I have a confession to make: I’m completely clueless when it comes to NFL draft prospects. Okay, well maybe not clueless, but I don’t follow college football, so it’s hard to really know much about these guys moving around the draft boards. Once a guy gets drafted by the Green Bay Packers, then I take the time to read up on his scouting report and check out the highlight reels.
That means you won’t be getting a lot from me when it comes to evaluating players. However, as we get closer to the 2013 NFL Draft, I’m going to post some statistics articles that relate to the current rookie prospects. The nice thing about statistics is that I don’t really have to be that intimate with the players’ individual skills and deficiencies. I can take some of their important numbers, crunch them together, and make something useful out of them.
Of course, this is where I make my disclaimer that statistics don’t tell the whole story. They’re a useful tool when evaluating performance, but they’re just one item in the toolbox. Just like the “measurables” from the NFL Combine and pro days, statistics need to be combined with the rest of the puzzle to make the complete picture. (Okay, maybe that was one too many analogies in a single paragraph.)
My first endeavor is to determine the “production ratio” of front seven draft prospects. A few months ago, I finished reading Pat Kirwan’s book, “Take Your Eye Off the Ball,” and he mentioned a couple statistical tools he uses to help measure incoming players. (By the way, I highly recommend picking up this book if you haven’t read it. I got it on iBooks for about $10.) Production ratio is one of these measurements, and it’s a look at how often defensive lineman and linebackers made impact plays during their playing time in college. Here’s the formula:
(SACKS + TACKLES FOR A LOSS)/GAMES PLAYED = PRODUCTION RATIO
Obviously, this is an attempt to combine big plays into one number that’s comparable across the board. The sum of sacks and tackles for a loss are divided by the number of games played to essentially get an average number of impact plays per game.
There are two immediate drawbacks to be noted: (1) sacks are generally less important than total pressures, and (2) it would be more fair to measure this statistic in relation to snaps played rather than games played. As far as these problems are concerned, there’s not really any statistical data out there for them, so this is the best we have. And despite these two issues, the number is still a suitable way to gauge performance across the draft board.
Without further ado, here are some of the top draft prospects from DraftTek.com who they consider capable of playing in a 3-4 defense as a lineman or outside linebacker. Their rank is according to DraftTek’s “big board” as of April 1st, and included in the table are the players’ production ratio statistics, with raw data taken from Sports-Reference.com (click to enlarge):
I’m not going to go into too much detail about each of the players, but you can see how this type of information might hurt or help their draft status. You can also see that other factors must clearly affect their position on the draft boards outside of college production.
There is also one other thing to keep in mind as you peruse the above chart. While this data does attempt to look at big plays on a per game basis, there are some players whose numbers might be skewed one way or the other based on yearly performance. Pat Kirwan uses the example of Clay Matthews in his book. Though Matthews only had a 0.41 Production Ratio for his entire college career, he only started his last 10 games at USC. He was a late bloomer, and if you look at his senior season alone, his Production Ratio was 1.04.
Perhaps you can identify some players who fit that mold above.
From here, I’m going to let you discuss what you see in the numbers. It might seem like I’m copping out, but some of you have certain draft prospects that you follow more closely than others, so hopefully you can provide some additional insight for everyone else. Are some guys simply products or victims of their defensive system? Are there some guys whose biggest assets aren’t necessarily in making plays behind the line?
Share your thoughts below!——————Follow @ChadToporski