th pick) has been up and down and FB Jacob Hester (3rd) has done a little bit of everything, like he did at LSU. Marcus Thomas (5th), DeJuan Tribble (6th) and Corey Clark (7th) really gave them nothing.  Heck, Thomas was cut in camp. Tribble hardly made it through the 2008 season and then went to the UFL. Clark played in one game in two years.

San Francisco 49ers

  • 2012 Grade: F
  • Original Grade:  B
  • 6 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • No players remain on roster

Kentwan Balmer (1st – 29th pick) was one of the biggest draft disappointments in 49er history. The only guy who made any impact at all was WR Josh Morgan (6th) and it was minimal at best and G Chilo Rachal who was replaced in 2011. The rest of it is worth forgetting.

Seattle Seahawks

  • 2012 Grade: C-
  • Original Grade:  C
  • 7 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • One player remains on roster – Red Bryant

The Seahawks got a few decent years out of TE John Carlson (2nd), but the best pick of this draft was 4th rounder Red Bryant who has been a perfect piece in Pete Carroll’s new defense. RB Justin Forsett was a 7th rounder who gave the team some unexpected production.  However, first rounder Lawrence Jackson (1st – 28th pick) did nothing whatsoever for Seattle and has been a journeyman since.

St. Louis Rams

  • 2012 Grade: D+
  • Original Grade:  C+
  • 8 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • One player remains on roster – Chris Long

DE Chris Long (1st – 2nd pick) improves each and every year, but he’s not gotten himself to a Pro Bowl. The Rams made Donnie Avery the first WR taken in this draft and suffice it to say, injuries killed his promising career.  The rest of the draft is fairly dreadful (John Greco, Keenan Burton, Roy Schuening)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • 2012 Grade: D
  • Original Grade:  C
  • 7 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • Two players remain on roster – Aqib Talib and Jeremy Zuttah

CB Aqib Talib (1st – 20th pick) is a turd and proves that to be true most every off-season. G Jeremy Zuttah will presumably move over to center in 2012 and he’s been, by far, the most outstanding player in this draft class. Dexter Jackson (2nd) could run, but couldn’t play. Dre Moore, Geno Hayes and Cory Boyd…look, don’t kill the messenger. It’s just bad.

Tennessee Titans

  • 2012 Grade: B-
  • Original Grade:  D+
  • 6 selections
  • One Pro Bowler – Chris Johnson – 2008, 2009 & 2010
  • Three players remain on roster – Chris Johnson, Craig Stevens and Lavelle Hawkins

The Titans got slaughtered for the selection of CJ28 (1st – 24th pick) and how has that worked out? He didn’t have a great 2011, but up to that point, he was one of the most explosive weapons in the league. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. DE Jason Jones (2nd) started 28 games the past two years which resulted in a one year contract… from the Seahawks. TE Craig Stevens has contributed 21 career catches but has played. That’s more than you can say for most of this draft class.

Washington Redskins

  • 2012 Grade: D-
  • Original Grade: B
  • 11 selections
  • No Pro Bowlers
  • One player remains on roster – Fred Davis

Second rounder TE Fred Davis has had an up and down start to his career.  He overslept on the last day of his first mini-camp. He responded by eventually becoming a starter in 2011 and caught 59 passes for 796 yards and three TDs. Of course, he then got popped for repeatedly failing drug tests. The rest of this abysmal draft is so bad it’s not even worth mentioning. Alright, I’ll mention my guy former Hawai’i QB Colt Brennan, but other than that, I’ll spare you the carnage.

The Curious Case of Christian Jones

Prior to heading to Mobile for the Senior Bowl, my Sideline View cohort Lance Zierlein and I were discussing our most intriguing Senior Bowl prospects.  I quickly noted Florida State’s Christian Jones, in large part due to the fact that I wanted to see how the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff would use him down in Mobile.  Would they play him at middle linebacker?  Would they allow him to stand up and rush the edge?  Would he play one of the outside linebacker spots?

It dawned on me at that particular moment how different and unique Jones is and the dimension that he provides for an NFL team.  Many don’t see it my way, well, many in the draft media world.  But, I can be stubborn about what I’ve seen and even more so as it pertains to what I think Jones can do for an NFL team at the next level.  Here’s why.

