A Metrics Breakdown of Top Pass Rushers: Tier 1

The post I wrote on Second Round Stats (read the original post for refrence) analyzing each top pass rushers’ sacks was met with a chorus of people telling me that sacks are limited in nature and thus not telling of much.

In response to that, I’ve analyzed hurries, knockdowns, and sacks. This time though, the data comes from Stats ICE, which has every game involving a BCS team charted for more factors than imaginable.  Thus, you can be completely confident that the data you’re looking at is full and not just a sample.

Working with the data and at The Sideline View gives me more time to analyze the data and less time charting. Without further delay, here’s my breakdown of the top 5 pass rushers in this class.

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 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.

Editor’s Note: Updated March 28 to reflect correct acronym.

Mingo Werner Jordan Carradine Okafor
SPP 9.63 8.50 10.64 7.31 6.49
Pressures 28 31 17 31 29
Sacks 4.5 13 5 11 13.5
Snaps 313 374 234 307 276
  • One of the most notable things is Alex Okafor’s extremely efficient SPP. That means, on average he affects the quarterback every 6.5 snaps. The average for the entire class, including tier 2, is a PPS of 10. Many scouting reports and pundits have remarked on Okafor’s lack of explosiveness, that may be true, but clearly he’s doing something to get to the QB more often than any other pass rusher.
  • Although many have commented on it, the statistics show that Tank Carradine may have been the most complete pass rusher had he not been injured during the season. His efficiency at getting to the QB was very close to Okafor’s and is extremely impressive given the attention he received. Many may argue he was more efficient due to the presence of Bjorn Werner on the other side, but we’ll get to that a little bit later.
  • Dion Jordan clearly took the fewest snaps rushing the passer, but his lack of pressures is noticeable when compared to Barkevious Mingo. Both have roughly 5 sacks this year, but Mingo managed 28 pressures for a PPS of 9.63.
  •  You do have to wonder why Mingo wasn’t able to convert more of his pressures into sacks. He was clearly getting to the quarterback, but wasn’t able to bring him down. It’s not as if the majority of his opponents were slippery dual-threat types, so why was this a problem for him?

How Much Help Did They Get?

The stat below, EPG stands for Extra Pressures Per Game. It incorporates how often each pass rushers’ teammate’s 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.

Mingo Werner Jordan Carradine Okafor
EPG 4.41 3.22 2.93 2.99 2.37
Avg Rush 4.08 4.07 3.91 4.28 4.28
% Blitz 25.00% 6.50% 35.00% 22.60% 34.50%
  • Once again Okafor comes out on top. On average he received 2.37 extra pressures per game from his teammates, which means he did more of his work with less help. This is partly due to the fact that Jackson Jeffcoat went down with an injury in the middle of the season and that Texas’ DTs and LBs didn’t provide much push on the QB.
  • Werner, Jordan and Carradine are all hovering in the 2.9-3.2 range, which is just about negligible in comparison. In all 11 pass rushers I analyzed, Carradine’s EPG was ranked 6th. Thus, he received help from an excellent FSU defense but no more or less than any other pass rusher. The reason Werner and Carradine’s EPGs are different is because it takes the other player into account. The fact that Werner got 93.5% of his pressures on four man rushes is interesting to be sure.
  • The amount of help Mingo received was the second most out the entire class. Between Sam Montgomery, Kevin Minter, and LSU’s excellent defense, he received a good amount of help. He obviously has the athletic ability for the NFL, but given his size and abilities, is he going to need to be on a strong defense to truly capitalize on his gifts?

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.

