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Finding Key Traits in Prospects

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Kent Hullamania

Joined: 16 Jun 2015
Posts: 24
Location: Cincinnati
PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 12:13 pm    Post subject: Finding Key Traits in Prospects Reply with quote

I am not able nor willing to watch college tape on a couple hundred prospects every year. I can however, read the scouting reports on these players from those that can supposedly watch film on these players, and assess the tape somewhat intelligently. This is an attempt to get information out of those draft profiles that might be useful in predicting their success at the NFL level.

Now first, the number of years that draft profiles are available from a consistent format for a large percentage of the prospects draft is somewhat limited. The best source I found was, and their Combine Player Profiles. These typically go back to about 2010 or 2009 in about the same format they are today.

Second, for obvious reasons, the information available on top prospects is often far more detailed than that of projected seventh round picks.

Third, the same scouts did not evaluate all of the players over all of these years. The terminology changes slightly, and they can only say so much in three or so paragraphs.

This means the sample size of players, especially successful players is limited. And on top of that, the pool of traits to look for is also necessarily limited. Because of that, I tried to keep the criteria for players as simple as I could. The more complex the criteria the more difficult it is to wade through the gray area as well as the higher the vulnerability to cherry picking data and coming up with ultimately non-useful results (though the chances of the latter are high regardless).

Ok, so about the criteria I found at each position. This ended up being less a tool to rank players, but to filter them into two categories: More likely to succeed and less likely to succeed. Obviously ‘succeed’ is a gray term, but I tried to use pro football reference and pro football focus to determine if the player was generally considered a high quality starter at their position. In that way, I tried to err on the side of leaving out a player that could be considered ‘successful’ rather than including a player as ‘successful’ that perhaps was unwarranted. Level of success was important too. All-Pro types were prioritized over the rest.

If a player is left off the ‘more likely to succeed’ list, that by no means is saying I think they can’t be successful. It’s just applying the information, a single draft profile, the best I can. And similarly for players that do make the more likely to succeed list, it is not a guarantee by any means.


I’ll start with running back, as this was the position I used as a trial run. Based on the analysis, a little better than 1 in 3 of these running backs who get drafted end up becoming quality starters. Now that might not sound very good, but the failure rate on running backs is extremely high. Usually about 20 running backs are drafted each year and usually about 2 of them end up as quality starters in the long run.

So I’ve been using this criteria for only two years (though the study to achieve the criteria was derived from 4 years of drafts prior). The first year resulted in Todd Gurley, Karlos WIlliams and Jay Ajayi. The second year was Zeke Elliott and Kenneth Dixon. Yes, I know I missed out on David Johnson and Jordan Howard unfortunately.

The criteria: Ability to get yards after contact (or consistently fall forward) and quickness have to be listed as strengths of the player.
This year’s RBs:
Joe Mixon
Alvin Kamara
Joe Williams
De’Angello Henderson

Now for these other positions, this will be my first year making an actual prediction on the position. So, it’s even more speculative. But here goes nothing:

I tried to keep QB simple, but unfortunately ended up including a number of criteria. 1) Intangibles in some form such as leadership, football IQ or work ethic have to be listed as a strength. 2) short and intermediate accuracy have to be listed as a strength. 3) the following items can not be listed as weaknesses: internal clock, decision making, arm strength (doesn’t have to be great, but does have to be NFL quality), and ability to go through progressions.

Of the four draft years I did this analysis 2009 through 2012, there were 41 quarterbacks I had profiles for:

More Likely to Succeed:
Andrew Luck
Russell Wilson
Kirk Cousins
Colt McCoy
Matthew Stafford
Mark Sanchez

They all passed the criteria. Some notable players who did not pass the criteria are Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford and Ryan Tannehill. It did happen to avoid some guys such as Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker and Brandon Weeden.