The Game

The former Seminole was a five-star prospect coming out of high school at defensive end/outside linebacker.  His father and his brother were star Seminole pass rushers and Jones looked to carry on the tradition.  Unfortunately, FSU DC Mark Stoops had a much different idea and played him at outside linebacker.  Once in the starting lineup, he made a significant impact with his ability to get to the football and tackle.  He didn’t miss much at all.

Tackling is fundamental, but teams spend so little time working on it.  They need players that can step in yesterday and makes tackles.  How important has tackling become?

“Through my work with personnel departments across the NFL I have witnessed an increased emphasis in assessing a defensive players’ tackling ability,” said STATS Sports Solutions Group GM John Pollard.  “With today’s wide open offensive game a defensive player has to be able to translate their athleticism and on field intelligence into sure tackling in an effort to keep plays in front and reduce the big play.”

According to STATS Ice, of the five top linebacker prospects, Jones measured as the most efficient and most impactful tackler of the group.  “Impact tackles” are tackles 2 yards or less from the line of scrimmage that do not result in a first down and it is a key metric with personnel people as it helps them highlight LBs who play downhill rather than passively.  Jones registered 53 tackles this year, of which 24.5% of them were impact tackles.

Looking for more?  Christian Jones had no tackles broken and was tagged with just two missed tackles all season posting an extremely impressive tackle efficiency rating of 96.2% which was just behind C.J. Mosley at 97.2% and better than guys like Kyle Van Noy (79.1%), Anthony Barr (90.2%) and Shayne Skov (91.7%).  It’s also worth noting that Jones’ team was 5.2% more successful when he was on the field than off which is better than all of the LBs listed above.

He closes on the ball in a hurry.  He doesn’t stay blocked.  He runs extremely well.  He covers well out of the backfield.  He’ll rush the passer.  But, all of that is moot if he can’t tackle.  The numbers more than show that he can effectively.

Scheme Versatility

I had lunch a few years with a former University of Texas football player.  Well, he was one of a group of about 12 people at the lunch.  I didn’t know he was in the group and guys were firing a bunch of questions at me about the upcoming college football season.  Finally, after going rapid fire for about ten minutes, someone finally asks

“Why did he not make it in the NFL?”

I didn’t miss a beat: “He didn’t have a position.”

Said Longhorn played some OLB and some safety, but never mastered either and left NFL scouts wondering what to do with him.  He didn’t thrive at either in camp, so he got cut.  However, the league has changed in some respects.

Holding to traditional positions and labels is not what the NFL does anymore.  A tight end is a tight end in name only.  What position does Randall Cobb play?  WR?  Okay, why does he line up in the backfield so much?  Whereas tweeners and “no position” guys couldn’t exist in the NFL years ago, some of those players now have “scheme versatility” and can thrive under the right coaching/flexible scheme.

Jones fits that “scheme versatile” moniker to a T.  In 2011, he started the entire season at Sam linebacker in a 4-3.  In 2012, he started the entire season at Will linebacker in a 4-3.  In 2013, he started the first half of the season inside, then spent the second half of the season rushing the edge as a stand up 3-4 OLB.

The pass rushing aspect of playing the edge was a little like getting back up on a bike and riding.  Jones jumped right in and got after the quarterback.  In Mobile, the South team tackles couldn’t stop the two reps a day that Jones took off the edge before he had to go back to pass skelly drills with the inside linebackers.  Surprisingly, though, he played the run on the edge better than you’d expect.  We saw at the Senior Bowl how difficult he was to block at the point of attack.  The guy started for two and a half years at inside linebacker and you would’ve never guessed that after watching No. 7 play the edge for a half of a season.

So, what scheme does he fit?  All of them…and that’s a great thing.  Why?  Glad you asked.

The ‘Seahawks’ Effect

If a Super Bowl winning team could take its winning formula, bottle it, sell it and donate the earnings back to the US government, there’d be no domestic deficit, that’s for sure.  Unfortunately, the only thing other NFL teams can do is attempt to replicate what the Seattle Seahawks have done to become a championship team.