Mingo Werner Jordan Carradine Okafor
SOS 47.95 38.28 37.94 42.62 55.58

 

  • Okafor’s strength of schedule was not only at the top of tier 1, but of all 11 pass rushers I looked at. This may seem counter-intuitive because people would expect SEC pass rushers to have the highest SOS, but many of their pressures came from cupcake FCS schools. The majority of Okafor’s pressures and sacks came against legitimate Big 12 competition.
  • Both Werner and Jordan’s SOS are extremely weak. Jordan’s works out like this due to garnering pressures against bad Washington State and Tennessee Tech teams.
  • While Werner had some quality opposition in Miami, Florida and UNC, games against Boston College, Murray State, and Savannah State really inflated some of his pressure numbers. In total 25% of his total pressures and sacks came against those three teams.
  • Mingo’s SEC credentials garners him the 5th highest strength of schedule among all pass rushers, and the second highest of the 1st tier. Notable offensive lineman he beat for pressures include DJ Fluker of Alabama and Jake Matthews of Texas A&M.

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 3rd and 4th down without comment.  You can form your own opinion and if it means anything to you.

Percentage of sacks on 3rd and 4th downs

Mingo Werner Jordan Carradine Okafor
% Pressures 32.31% 52.27% 68.18% 50.00% 40.00%

