Can a Quarterback’s Mechanics Be Altered?

Quarterback mechanics are one of the most highly debated aspects among NFL scouts and experts because they come in many different forms, few of which seem to be ideal. Whether it’s an old school sidearm style that Rich Gannon had, Tom Brady’s over-the-top delivery or Philip Rivers’ shot-put pass, the passers have shown that they can get to the ball out to their intended target with success. Neither of these are incorrect, but if they were deemed as such, could they be altered?

Some believe the mechanics of a quarterback can be altered, while others don’t. Because of this, I asked former NFL personnel man turned writer for RealGM.com Jeff Risdon if mechanics can indeed be altered:

“I believe mechanics above the waist can be fixed but it takes time and dedication,” Risdon stated. “I think it’s a delicate balancing act to try and do anything major (like Tim Tebow) but changing release points, follow through, back shoulder rotation, even how the football is held are all tweaks that can absolutely be done.”

He furthered comment: “You don’t want to change an unconventional throwing motion that clearly works, like Philip Rivers or Kerry Collins, but cleaning up the little intricacies can still be very effective. It’s remarkable how something as simple as holding the ball further back on the laces can impact accuracy. Footwork and waist/hips are more important but the kind of stuff that George Whitfield did with Cam Newton, altering his elbow angle and teaching him a consistent follow through and shoulder rotation can make a big difference.”

I also contacted NFL Films football guru Greg Cosell about the possibility of altering the mechanics of a quarterback and he immediately said “yes”.

Cosell expanded on his answer by stating that “anything that is mechanical can be altered, anything that is a function of a movement can be altered. There are four parts to throwing the football: legs, hips, shoulders and arm, which comes along for the ride when the others are done right.”

McCarthy-isms

Although there are many that don’t share Risdon and Cosell’s sentiments, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy does. McCarthy has run a “quarterback school” since 1993 that charts “quarterbacks in five footwork drills that rate agility and movement,” and focuses on “hand-eye coordination, finger dexterity, mechanics,” according to Greg Bishop of The New York Times.

McCarthy’s quarterback school paid off in a big way for signal caller Aaron Rodgers, who came into the league with quirky mechanics taught by the University of California’s infamous (in NFL circles) head coach Jeff Tedford and has since become arguably the league’s best quarterback.

Rodgers held the ball next to his ear when he was in a pre-pass triangle set at California. The mechanics appeared efficient at the time because he was able to get the ball out quickly in the Golden Bears short passing game, but he struggled throwing deep.

His throwing motion led to him throwing outside of his frame, which is not ideal and “stresses the shoulder” as quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. says, and his footwork also suffered as he was not able to get proper timing nor transfer weight with any consistency. Rodgers explained this in an interview with ESPN last year:

“When I first got into the league, I held the ball really high. That was the standard in college, and it messed up my timing a bit — the draw, bringing it back, then the release… You’re taught to get back as deep as you can, but you can never throw the ball out on time when you do that.”

Mechanical Changes Click For Rodgers

Under the tutelage of head coach McCarthy and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, Rodgers pre-pass triangle set came down to between his numbers, consequently his motion became quicker, his power increased (also because of his cleaner footwork) and his timing improved. Now, Rodgers puts up video game numbers as he knifes through the heart of defenses with otherworldly throws.

“In Aaron Rodgers’ particular situation, he had a very high ball carriage which I felt there was a stiffness to the way he carried the ball,” McCarthy told our Adam Caplan during the 2010 NFL Scouting combine, “it wasn’t as natural because he is a very good athlete and it’s something you didn’t see in my opinion in his earlier days, how good of an athlete he was and I think it’s something we’ve adjusted and he’s very natural with it. Every quarterback that I’ve ever coached, you’re always looking to improve their mechanics.”

Furthermore, as Risdon noted, mechanics may be able to be fixed or altered but it takes “time,” which is exactly what Rodgers had as he honed his skills for three seasons while legend Brett Favre played.

In contrast, my colleague Lance Zierlein noted in a recent conversation that former Houston Texans quarterback David Carr didn’t have the same success when offensive coordinator Chris Palmerattempted to alter his release point. Carr played during this time, which was his only choice for the expansion Houston Texans, and his career ultimately ended in disaster as he ended up being a bust after taking a significant amount of beating behind a porous offensive line and never improving his mechanics.

Rodgers and Carr’s situations were entirely different, but they also help paint the picture of the possibility of altering mechanics. Mechanics can be altered by raising the elbow above the shoulder, making sure there is full extension and follow through after the release and then correcting footwork by stepping through the throw, bending at the knee of the lead foot and rotating the hips, so power is generated from the lower body opposed to the upper body as seen with Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

There are many avenues which coaches can take to improve a quarterback’s mechanics, which takes time and repetitions, but the biggest issue that they run into is one they can’t control: their quarterback’s reaction when the bullets are flying.

In most cases, quarterbacks will revert to their natural form when they are in pressure-filled situations, which is why the debate over mechanics will forever live despite the success of the Packers’ Rodgers. For every Aaron Rodgers, there is a Tim Tebow: a passer whose mechanics were altered temporarily opposed to permanently, resulting in a reversion to their natural and improper form once defenders invaded the quarterbacks comfort area.