We all know what an offensive league the NFL has become.  Every rule instituted in the game is to allow the offense the opportunity to put points on the board.  But, GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll took a different approach.  They went and found the most versatile, aggressive, sound tackling and physical players they could find, no matter the position.  Schneider loved Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch and made the move to get him years ago even though he seemingly had lost his way in Buffalo.  In the 2012 draft, he selected former West Virginia edge rusher/speedster Bruce Irvin.  What position did Irvin play?  Ah, it didn’t matter.  His speed and his ability to make something happen on the field meant more than where he “fit” the defense.  Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman?  Same thing.  Heck, Sherman was a former receiver!

Either way, the point is that physical dominance, chaos, disruption, tackling and defensive efficiency meant more to the Seahawks’ brain trust than anything else.

Jones won’t be a Seahawk given the depth Seattle has at that position, but the fact that teams want “Seattle type” linebackers plays to his advantage.  He’s a little over 6’3” and 234.  He has an 80+” wingspan with nearly 33” arms.  Sounds a lot like K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner.  He runs exceptionally well, like those two.  And, like those two, he could play any linebacker position on the field or star in any role the defensive coaches desire.

Add it all up and it’s going to be hard to find a linebacker with the tackling efficiency, the measurables and scheme versatility like Christian Jones leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.

Sources: Steelers’ Colon suffers arm injury

The Pittsburgh Steelers not only lost badly to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, they might have lost one of their most important players for a significant period of time in the process.

Starting ORT Willie Colon, according to two sources, suffered an arm injury, which is believed to be in the triceps area.

If the injury is significant, and the early indication is that it is, the Steelers could re-sign veteran OT Flozell Adams, who started 16 games last season for team last season when replacing Colon, who missed all of 2010 with an Achilles tendon injury.

The top free agent offensive tackles available according to thesidelineview.com are Ryan Harris (injured/back), Jon Stinchcomb, Nick Kaczur, Mario Henderson, (former Steeler) Max Starks and Adams.

The Steelers, who host the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday, list second-year OT Chris Scott as Colon’s backup.

Colon re-signed with the team with a contract for five years and worth $29 million back in late July.

Source: Packers’ Grant Takes Pay Cut

The Green Bay Packers have restructured the contract of veteran RB Ryan Grant’s contract, thesidelineview.com has learned.
Grant, who was to earn $3.5 million in base salary for 2011, had his base salary cut to $2.5 million earlier this month, a source confirmed.

UPDATE: Grant’s entire base salary is guaranteed for cap, skill and injury, another source confirmed. Grant’s $1 million roster bonus was paid earlier this month and he can earn an additional $1.8 million in incentives. As was the case in the previous deal, he has $750,000 in total per game roster bonuses ($46,875/game).
Grant’s salary cap number has been trimmed from $5.65 million to roughly $3.87 million.

With Grant’s base salary fully guaranteed, he will certainly be on the roster this season and will almost certainly still start.

Bengals and Fullback Agree to Extension

The Cincinnati Bengals and starting FB Chris Pressley have agreed to a two-year extension, his agent, Blake Baratz, confirmed.

“Chris is one of the best people in the National Football League, and everything that he gets is well deserved. It’s people like Chris that remind me that everything I do is worth it,” Baratz told thesidelineview.com.

Pressley, who was signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2009, was scheduled to become a restricted free agent on Mar. 13.

After spending time on the Bengals practice squad as a rookie, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wound up signing him to their active roster during the 2009 season. Pressley started three games for the team before being waived in October of 2010. Pressley was signed to the Bengals practice squad again later that season and stayed there until the team signed him in December to the active roster to close the season.

Pressley, 25, won the starting fullback job coming out of training camp last season and started 10 out of the 15 games that he appeared in.

Seantrel Henderson

Breakdown:

#77
Class: Senior
Height: 6’6 7/12″
Weight: 331 lbs.
School: Miami (FL)
Bio:

  • Third-team All-ACC (2013)
  • Made eight starts at RT (2013)
  • Started seven games at RT (2012)
  • Nation’s top recruit out of HS in 2010

Senior Bowl Notes

  • Henderson accepted an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile.
  • On Monday, I was pleasantly surprised with the way that he used his long arms and natural athletic ability to keep Stanford DE Trent Murphy locked up.  Henderson did fall flat on his face after leaning face first into a run block and that has to be corrected on his part, but As someone who has a much lower grade on Henderson than most, it was a decent start to the week.