Houston Texans’ training camp thoughts: Day Three

Just a few observations from practice over the past three days…

  • OLB Sam Montgomery in an ankle boot is both distressing and expected, which may actually be more distressing.  The former LSU Tiger came to camp out of shape, got a talking to from veterans, finally passed his conditioning tests to be able to practice — and then rolled his ankle within 25 minutes of the first practice.  The inability to prepare and take care of business are what teams heard in the off-season, and it’s unfortunate that it’s come to fruition with him now in Houston.
  • Hopefully, this team will get something out of its third round selections, but T Brennan Williams hasn’t done much of anything at camp after injuring his knee during OTAs.  He sure looks the part, as does Montgomery, but to have nothing but negative buzz coming from these two third rounders is a shame.
  • That said, the four six rounders have all performed admirably and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one or maybe even two of WR Alan Bonner, DT Chris Jones, T/G David Quessenberry and TE Ryan Griffin make a contribution to this team this season.  Bonner has made plays down the field and caught the ball well.  Jones, well, DL coach Bill Kollar is on him like stink on a skunk every day, but that’s because he sees his potential.  Quessenberry has played nearly every position on the line in three days of camp and handled them all very well.  Yet, Griffin is the one taking advantage of a golden opportunity.  With Owen Daniels as the only healthy tight end in camp, Griffin has gotten a ton of looks and gets open against all of them.  He’s made a ton of plays early in camp and continues to impress.
  • Quessenberry stepped over to left tackle during Sunday morning’s practice due to injuries and the sort and he fared well.  Now, to be fair, he played LT in college and is most comfortable at that spot.  In pass rush drills, though, he faced OLB Whitney Mercilus and shut down Mercilus’ inside rush attempt.  So, then Kollar asked for OLB Willie Jefferson to rush the former SJSU captain and Quessenberry finished the protection by slamming Jefferson on his back.  Quessenberry will have an integral spot on this team, given his versatility, and he’s been impressive through the first three days.
  • Jefferson is a complete and total unknown, but the coaches love this guy.  Well, when I say that coaches love a guy, it means he’s getting coached up as much as, or more than, any other defensive player.  The former receiver at Baylor transferred to Stephen F. Austin and turned into a pass rushing demon.  During Saturday’s morning practice, he got matched up on All-Pro Duane Brown.  What happened next I thought was an aberration, but Jefferson started at Duane’s outside shoulder then WHOOSH back underneath him without Brown getting a hand on him.  The defensive players whooped and hollered while the OL all look at each other like “holy sh–, that’s not supposed to happen”.  Kollar and Wade Phillips consistently preach to him about finishing and going hard every play, but if there’s an UDFA to keep an eye on during preseason, it’s Jefferson.
  • Another UDFA that has been fun to watch is former Syracuse WR Alec Lemon.  It’s easy to see why he was undrafted – he can’t get true separation, but then again, it’s easy to see why he was Ryan Nassib’s go-to guy last year – he can catch a BB in the dark.  He’s made at least three highlight reel catches the last three days, but the problem is that he’s having to do that because he can’t run from DBs.
  • All-Pro DE JJ Watt is nowhere near resting on his laurels.  In fact, I think he’s crafted critics to keep in his head, Bobby Boucher-style, to keep playing at his level.  There isn’t an interior lineman that can block him effectively during pass rush drills and he’s chasing ball carriers 40 yards downfield during team drills on the first day of practice.
  • Much has been made of the progress CB Kareem Jackson has made and it’s all true.  It’s the best he’s looked since I can remember watching him.  He feels at home and comfortable and he’s in the hip pocket of each and every receiver he covers.  But, Jackson isn’t the only one in the secondary.  This is the best the secondary has looked, as a unit, since I’ve been here.  And, that’s without Ed Reed too.  That said, I’m still waiting, as are the coaches, for Brandon Harris, a former 2nd round pick, to step up his game.  He’ll make a play and then get beat on the next one.  Roc Carmichael has outperformed Harris thus far as the two battle for perhaps one of the final DB roster spots.
  • Speaking of safeties, rookie DJ Swearinger will be the chess piece we all thought he would be.  He’s comfortable playing LB in the Texans’ dime coverage, and by comfortable, I mean he can play the run and pass equally well in that role.  He hasn’t unleashed the beast, even though pads went on today, but there’s no question that his impact is being felt.
  • Rookie OLB Trevardo Williams is getting plenty of looks with Brooks Reed nursing an ailing foot in practice.  But, he’s been slow off the ball and doesn’t have much in the way of pass rush acumen.  If he can improve his “get off” and find one pet move, then look out.  But, that appears to be well off in the distance at this point.  However, he has tremendous speed, never quits and will be a demon on special teams at a minimum
  • A fourth rounder like Williams, WR Keshawn Martin, now in his 2nd year, has made a ton of progress from this time last year.  He’s catching everything, playing with confidence and looks like a completely different player.  I try to keep it all in perspective early in training camp, but he just looks different.  In a much better way.  If he can be Matt Schaub’s outlet and Schaub can trust him, this offense will have another layer to it.
  • I’ve watched S Ed Reed work out on a side field, rehabbing from his hip injury and I’m not buying the fact that he’ll be ready in week one.  And, in all honesty, that’s not the goal.  Beating San Diego and having the whole gang together isn’t the goal.  Sure, we all want to see him in this lineup but not at 85%.  He winced when doing defensive back pedal and turn drills and didn’t look comfortable doing anything other than running straight ahead.  He’ll come back at some point, but it doesn’t HAVE to be week one for Reed to be a key figure for a championship team.
  • DT Terrell McClain, third year guy from USF, has flashed on occasion throughout camp playing over the nose.
  • The gaggle of UDFA RB is getting plenty of work with Pro Bowler Arian Foster on the shelf.  I still say the most impressive one is former Arkansas product Dennis Johnson, who bounces off of big hits but keeps his balance in the run game, catches the ball well in the passing game and can return kicks too.  He made a one handed catch during team in the bubble during Sunday’s practice.  Foster and Ben Tate won’t need much help between the two, but Johnson is pushing hard to be that No. 3 guy at this point.
  • The tackle position is sort of a disaster right now for the Texans.  Derek Newton and Williams are limited, while Nick Mondek is banged up and out of practice for the time being.  The team would like to see Andrew Gardner step up, but that isn’t going to happen, trust me on that.  But, if there’s been a bright spot for the team early in camp, it has been veteran RT Ryan Harris.  He’s not spectacular but he’s steady.  He’s been sound in pass rush drills and has been a solidifying force on an OL that right now has many moving parts.  I know the team wants Newton to take over that spot and let Williams push him for playing time, but Harris is going to make it tough on the coaching staff to forget about his role on that right side.
  • The punters and kickers were working out too.  But, I didn’t care, so don’t ask.

