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Draft: Things We Learned

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It feels like in recent drafts including this one, there was a clear top tier of less than 20 players* and then at least 50 or 60 fairly equal prospects. Things like scheme fit and age are the deciding factor in those cases. E.g. Baun is a questionable scheme fit for most teams and on the older side of prospects (plus durability concerns).

I could easily name 10 players selected in the 3rd that could have gone in the 1st without anybody questioning the selection. Especially if the scheme fit and/or need was right. The vast majority of 2nd rounders fit that description as well. But to me it's even more impressive how many great prospects fell to the 3rd and I'm sure quite a few of them will make a 1st round impact.

If I'm a GM of a team picking in the bottom third, unless a gem falls to me, I'd trade down to stockpile 2nd and 3rd rounders all day long! The 5th year option in the 1st is nice, but then again who knows what happens in 4 years? That said, the teams that are most known for this approach, SEA and NE, draft even more scheme specific than the other 30 teams. So what they get out of this usually doesn't look like a "steal" on paper, but you get my point. And then imo late 1st round selections are as likely to bust as a prospects who fell into the 2nd. Higgins and Pittman are gonna be really good pros, while some of the 1st round WRs will bust. Seems that nobody needed a WR late in the 1st, so the Bengals and Colts got nice steals.

My love for stockpiling day 2 selections, 5th year option be damned, is underlined when you look at so-called projects players in any round. As a GM you can't get into thinking too far down the road. 2 bad drafts and you are basically done unless you got great reputation already, which only a handful of GMs have. Even projects should be ready to contribute in year 2 imo, if they don't contribute by year 3 the pick has failed and that's true 95% of the time.

*As for the top tier of less than 20 players, you could divide them into further tiers to seperate the elite blue chippers from the solid mid 1st round prospects.

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Posted (edited)

I’m not really convinced on the age thing. Or rather, I’m not convinced that the correlation equals the causation.

Isn’t it - very generally, across a wide spectrum - safe to assume that if a guy is going to be a FRP, he’s going to leave as soon as he’s eligible to? Not every time, but just more often than not. If we can safely make that assumption, that leaves the late seniors as guys who aren’t, usually, blowing their competition out of the water prior to their final season or so. Basically, it makes sense that super talented prospects that are projected to be FRPs come out as early as possible - so of course the results will show that the first round has a lower age average than the draft as a whole. That leaves late bloomers and guys who choose to stay for extra seasons on the other side of that equation. And I think they’re outnumbered.

That, plus the increase in draft eligible prospects declaring early, leaves me unconvinced that teams are really using age as a factor (at least not a big one), so long as we’re not discussing outliers like Weeden. I think the age observation is more correlarion with guys just being NFL talents than it is causation in regards to what GMs prioritize. 

EDIT: FWIW I recognize it as a trend worth monitoring. Just saying the causation/correlation aspect of it deserves more of a look.

Edited by Yin-Yang
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12 hours ago, jrry32 said:

Age certainly matters, but I think you're lumping in a few too many guys. Some of these guys fell due to medical issues. Others "fell" because the "projections" were poor. For example, I tried telling people that a guy with Greenard's mediocre testing and medical history was never going in the second round. He was always a guy who would go in the second half of the third. And I love Greenard. 

I mentioned that it wasn't my intent to say they slipped due to age alone. 

As for the singular case of Greenard, I personally don't think that's a fair thing to assume. Greenard had a top-3 Short Shuttle and 3-Cone time amongst his position group. Sure, he didn't display straight line speed or explosive traits, but he flashed his athletic prowess where it shines on tape. Not to mention he also has freakishly long arms for his height and length goes a long ways. Just based on recent memory, a guy with very all-around mediocre athletic scores but great production and length was TCU's L.J. Collier who went at the end of Round 1 last year. 

All of that just to say I don't think you can confidently rule age out as a factor. 

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I think, personal opinion, that with the "online" War Room experience, teams were reluctant to make trades in the 1st Round due to logistics. I'm sure that value has/had something to do with it, but those "last second deals" weren't going to happen early, and I don't blame teams for this one bit.

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32 minutes ago, SaveOurSonics said:

I mentioned that it wasn't my intent to say they slipped due to age alone. 

As for the singular case of Greenard, I personally don't think that's a fair thing to assume. Greenard had a top-3 Short Shuttle and 3-Cone time amongst his position group. Sure, he didn't display straight line speed or explosive traits, but he flashed his athletic prowess where it shines on tape. Not to mention he also has freakishly long arms for his height and length goes a long ways. Just based on recent memory, a guy with very all-around mediocre athletic scores but great production and length was TCU's L.J. Collier who went at the end of Round 1 last year. 