Pros

  • Wide frame but doesn’t carry much excess weight
  • Despite his massive size, has decent movement skills
  • Shows the ability to get out and make blocks in screen game
  • Has the length to stymie a variety of pass rushing styles
  • Former basketball player
  • Rare mass and length make him intriguing right tackle prospect

Cons

  • Heavy legged
  • Struggles to recover when beat in pass protection
  • Has a tendency to drop his head and not see what he’s blocking in the run game
  • Tends to play too upright when pass protecting
  • Inconsistent weight distribution and gets knocked off-balance because of it
  • Sluggish with his hand in pass pro
  • Pushes more than “grabs and mauls”
  • Suspended multiple times

Film Room

TSV videos provided by Draft Breakdown

:40 Outside zone and Henderson has his man blocked initially but can’t stay engaged and loses contact
2:12 Much too stiff-legged with no knee bend allows his man to threaten the edge
4:10 Moves up to 2nd level smoothly and locks up LB
5:04 Despite his length, Henderson gets beat to the punch and then struggles to revover after inside move
7:18 Should be a favorable power block matchup but his man sheds Henderson quickly

TSV videos provided by Draft Breakdown

:12 Excellent job of getting out to the perimeter to help spring TD play on WR screen
1:36 Attempts to excecute a cut-block but doesn’t keep his eye on the target and almost takes out his own teammate
2:30 Good initial step to get up to 2nd level and seal LB, but lacks instincts to take proper angle to get him blocked
3:12 Starts to “gallop” and lets feet get too close together losing a proper base.  Gets knocked off-balance due to it
3:45 Locks onto defenders and drives him off the line of scrimmage with power and driving feet

Report

Seantrel Henderson was widely considered to be the top high school recruit in 2009 and initially committed to USC before being granted a release after they were hit with sanctions.  Henderson is a massive man who doesn’t appear to carry much excess weight on his frame.  His body type reminds me of D.J. Fluker.

Henderson came in with a ton of fanfare but has never lived up to the hype.  Despite his massive size and relative athleticism, he hasn’t been able to dominate and was named to the All-ACC Third Team this season.  Henderson does an average to below average job of properly targeting his defender and establishing proper hand placement so that he can use his physical gifts.  Some of his run game flaws appear to be coachable.  If he can get some flaws corrected, he could be a very capable run blocker.

Henderson’s pass protection will always be a problem as he tends to have too much of his weight distributed to his outside foot when he gets into his pass sets.  This is one of the reasons you see Henderson struggle with balance from time to time.  On the next level, edge rushers are going to be a substantial problem for him and when he oversets (and he will), it will leave him wide open inside and with bull rushes.

Not only has Henderson been disappointing on the field, his actions off the field have lead to suspensions in three consecutive seasons.  Teams are willing to take chances on talented players with suspect character, but Henderson’s character concerns and his average body of work makes his Senior Bowl performance extremely important to his draft stock.

Ranking the Top Three QBs in the 2014 NFL Draft: Johnny Manziel

Editor’s Note: All data mentioned represents the 2013 season.

Toughness and Poise

There can be no denying that Manziel is at the top of the toughness list amongst QBs in this year’s draft.  In his two years as a starter, Manziel never missed a game due to injury despite how frequently he ran with the ball on called plays and when scrambling.  As for his poise, I was absolutely shocked to find that the data didn’t really back my perception of Manziel’s poise.

Manziel was blitzed on 29% of his throws and his completion percentage went from 73.4% when he wasn’t being blitzed to just 61.3% when blitzed.  I was also surprised to see that despite being blitzed on just 29% of his throws, 7 (53.8%) of Manziel’s 13 INTs came when blitzed while his TD% while blitzed was only 35.1%.

It is worth noting that Manziel was the best of the three QBs with a completion percentage of 70.1% in the 4th quarter.  Manziel certainly doesn’t panic under pressure and I doubt any NFL team would challenge the assertion that he is a very poised QB.  The data, however, suggests that maybe “Johnny Football” wasn’t quite as prolific under pressure as we had assumed based on the eye-popping plays we remember.

Read The Sideline View’s Scouting Report on Johnny Manziel »

Accuracy (including on the move)

I’ve heard questions about whether or not Manziel can beat a team from the pocket and to do that, he has to prove that he is accurate.  Was he accurate from the pocket in college?  Yes.  Yes he was.