Texans Tuesday Morning Camp

Hopkins Looks The Part Early On

The Texans have been in desperate need of a WR2 who could threaten defenses down the field and who could be relied on to rack up catches when Andre Johnson was facing a touch matchup.  Kevin Walter was workmanlike (sorry, Kevin… I know it sounds so stereotypical), Jacoby Jones was inconsistent and had too many drops, Andre Davis was a mistake as a free agent signing and DeVier Posey got injured last season before he could show the Texans what he had.  Finally, it looks like the Texans have it right.

DeAndre Hopkins came into the draft as the WR whom I believed was the most NFL-ready of the early round players.  “Nuk” has solid hands, has enough game speed to get behind defenses and he’s showing that his ability to get out of his breaks is creating separation that the Texans didn’t usually see with Kevin Walter.  While it is very early into camp and the pressure will ratchet up, the thing that has impressed me most with Hopkins is that he looks very comfortable on the field and he doesn’t appear to be pressing much at all.

In one-on-one drills against the CBs, Hopkins made an difficult grab in the corner of the endzone with Roc Carmichael hanging all over him.  In the team portion down during redzone scrimmage against the defensive starters, Hopkins ran an out that shook Johnathan Joseph and created enough space for Matt Schaub to make a comfortable throw before Hopkins went out near the goal line.  Hopkins ability to threaten defenses down the field, with quick-release fades near the end zone and over the middle should give the Texans as potent a passing attack as we have seen over the last 2 or 3 season.

For fantasy football owners out there who are devouring everything they can in preparation for their drafts/auctions, anything less than 50 catches for Hopkins would seem disappointing to me at this early stage.  In reality, I think 52-60 catches is a very reasonable goal for Hopkins and I could see him with even more if Schaub continues to develop confidence in the young wideout throughout camp and in the pre-season.

Old Dog With New Tricks

Veteran NT Daniel Muir (#91), a six year veteran who has logged 24 starts with the Indianapolis Colts over four season with them, had a terrific practice.  Granted, much of Muir did was against the Texans #2 and #3 offensive lines, but he showed terrific power and penetration in the team scrimmage portion.  Muir isn’t known as much of a pass rusher, but did have a terrific spin move win in one of his reps.  Muir is bigger and stronger than the 1-gap NTs we usually see with the Texans and his power and experience will give him a shot to make the team.

Clash Of The Titans

There isn’t a defensive lineman in the game who is better than J.J. Watt so I was expecting G Brandon Brooks (#79) to get schooled in one-on-one pass protection drills thanks to Watt’s quickness, but that wasn’t the case.  Brooks had four reps against Watt over two sessions and he did a great job against Watt.  During the first session, Watt tried to make an outside move to set Brooks up with an inside spin, but Brooks timed his punch perfectly and jolted Watt outside of the pocket.  During the second session, Brooks used pure power to drive Watt to the ground on one of the reps.  It is worth noting that fellow TSV writer, John Harris, told me that Watt has been getting the better of those reps up to this point in camp.

Other Notes

  • I had a great football chat with former Patriots LB turned sports talk host Ted Johnson about the changing landscape of pro football.  He and I both agree that Chip Kelly’s tempo, much more than his offense, could change the way that NFL offenses operate in the future.
  • Rookie T/G David Quessenberry looks so smooth and fluid during running plays.  Quessenberry gets to the spot and gets guys walled off on the backside as well as any tackle the Texans have in camp and when he was at guard, he showed a seamlessness with getting up the 2nd level and getting his blocks on LBs.  Quessenberry did struggle to stay engaged at times on the 2nd level on a couple of snaps.  The one area that worried me during the draft and worried me today is that he has a tendency to get bull-rushed at times.  It will happen to every lineman from time to time, but Quessenberry doesn’t have as much core-strength as he needs and he really has to play with great technique and determination to battle stronger players.
  • Former Oregon State ILB Cameron Collins (#90) stepped up and made me notice him on a couple of snaps where he stuck his nose in the hole and snuffed out running plays.
  • During the run game portion of the practice, Case Keenum read the defense moving to a single-high safety look and audibled to an outside zone play that broke it open with undrafted free agent RB Dennis Johnson (#28) doing the legwork.
  • I thought potential starting RT Ryan Harris (#68) really struggled at times in the run game portion of practice and with some of his pass protection.  Harris has a tendency to bend and lean too much which causes him to get off balance.  Backup tackle Andrew Gardner (#66) put together a solid practice.
  • Rookie OLB Trevardo Williams continues to struggle in practice.  Williams looked out of place in one-on-one pass protection drills today and didn’t utilize his natural strength which is his quickness.  Williams has been getting swallowed up against the run and if he needs to show much more as a pass rusher.
  • Even if Jeff Maehl (#15) doesn’t make it with the Texans due to getting caught up in a numbers game, I definitely think he has the talent to catch on with another team. as a WR5.
  • RT Derek Newton (#75) had a nice practice today and was getting some reps with the starters today as well.  If I had a gun to my head, my guess would be that Newton would open week 1 as the starting RT, but there is still plenty of camp to go.
  • G Cody White had a completely forgettable practice today.  He ended up on the ground too often, was beaten on more than one occasion by Daniel Muir during team scrimmage and got pushed all over the field during one-on-ones against the likes of Earl Mitchell.
  • Former Texans DT Travis Johnson was in attendance and watching practice as a guest.  At one point during defensive line drills when practice slowed down, Johnson and Bill Kollar had a friendly conversation going on from about 50 feet away with Kollar telling him to “get out here on the field” and Johnson imploring Kollar to “tell them to get me some pads”.  Thanks, but no thanks, Travis.  I did, however, enjoy listening to him talk about pass rushing during pass protection drills.

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.