Best Free Agents Available – Offense

Quarterback
Donovan McNabb
David Garrard
Trent Edwards
Patrick Ramsey
J.T. O’Sullivan
Jim Sorgi
Brodie Croyle
Todd Collins
Chris Simms
Charlie Frye
Troy Smith
Matt Gutierrez
Hunter Cantwell
Todd Bouman
Keith Null
Brian St. Pierre
Brian Brohm
D.J. Shockley
Levi Brown

Running Back
Clinton Portis
Brian Westbrook
Julius Jones
Ryan Torain
Correll Buckhalter
Laurence Maroney
Aaron Brown
Kevin Jones
LenDale White
Michael Bennett
Patrick Cobbs
Thomas Clayton
Mike Bell
James Davis
Jalen Parmele
Ken Darby
Chad Simpson
Martell Mallett
Michael Bennett
Ladell Betts
Garrett Wolfe
J.J. Arrington
DeShawn Wynn
Quinton Ganther
Chris Jennings
Eldra Buckley
Lynell Hamilton
Kareem Huggins
P.J. Hill
Charles Scott

Fullback
Madison Hedgecock
Tony Richardson
Mike Karney
Deon Anderson
Leonard Weaver (injured)
Naufahu Tahi
Kyle Eckel
Nehemiah Broughton
Tim Castille
Jason Davis
Jason McKie
Fui Vakapuna
Frank Summers

Wide Receiver
Terrell Owens
Braylon Edwards
Bernard Berrian
Chris Chambers
Justin Gage
Jason Hill
Mike Sims-Walker
Brandon Stokley
Kevin Curtis
Kelley Washington
Sam Aiken
Johnnie Lee Higgins (KR)
Sinorice Moss (KR)
Brandon Jones
Sam Hurd
Keary Colbert
Shaun Bodiford
Devard Darling
Malcolm Kelly
Andre Davis (KR)
Greg Lewis
Antwaan Randle El (PR)
Hank Baskett
Brian Finneran
Demetrius Williams
Craig Davis
Roydell Williams
Chad Jackson
Dominique Zeigler
Yamon  Figurs (KR)
Reggie Williams

Tight  End
Alge Crumpler
Chris Baker
David Martin
Shawn Nelson
Ben Patrick
Brad Cottam
Brandon Manumaleuna
Dominique Byrd
Tony Curtis
Daniel Coats
Jeff Dugan (FB)
Derek Schouman
Gijon Robinson
Nate Lawrie
Michael Matthews
Darcy Johnson
Greg Estandia
Jonathan Stupar
Tom Santi
Ryan Purvis

Offensive Tackle
Alex Barron (RT)
Nick Kaczur (RT/G)
Mario Henderson (RT/LT)
Flozell Adams (RT/LT)
Mark Tauscher (RT)
Langston Walker (RT/LT)
Kevin Shaffer (RT/LT)
Ray Willis (RT)
Jordan Black (RT)
George Foster (RT)
Barry Sims (LT)
Adam Terry (RT/LT)
Renardo Foster (RT)
Michael Toudouze (RT)
Ike Ndukwe (RT)
Mike Williams (LT/RT)
Rob Petitti (RT)
Seth Wand (RT)

Guard
Vince Manuwai
Shawn Andrews
Chester Pitts
Reggie Wells (RT)
Kyle DeVan
Mark Setterstrom

Center
Shaun O’Hara
Casey Rabach
Eric Heitmann
Ben Hamilton
Rudy Niswanger
Hank Fraley
Chris Morris (G)
Nick Cole (G)
Cory Procter (G)
Chris White

Long Snapper
Ryan Pontbriand
James Dearth
Ryan Neill
Jason Kyle
Kevin Houser
Matt Overton

Punter
Josh Bidwell
Matt Dodge
Glenn Pakulak
Robert Malone
Ricky Schmitt (K)
Ken Parrish
Daniel Power

Kicker
Shanye Graham
Jeff Reed
Rhys Lloyd
Garrett Lindholm
Swayze Waters
Fabrizio Scaccia
Clint Stitser
Aaron Pettrey

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.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t care about mock drafts

There are few teams in football more respected on draft day than the Pittsburgh Steelers.  What makes the Steelers so respected is not just the fact that they have a track record of finding good football players, but they’ve also created a mindset of “Steeler football” and they stay true to that mindset/philosophy.