When Manziel threw from the pocket, he complete 73.6% of his passes for 3,429 yards, 9.95 ypa and 27 TDs.  Can Manziel scramble and hurt you with his feet?  Absolutely, but to assume that his passing game primarily revolved around scrambling and making passing outside the pocket would be a mistake.

NFL QBs must be accurate on the short to intermediate throws, and Manziel was just that.  I went back and researched his throws from 6 – 15 yards and Manziel completed 65.7% of those passes including 66% on his intermediate sideline throws.  The one area of concern, however, was that Manziel had 7 INTs on his 111 throws from this range.

Makes NFL Throws

This is one of the areas that some evaluators believe Manziel could struggle with on the next level.  It isn’t necessarily the arm strength that is the knock here, it is the feel and the anticipation that tends to get him knocked.  I’ve seen some of the anticipation issues with my own eyes as Manziel has waited for a window to come open rather than throwing to a spot.  Is this coachable?  It can be.

I also believe that many NFL offensive coaches are much more flexible than in the past and understand how to tailor offenses around what a QB does well rather than asking them to fit into “the norm” as we’ve seen in the past.

Of Manziel’s 37 TD passes this year, only 10 came from behind the line of scrimmage to five yards down the field – the classic dump and dash that we see in college.  According to the STATS Ice data, Manziel had 27 TDs passes beyond 6 yards including 12 that were for 16+ yards.

Mobility

We know that Manziel is elite in terms of his mobility.  Whether Manziel is scrambling to extend plays and make throws down the field or getting outside of the pocket and running for first downs, Manziel is clearly one of the new breed of “3rd down warriors” who are able to keep drives going with their legs and singular playmaking that most pure pocket passers can’t.

Manziel’s running ability is unquestioned, but how does he throw on the move?  Manziel complete 50.8% of his passes for 539 yards after scrambling from the pocket while throwing for 8 TDs, 1 INT.  According to the STATS Ice data, Manziel ran for 132 yards scrambling left, but took five sacks.  While scrambling right, Manziel scrambled for 277 yards while getting sacked just three times.  Manziel’s QB Efficiency was 174.2 scrambling left and 171.6 scrambling right showing an ability to beat defenses with his legs or arm moving in both directions.

Final Analysis

The tape shows that Manziel has the ability to make throws against Cover-2 defenses and down the sideline on vertical routes.  His touch on those deep throws is undeniable.  However, the tape and the data also show that Manziel tends to get careless with some of his throws between the hashmarks and that will be a concern for evaluators as they project him to the next level.

Manziel’s data charts show that he’s fairly consistent throwing right and left and has the ability to attack defenses on all three levels with accuracy and confidence.  His ability to attack from the pocket (despite the turnovers) should be a big check-mark in his favor as should his improvement as a passer from his first year to his second as a college QB.

Manziel’s highly competitive nature was apparent in wins and losses, in the first quarter through the fourth quarter and against losing teams and SEC powerhouses.  He struggled against LSU in both matchups, but never stopped competing.  Against one of the top defensive minds in all of football – Nick Saban – Manziel was able to attack and execute early in the game and then come back with big fourth quarters in both games after falling into a little bit of a lull in the middle of those games.

After pouring over the data, it looks as though Manziel doesn’t display strong tendencies that defensive coordinators will be able to attack.  Of course, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his offensive staff deserve some of that credit for their varied play-calling.  Manziel is relatively consistent to both sides of the field and on all three passing levels.

His ability to extend plays with his legs while keeping his eyes down the field is reminiscent of Ben Roethlisberger while his ability to hurt defenses with his running (not just extend drives) reminds me of a more explosive Russell Wilson or even a young Michael Vick without they “pull-away” finishing speed.

Like Liam Neeson, Johnny Manziel has a very particular set of skills and they will be best served by a new school offensive mind who is willing to break from NFL convention (much like Jim  Harbaugh did with Colin Kaepernick) and create an offense designed around Manziel.  With that said, I do believe that the data (and to some extent, the film) shows that Manziel can fit into a slightly more traditional offense as well. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that 803 of his 816 snaps came from the Pistol or Gun so that is obviously going to have to be taken into consideration by any team that takes Manziel.