All of that just to say I don't think you can confidently rule age out as a factor. 

Seattle does weird things. As I said, when you combine Greenard's mediocre testing with his injury history, it was to be expected he'd fall to about where he did. Yes, he has long arms, but he also refused to extend his right arm. He suffered a major injury to his right wrist in 2018, so that is a little disconcerting. It means he has potential, but his unwillingness to use it had to concern evaluators. If you watch him rush off the left side, he'll use a rip, but he won't use a long arm/stab move. When he attacks OTs, he attacks with the shoulder and forearm, instead of extending and punching. As I said, that means he still has untapped upside, but if he's not using it because he doesn't think his wrist is medically sound, that's a problem. Regardless, he fell to where I expected him to go. I think he'll outplay his draft slot. Don't know how high his ceiling is, but I absolutely love his character and violent play.

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We’re all in this together is the only thing I can guarantee I learned

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Posted (edited)
58 minutes ago, MWil23 said:

I think, personal opinion, that with the "online" War Room experience, teams were reluctant to make trades in the 1st Round due to logistics. I'm sure that value has/had something to do with it, but those "last second deals" weren't going to happen early, and I don't blame teams for this one bit.

I wonder if it had to do with logistics or just with general comfort level with the prospects. Trading up in the 1st round is a high profile move and the sort of thing that can often make or break a less established GM's tenure with their team if it's a more aggressive move up, and it just doesn't look like many of these GM's were willing to stake their careers on chasing guys they've met twice over Skype. Those are the kinds of trades you make when you feel absolutely confident in the guy you're trading up for, and I feel like some of that certainty can build up through the things that weren't possible during this draft process: getting the guy in your building to put him through your own workouts/tests, seeing how he interacts with your coaches and staff, even small  things like what the chemistry is like during the visit dinner, etc. Obviously it's anecdotal but think back for example to the story around the Bills getting Josh Allen and how important the Bills braintrust's trip to Wyoming to spend a couple of days with Allen ended up playing in their conviction that he was their guy. It all adds up. 

Not that these GM's didn't trust their boards but at least early on I think the combo of teams being more risk-averse about making a headline-popping move for a guy they don't fully know, and the virtual/remote draft process seeming to combine to create less opportunity for teams to fall in love with outlier prospects early on that would have shaken up the board made for a pretty even/predictable 1st round with fewer trades. The only big 'trade that wasnt' made' that I can think of was Philly not moving up for Lamb, otherwise we never really even saw guys fall quite far enough for an opportunistic GM to get aggressive and move up. 

Edited by BaltimoreTerp

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it's becoming increasingly rare for underclassmen likely to get drafted to go back to college for another year, so i think when you have these seniors, there's kind of this stigma of "what's wrong with them" with the implication that they were simply not talented enough to come out a year ago and instead had to use their age/athletic advantage to appear draft-worthy

of course, that's not always the case (Luck being a premier example), but it goes towards OP's first point.

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19 hours ago, Wyld Stallyns said:

I don’t want to take credit for someone else’s work so I’ll link to the tweet 

Colt’s drafted 2 WRs who are both listed at 6’4” or taller. 

2/34 USC Michael Pittman JR 

6/212 Wash ST Dezmon Patmon 

 

Colts know that Rivers has a type. Vincent Jackson, Tyrell Williams, Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Mike Williams

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1 hour ago, RaidersAreOne said:

Mayock doesn't give an f about the medias boards. He has his and is sticking to drafting talent only from clemson if he can.

FIFY

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9 hours ago, Yin-Yang said:

I’m not really convinced on the age thing. Or rather, I’m not convinced that the correlation equals the causation.

Isn’t it - very generally, across a wide spectrum - safe to assume that if a guy is going to be a FRP, he’s going to leave as soon as he’s eligible to? Not every time, but just more often than not. If we can safely make that assumption, that leaves the late seniors as guys who aren’t, usually, blowing their competition out of the water prior to their final season or so. Basically, it makes sense that super talented prospects that are projected to be FRPs come out as early as possible - so of course the results will show that the first round has a lower age average than the draft as a whole. That leaves late bloomers and guys who choose to stay for extra seasons on the other side of that equation. And I think they’re outnumbered.

That, plus the increase in draft eligible prospects declaring early, leaves me unconvinced that teams are really using age as a factor (at least not a big one), so long as we’re not discussing outliers like Weeden. I think the age observation is more correlarion with guys just being NFL talents than it is causation in regards to what GMs prioritize. 