My dad coached the offensive line for the Steelers from 2007-2009 and despite what most people think, I rarely got inside information from him while he was there.  In fact, he was always so jammed up with work that our discussions usually centered around a couple of brief discussions regarding offensive line play during the season and how his grandchildren were doing.  During the draft process, I would ask questions about some offensive line prospects from time to time, but that was the extent of it.

Recently, over Tex-Mex, he began telling me about how the Steelers go about the draft process and I found it to be fascinating.  In Pittsburgh, Kevin Colbert runs the draft but has Mike Tomlin helping to make decisions and there is a balance between the scouting department and position coaches.  The Steelers pecking order isn’t what fascinated me, but rather, the manner in which they put together their draft board is what caught my attention.

Stacking The Board

After all of the readings of players are finished and the evaluations are complete, the Steelers will then stack their draft board.  While other teams try and predict what teams ahead of them will do, the Steelers decided that predicting what other teams would do was a waste of time.  I will keep the nuts and bolts about how the Steelers draft process works to myself, but I love their overall approach.  The Steelers only care about what they can control which is their own draft board.

The Steelers create their draft board based on a mock draft where only the Steelers pick.  They make picks 1 thru 32 in the first round for themselves based on Steelers football and their philosophies on both sides of the ball.  While every team stacks their draft board based on how the grades that they have on players in all positions, the Steelers are able to put together a true “big board” based on their judgements of talent, fit to the system, need and character.

Have you ever been at the horse races and you are in line to make your wagers but you aren’t quite sure what your game plan is going to be?  You end up making way too many bets and you come away with tickets that you didn’t really want.  The same thing has probably happened to you in fantasy football drafts.  With their method, the Steelers are able to operate within the first two rounds with a checklist that they rarely have to deviate from.  Sure, they may make go off script based on how the draft is unfolding, but they know who they are and what they want to do when they are on the clock.

Mock drafts?  You can keep them.  The Steelers only care about the Steelers.

A Metrics Study of Undervalued Draft Prospects

The majority of my writings on draft statistics have been on players who will be picked in the first three rounds, but late round prospects merit discussion as well. I’ve gone through and picked out players who had positive metrics in college, but just aren’t being discussed much in the draft process for one reason or another.

“One of the key purposes we developed the ICE system and created our specialized College X-Info statistical services was to help support our team clients’ efforts with identifying and evaluating mid-later round draft talent as well as experienced college free agents,” John Pollard, General Manager of Sports Solutions at STATS, said. “Most of us in the industry are aware of the top position players coming out of college, the 1st and 2nd round talent. The ICE application and X-info statistics services help our team clients build and validate their assessments of these players”

I’m going to explore some of the positive metrics for some mid to late round talent show why they could or should go higher than they are being projected. All statistics are from the STATS ICE program which has every BCS game charted from the entire 2012 season.

MONTEL HARRIS, RB – TEMPLE

Montel Harris is one of the most elusive backs in the entire draft. He had the 4th most broken tackles (12) per carry despite being only 5’8” and 208lbs. His yards after contact per carry, 2.91, is the highest among the top tier of running backs, beating out statistical leaders like Jonathan Franklin and Montee Ball. All in all, his total ability to generate extra yardage ranks third in the class behind Franklin, Eddie Lacy, and Giovani Bernard.