A Metrics Breakdown of Top Running Backs: Tier 1

Running backs are one of the harder positions to evaluate through statistics and metrics. Each RB’s fate is inextricably linked to the quality of his offensive line, thus skewing many of the standard statistics. It’s possible for the Alabama O-Line to elevate Eddie Lacy just as much as Michigan State’s line diminishes Le’Veon Bell. However, if we realize some of the upcoming metrics are influenced by the O-lines, we can put them to good use.

Statistics are best used when put in the proper context and combined with film study. These metrics can tell you exactly how many tackles Andre Ellington broke and can provide support for what you see on film, but it can’t tell you what to feel about a player. Keep that in mind as you read through them. All statistics are provided by STATS ICE, a system that has every game charted from BCS contests this past year.

How Were They in the Open Field?

To start, we’re going to focus on how many extra yards the running backs were able to generate. Combining two common RB metrics, I’ve created an Extra score on a scale of 0-50, combining yards after contact per run and percentage of total yards after broken contact. The score is then divided by their size, since these metrics are geared slightly towards bigger backs. The size factor only had a slight effect on their overall scores. The higher the score the more extra yards a back created.

Johnathan
Franklin
Eddie
Lacy
Giovani
Bernard
Andre
Ellington
Le’Veon
Bell
Extra 39.8 35.0 41.7 31.8 24.0
Bkn Tak % 8.16% 7.84% 8.15% 5.66% 4.19%
YAC 2.71 2.88 3.19 2.59 2.41
  • Giovani Bernard generated the most extra yardage and came out with the highest score amongst the group. His high percentage of broken tackles is impressive for a smaller running back and most likely can be attributed to his above-average speed. He also had the highest yards after contact, which is surprising given his 202lb weight at the combine.
  • Lacy came in third in this metric behind Bernard and Johnathan Franklin, generating 2.88 yards after contact per carry and broken tackles on 7.84% of his runs. You might expect higher given that he’s considered the premier power back in this draft, but we must consider the difficulty in running over players against stronger SEC defenses.
  • Another big back that slightly disappointed was Bell. His extra yardage score came in 6th amongst the 11 RBs I looked at. His yards after contact was respectable, but he only broke tackles on 4.19% of his carries. I can’t prove this with the data I have, but I suspect Bell’s incredibly high amount of carries wore him down and caused these numbers to be lower relative to players with less carries.

Did Their Offensive Systems Suit Them?

With this metric, I’ve adjusted for run direction and formation to create a generic offensive system. Thus, how would they fare if their O-line remained the same, but each of their offensive coordinators ran the same number of times to each direction and formation. The goal is to see if the RBs were used optimally in their offenses. Due to the prevalence of the read-option in college, the directions are broken down into left-middle-right instead of off tackle, etc.

Johnathan
Franklin
Eddie
Lacy
Giovani
Bernard
Andre
Ellington
Le’Veon
Bell
Adjusted Yds -202.4 57.7 -34.0 -147.7 130.3
Left YPC 6.10 5.44 9.21 6.94 4.95
Middle YPC 5.61 6.08 5.83 4.03 4.36
Right YPC 7.95 8.56 4.73 7.17 5.19
  • Franklin, Ellington and Bernard would all suffer in this generic offense. That doesn’t mean we should discount their production or diminish their accomplishments. It simply means that their systems took advantage of their strengths.
  • According to this metric, Bell was used inefficiently in Michigan State’s offense. Bell was extremely effective out of shotgun, averaging 5.94 yards but only ran out of the formation 20% of the time. Interestingly, for a ‘bruising’ back, Bell’s worst direction was rushing up the middle. This is one of those cases where context is extremely important; MSU’s passing game was woeful at best and the O-line wasn’t much better. Facing defenses stacked in the box didn’t do his YPC many favors.
  • Lacy should be thanking DJ Fluker every chance he gets. Lacy averaged 8.56 yards when running to the right, likely due to Fluker and Alabama’s TE Michael Williams. He still averaged a quality 6.08 yards running up the middle.
  • Ellington was sub-par at running up the middle, averaging 4.03 yards per carry. It’s tough to tell whether that will transfer to the pros, but it might be worth going back to the film to check out.