EDIT: FWIW I recognize it as a trend worth monitoring. Just saying the causation/correlation aspect of it deserves more of a look.

I see what you're saying and I for the most part agree, but I definitely feel as though age has at least some effect when weighing prospects against each other. At the end of the day these prospects are being brought in to be developed, and drafting younger prospects at least offers the theoretical idea that there is more untapped potential to be had, both physically and mentally, with the younger guy. Not only that, but younger prospects also - again, theoretically - add the aspect of offering more in terms of career/prime longevity. It's safe to say, all things being equal, you're (obviously) going to take player A over player B if player A is 2 years younger. I could see that being a deciding factor with two similarly ranked prospects. 

Speaking of age, what do you think of breakout age and college dominator ratings? I'm not sure how much it's used in league circles, but there seems to be some solid correlational evidence it can be a useful tool when predicting NFL success. Whether the Bengals deploy it consciously or not, a clear trend has been forming over the last decade in terms of which WRs they value drafting most:

And to be honest, it's a pretty impressive list all things considered if you ignore the outliers (in red, who were 6th/7th round picks). It's partly why I like the Tee Higgins pick so much. He was dominating the ACC as a 20 year old sophomore. That has to count for something. If he ends up hitting and becomes a productive receiver, we're looking at 9-10 (!) years of high-quality play, compared to 6-7 from a 24 year old rookie. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, RaidersAreOne said:

Mayock doesn't give an f about the medias boards. He has his and is sticking to it.

Mayock and Belichek seem to be the two biggest outliers that throw wrenches in these trends. They just don't give a F. Age, measurables, production, doesn't matter. 

EDIT: John Schneider too, but for different reasons. 

Edited by SmittyBacall

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8 minutes ago, SmittyBacall said:

I see what you're saying and I for the most part agree, but I definitely feel as though age has at least some effect when weighing prospects against each other. At the end of the day these prospects are being brought in to be developed, and drafting younger prospects at least offers the theoretical idea that there is more untapped potential to be had, both physically and mentally, with the younger guy. Not only that, but younger prospects also - again, theoretically - add the aspect of offering more in terms of career/prime longevity. It's safe to say, all things being equal, you're (obviously) going to take player A over player B if player A is 2 years younger. I could see that being a deciding factor with two similarly ranked prospects. 

I don’t think there’s enough uniformity in the league for that to matter, though. For starters, I’d be hesitant to believe that that even crosses a GM’s mind if Player A is 21 and Player B is 22 (and depending on the position/type of player they’re looking for, age + maturity might be more ideal). But beyond that, you’d have to be looking at two dead even prospects, and how often are two guys of the exact same caliber going to be separated by rounds? Like for the sake of this discussion where I was pointing out FRP, blue-chip players - if you have two that are only spectated by age, how likely is it really that that guy falls to the second round? I get that that changes the debate a little bit, but I don’t think there’s enough evidence of elite prospects that are maybe 23 or 24 years old that are getting passed on for unknown reasons other than age.

So I’m not disagreeing with your point there - if you have two identical prospects, usually it’d make sense to go with the younger one - I just don’t view it as a common enough occurrence to be entirely noteworthy, especially if we look for examples where the second prospect drops to the second round. I think the reason we’re seeing more younger players in the first round is because, very generally: A) more underclassmen are declaring than in the past, and B) the best prospects come out when they can, rather than finishing school. That’ll exclude late bloomers, guys who want to finish their degree, and players who were maybe injured their final season, but that’s a smaller sample size than the former group (I would imagine).

8 minutes ago, SmittyBacall said:

Speaking of age, what do you think of breakout age and college dominator ratings? I'm not sure how much it's used in league circles, but there seems to be some solid correlational evidence it can be a useful tool when predicting NFL success. Whether the Bengals deploy it consciously or not, a clear trend has been forming over the last decade in terms of which WRs they value drafting most:

And to be honest, it's a pretty impressive list all things considered if you ignore the outliers (in red, who were 6th/7th round picks). It's partly why I like the Tee Higgins pick so much. He was dominating the ACC as a 20 year old sophomore. That has to count for something. If he ends up hitting and becomes a productive receiver, we're looking at 9-10 (!) years of high-quality play, compared to 6-7 from a 24 year old rookie. 

I think it’s interesting, but again is more correlation than causation IYAM. If we can agree on the theory that the elite prospects come out ASAP, then it makes sense that those same guys will generally be more productive both in their time in college and throughout their stints in the NFL. Same goes for the length of their professional careers (although age is definitely more of a factor in that discussion, no doubt). 

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