This year:

Nobody happened to pass the criteria. I did look at some profiles of players outside of 2009 through 2012 to test the analysis, and I think it did ok, but I wasn’t thorough about recording it so I don’t remember completely. I think David Carr and AJ McCarron were the only two guys from the 2015 draft (Mariota and Winston did not qualify, which looks like it missed on both). Matt Barkley was the only 2013 passer that qualified. If you look at Sanchez, Barkley, McCoy and McCarron, it seems as though it is hard to tease out guys who played with particularly strong supporting casts. Guys like Cam Newton and Winston were both questioned on their decision making...but that was also the primary knock on guys like Brock Osweiler, Ryan Mallett and Nick Foles, among others.

Wide Receiver:
Criteria: Elite collegiate production and ability to run after the catch is listed as a strength.

First team all conference, 70+ catches, 1200+ yards, 10+ touchdowns are not each required, but those are an idea of what I mean when I say elite collegiate production. Certainly a player’s system, competition, and other extenuating circumstances inform what qualifies as elite production.

I looked at more years than this, but only recorded the results of 2012 through 2014:
More Likely to Succeed:
Sammy Watkins
Mike Evans
Odell Beckham Jr
Brandin Cooks
Kelvin Benjamin
Marquise Lee
Allen Robinson
Josh Huff
Jalen Saunders
DeAndre Hopkins
Robert Woods
Keenan Allen

It is quite odd that no player in the 2012 draft passed the criteria. Alshon Jeffery and TY Hilton are two studs that came out of that draft the criteria didn’t pick up on.

This year:
Corey Davis
Mike Williams
John Ross
Juju Smith-Schuster
Carlos Henderson
Taywan Taylor
Dede Westbrook
Chad Hansen
Trent Taylor
Krishawn Hogan

So if you’ll notice, the list this year looks long and out of proportion to the other years. There may be some reasons for that. First, when doing the study, I only really looked at guys drafted in the first 6 rounds. A lot of the guys who have profiles for this year’s draft may be undrafted or picked in the 7th round, creating a larger sample pool. Also it’s possible the draft profiles are getting more detailed on the lower round prospects than they were before - leaving more players to qualify especially on their strengths.

Offensive Line:
Since players drafted at tackle sometimes fail at tackle and succeed at guard, or fail at both, or become centers, or guards become centers, or left tackles become right tackles...I decided to treat it as one position, and decided if a player found success at any position along the line, they essentially count as successful.

However at this "one" position, I had great trouble with a one size fits all approach. So I ended up with three criteria paths:
1) Players who excelled at footwork and balance, while not having weaknesses in anchor or on field demeanor (nor finishing blocks).
2) Players who played with a nasty on field demeanor and did not have sluggish or poor feet, nor lacked power, nor punch (including hand speed), nor anchor issues, nor ability to get push in the run game.
3) Strong on field demeanor again, with a strong, quick punch and did not lack power.

I looked at 2014, 2013, and half of 2012 for this sample. I ended up with 66 offensive linemen with 24 being deemed successful. Each of the two criteria paths have a success rate in the sample of about 3 out of every 5. Though in total, they only combined to select 15 of the 24 successful players. Some notable players not selected are Terron Armstead, Kevin Zeitler, Trai Turner and Cordy Glenn. Some guys avoided include Greg Robinson, Jonathan Cooper, DJ Fluker, Xavier Sua Filo. However Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel did pass the criteria.

This year:
Criteria 1:
Forrest Lamp
Ryan Ramczyk
Deyshawn Bond
Jake Eldrenkamp
Brad Seaton

Criteria 2:
Isaac Asiata

Criteria 3:
Adam Bisnowaty
Pat Elflein
Dorian Johnson
Cam Robinson
Jordan Morgan
Tyler Orlosky
Again this is more players than qualified annually when I looked at guys drafted through the sixth round...especially for what is considered a weak offensive line class. So similar to wide receivers that may be due to several of these guys falling to the 7th or UDFA. Some of that may also be due to better detail in lower rated prospect evaluations. Because of that I would expect the success rate to be well below 60%, but I also expect the success rate of the whole player pool these guys came from to also be far, far below the 36% presented above.