How Clutch Were They?

The clutch metric measures how well each RB did in obvious rushing situations. Game situations like third and shorts, running when a team is ahead, and a few more factors combine to create a score 0-100 to measure the quality of a RB in clutch situations. A higher score meaning a RB is more clutch.

Johnathan
Franklin
Eddie
Lacy
Giovani
Bernard
Andre
Ellington
Le’Veon
Bell
Clutch 48.5 79.2 72.8 47.2 55.5
Third & Short YPC 2.70 5.10 3.20 3.70 3.80
  • Lacy was superb in 3rd and 4-or-less-to-go situations, averaging more than enough to pick up the first down with 5.1 yards per carry.
  • Bernard, although not having the highest YPC on third and short situations was ranked highly in the clutch ratings.
  • Bell had the third highest YPC in third and short situations among all 11 RBs at 3.8 yards. That means on average he gamed 3.8 out of the 4 yards necessary to convert a first down in these situations.

How Many of Their Yards Were Free?

This section is a little bit of an experiment, combining some of my own charting ideas with the STATS ICE data. What I’ve done is sample their games and count the number of plays in which the running back was not touched or did not have to make a football move (juke, spin, etc.) within five yards of the line of scrimmage. This is to measure how many “free” touches each RB got. It doesn’t necessarily measure the quality of the line because the quality of defenses affects the metric as well, but it gives you a feel for how many “easy” runs each RB had. I only counted runs that even the most mediocre of RBs could have made, so field vision didn’t play a factor.

Johnathan
Franklin
Eddie
Lacy
Giovani
Bernard
Andre
Ellington
Le’Veon
Bell
% Carries 6.67% 4.60% 7.14% 4.40% 1.90%
% Yardage 23.84% 17.54% 22.22% 11.03% 8.07%
  • Approximately 23% of Franklin and Bernard’s yardage came from free runs. What this means is that 23% of their yardage came on only 7% of their carries. They picked up chunk yardage when the offensive line got to the second level and defenses couldn’t reach them in time. This could be both a reflection on both their O-lines and the defenses they played.
  • Lacy’s low 4.6% free carries doesn’t mean Alabama’s O-line was bad; Chance Warmack and Fluker alone should quell that criticism. It’s most likely a result of tougher SEC run defenses that swarmed faster to the ball.
  • Poor Bell. He had both the lowest percentage of free carries and yards out of all 11 RBs in the group. The Michigan State O-line just couldn’t open big running lanes or help him get chunk yardage. Although some of his other metrics have been simply average, there’s something to be said for a guy who runs into a wall of defenders, gets back up and does it again play after play.

A Metrics Breakdown of Top Pass Rushers: Tier 2

Photo: Bleacher Report

The first tier of this analysis focused on some of the pass rushing prospects that could go in the first round. However, given the depth of this draft, prospects picked in the second and third rounds could be just as important.  Unlike some of the first tier players who have very clean statistical profiles, each of these prospects has at least one minor flaw. We’ll delve into those flaws and the positives as well in this piece. Remember, none of these statistics are gospel. Stats are always best utilized as a complement to film study, so use them as such.

All of the data was collected and retrieved from the STATS ICE system, which has a large selection of data charted from every BCS game this past year. Knowing that, you can be confident the data is solid and we can focus more on the analysis.

How Often Did They Get to the QB?

A little explanation here.

Pressures are considered hurries + knockdowns to give the total effect on the QB. The first stat in the chart is labeled “SPP” and that stands for Snaps Per Pressure. What that tells us is how many pass rush snaps it takes for each player to get to the QB. That is, a lower number means that the pass rusher affects the QB more often and is more efficient. SPP combines sacks and pressures, but isn’t weighted towards one or the other.