STEDMAN BAILEY, WR – WEST VIRGINIA

Expected to go in the third round, Bailey isn’t the perfect definition of a draft sleeper. However, it seems like he often gets ignored for his explosive teammate, Tavon Austin. Bailey, despite his diminutive size at 5’10”, 193lbs, generates superb yards after the catch. Averaging 6.2 yards after the catch, he is almost as good after the catch as the highly ranked Cordarrelle Patterson (6.4 yards/ catch). His drop rate of 5% ranks his hands near the top of this class.

RYAN GRIFFIN, TE – CONNECTICUT

Some critics of Griffin have noted his lack of ability after the catch, the statistics couldn’t disagree more. At 7.2 yards after the catch, the big TE has the second highest YAC in the entire class only behind Travis Kelce (10 yards/ catch) and ahead of consensus number one TE, Tyler Eifert. Per STATS ICE, Griffin didn’t drop a single ball this year showing excellent hands. His strong hands and YAC allowed him to convert 72.4% of his receptions into first downs or touchdowns for the Huskies.

BRENNAN WILLIAMS, OT – NORTH CAROLINA

While everyone focuses on the big three OTs and athletic specimens like Menelik Watson, Brennan Williams had a very quiet 2012 season (in a good way). Williams only allowed 5 combined pressures the entire season at UNC, less than all of the big three OTs. He may be underrated or underappreciated in the media, but expect teams to take note of his quality pass blocking.

MESHAK WILLIAMS, DE/OLB – KANSAS STATE

Williams is probably the least discussed prospect out of this entire group. He had really solid production at Kansas State, racking up 10 sacks in 2012, but turning out extremely poor numbers at his pro-day at only at 245lbs. However, his production in college wasn’t just limited to sacks – Williams had 30 combined pressures in college to complement those sacks. When you divide by the number of pass rushing snaps – his Snaps Per Pressure (SPP) is around 8.6 or very similar to Bjoern Werner’s. While college production isn’t guaranteed to translate to NFL production, his pass rush efficiency shouldn’t be ignored for a potential late round pick or UDFA.

JORDAN HILL, DT – PENN STATE

While big names like Sharif Floyd and Star Lotulelei dominate the discussion about defensive tackles, Jordan Hill deserves to be discussed based on his stats alone. As a pass rushing DT, Hill grades out with a Snaps Per Pressure (SPP) of 13.3, which makes him the most efficient pass rusher of the DTs (slightly ahead of Sheldon Richardson) and more efficient than some pass rushing DEs like Datone Jones. Hill also had the most combined tackles in the backfield and 1-2 yards from the LOS (25 tackles), more than any defensive tackle. Based on these metrics alone, Hill should be considered solid all-around DT to be picked earlier than the 4th-5th round he’s projected in.

JOSH JOHNSON , CB – PURDUE

Defensive backs in general are a bit tricky to apply statistics too, but there are some things we can look at to evaluate their play quality in college. Two of my favorite stats are pass defensed per target and how often a player was beaten on their targets. With 19 passes defensed on 86 targets in 2012, Johnson had the best ability to knock down balls on a per target basis amongst late round CBs. He also was burned on only 44% of his targets, which is to say 37 passes thrown in his area were completed. That burn rate is lower than every CB expected to be picked after round 3 and equivalent to some CBs like Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. To see Johnson’s penchant for knocking down passes (and generating pass interference penalties) see his play against Notre Dame’s star TE Eifert.

JOSH EVANS, S – FLORIDA

While teammate Matt Elam drew most of the attention at Florida, Josh Evans did an excellent job in coverage for the Gators. Evans’ burn rate was 35%, one of the lowest in the entire NCAA last year. Often times playing deep safety, Evans was only targeted 20 times the entire season. On those 20, he defensed 6 passes – the same amount as Kenny Vaccaro on far more targets. While he didn’t make many impact tackles, he did a solid job at tackling with 11 missed tackles in total, about average for this safety class. Evans may not be the complete package as a safety right now, but certainly has potential as a starting FS with his coverage skills.