Interior Defensive Line:
I broke defensive line into 3 positions: 5 technique, 3 technique and Nose.

5 Technique:
The success rate of 5 technique is remarkable, really. It almost doesn’t even need criteria.
In order to be classified as 5-Tech I look for height and/or arm length.

Strength at the point of attack and either 1) strong athleticism, or 2) high motor and high football IQ.

This year:
Chris Wormley
Malik McDowell
Eddie Vanderdoes

3 Technique:
Explosive athleticism, high motor, and ability to get in the backfield.
This year:
Jonathan Allen
Jahleel Johnson
Larry Ogunjobi
Tanzel Smart

Size, and power listed as a strength while endurance is not a weakness. Size means 315+ pounds. This position has the lowest success rate on the defensive line.

This year:
Stevie Tu'ikolovatu
Josh Tupou

Edge Rusher:
For developing the pass rusher criteria, I looked at the 2009 to 20012 drafts. I looked pretty much just in the first 4 rounds, and came up with 40 players, 14 of which were deemed successful. The success rate drops off precipitously, even from 35%, after the fourth round - the success rate will also likely be much lower than listed below for players who pass the criteria drafted late on the third day or not at all.

115+ inch broad jump, doesn’t lack the ability to disengage or counter in pass rush, doesn’t lack play speed. This criteria resulted in a 10 out of 14 success rate. Unsuccessful players that passed the criteria though, include Dion Jordan and Damontre Moore. Successful players that didn’t pass criteria include Robert Quinn and Carlos Dunlap. It does however include JPP, Jerry Hughes, Everson Griffen, Greg Hardy, Ezekiel Ansah, Cameron Jordan, JJ Watt, Olivier Vernon, Chandler Jones and Bruce Irvin.

This year:
Solomon Thomas
Myles Garrett
Taco Charlton
Tim Williams
Trey Hendrickson
Charles Harris
Demarcus Walker
Ejuan Price
Jimmy Gilbert

Off-ball linebackers:
Speed or range, and strong tackling.

Players this year:
Reuben Foster
Jarrad Davis
Duke Riley
Jayon Brown

Criteria: Physicality in coverage needs to be listed as a strength and willingness to support the run cannot be listed as a weakness.

Players this year:
Marshon Lattimore
Marlon Humphrey
Fabian Moreau
Quincy Wilson
Cordrea Tankersley
Corn Elder
Shaquill Griffin
Nate Hairston
Jourdan Lewis
Channing Stribling
Treston DeCoud
Desmond King

I was unable or unwilling to cover Tight End and Safety at this time. Maybe next year.

So in summary: The players listed here are the most likely to be successful at their position and given their draft position to the best I can determine. I will continue to evaluate the criteria as the years go by, the dataset gets larger, and the game changes. There’s a strong possibility many or all of the criteria are random patterns I observed in a limited dataset. There is also a possibility that the criteria I found are key traits prospects need. However, the possibility I am most hopeful for is that the relatively simple criteria laid forward is a proxy for a more complex set of criteria that is key in determining a prospect's success or failure in the league.
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Joined: 26 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2017 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done, Props. Exclamation
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Kent Hullamania

Joined: 16 Jun 2015
Posts: 24
Location: Cincinnati
PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks! Also I should have included Len Fournett here too. He qualifies.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are your players ranked in the positions they are listed? You have Worley over McDowell, etc . Would also like to see Safety and tight end ranks if yi have time or just at least traits you like
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Kent Hullamania

Joined: 16 Jun 2015
Posts: 24
Location: Cincinnati
PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, so the method I discussed doesn't rank the players. I default to a consensus ranking. I do have my own feelings on the players outside of this filter, and that is reflected in most of the rankings, but there's no need to pay that mind here.

I just kind of ran out of time before the draft to do safety and TE. I will do them at some point. But not before Thursday.
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