Corey
Lemonier
Damontre
Moore
Datone
Jones
Sam
Montgomery
John
Simon
SPP 12.09 10.13 14.09 12.00 9.11
Pressures 17 28 17 19 35
Sacks 5.5 11.5 6.5 8 9
Snaps 272 400 331 324 401
  • There’s a reason these prospects are considered the second tier: almost all of their SPP’s are higher than the tier one prospects. That means they reached the QB less often over the duration of the season.
  • Damontre Moore may be the most prolific pass rusher on this list and his SPP was about average over the entire season. He garnered a high amount of pressures and sacks but only did so over a large amount of snaps. This indicates his falling draft stock may be justified; however, you have to take into account the quality of his opponents as well.
  • John Simon racked up the most total pressures of any draft prospect in both tier one and tier two with 35. He was also fairly efficient doing so, reaching an SPP of 9.11. Simon started 37 games over the course of his career and had a high snap count of 401 throughout the 2012 season. Clearly his experience and playing time is valuable.
  • Datone Jones is a guy who’s been considered a riser in the past few weeks of discussion. His numbers certainly don’t bear out that idea. Out of these ten prospects, he had the lowest SPP at 14.09 and had the same amount of pressures as Dion Jordan in 97 more snaps. Of course, Jones’ value may not be as a pure pass rusher, so that may have to be taken into account.

How Much Help Did They Get?

The stat below, EPG stands for Extra Pressures Per Game. It incorporates how often each pass rushers’ teammates affected the QB, the number of average rushers on their pressures, and a few other minor factors. The goal is to describe how much help each player got from their teammates. A lower number means their teammate’s provided less pressure and that the pass rusher did more on their own. Avg Rush is the number of rushers each team brought on each play. The number in the bottom row “%Blitz” tells how many of each rusher’s pressures came when their team blitzed.

Lemonier Moore D. Jones Montgomery Simon
EPG 2.21 2.27 5.61 3.98 2.68
Avg Rush 4.04 4.23 4.05 4.26 4.11
%Blitz 17.60% 39.30% 5.90% 36.60% 22.90%
  • The help Damontre Moore received is interesting. Texas A&M blitzed on a large percentage of the plays in which he got pressiures. However, the EPG suggests he received the second least help of all pass rushers. Outside of Sean Porter, Moore didn’t have quality pass rushers, which is likely why they resorted to blitzing so often.
  • Corey Lemonier has the lowest EPG and help of all pass rushers in the study. Even though his SPP wasn’t great, the lack of help he had and strength of schedule indicate that he could have had more pressures and sacks had he been in similar environments as other pass rushers.
  • Jones’ EPG is off the charts at 5.61. That’s largely due to the effectiveness of Anthony Barr, who dominated PAC-12 opponents. You can see that UCLA blitzed on only 5.9% of his pressures, so we know that the majority of other pressures was coming from an excellent supporting defensive line.

How Good Were Their Opponents?

Listening to pundits and perusing blogs, you always hear that this guy went up against the best competition or that guy had an easy time. I’ve created a strength of schedule that combines Sagarin ratings and sacks allowed by opposing offensive lines to quantify this.  A higher number means they gained their pressures against stronger competition.

Lemonier Moore D. Jones Montgomery Simon
SOS 50.14 51.10 44.53 50.70 35.69
  • This grouping of pass rushers had a significantly higher SOS than tier one. I don’t think that means these prospects are underrated, but they did face tougher opponents on average, mostly SEC teams.
  • Moore’s SOS of 51.1 is second highest of this class behind only Alex Okafor. Garnering sacks and pressures against some of the nation’s toughest SEC teams, he has proven that he can line up against future NFL competition and win. This may partially mitigate his average SPP.
  • The SOS for Lemonier further makes my point  about him being underrated. Not only did he have little help from a bad Auburn team, but had the fourth highest SOS of all prospects. Once you realize those two things, you likely would want to go back and watch his film to see his future potential rather than past production.
  • John Simon’s Big Ten competition was mostly weak. This of course isn’t his fault, but he had the lowest SOS of all 10 prospects. Looking at his SPP of 9.11, we may have to be wary given that he faced such easy opposition. The numbers don’t suggest he was a bad player, they just don’t show any outstanding potential. He is what he is.

When Did They Get Their Pressures?

I tried to develop a “clutch” stat to find out which player was a better rusher in important moments in the game.  I tried using scoring margins, quarters, and downs, but every combination came out to be relatively similar for every player. So I’m just going to put this chart down that shows what percentage of pressures and sacks came on third and fourth down without comment.  You can form your own opinion and if it means anything to you.

Percentage of sacks on 3rd and 4th downs

Lemonier Moore D. Jones Montgomery Simon
% Pressures 37.78% 45.57% 17.02% 29.63% 45.45%