Why I think our evaluations differed from the picks

In terms of analyzing the work we’re doing on this site, the third round was for me the most fascinating of the draft. We got picks of players we had graded in the first round; we got picks of players we had as seventh-round selections and later. I started to think about why our analysis diverged so much from the actual results, and while we won’t know in some cases who was right or wrong for a while, I felt like I could use the information we did have to infer some possible causes.

Here’s what I’ve come up with.

We didn’t have injury information or other off-field/personality information. It’s obvious in the case of someone like Isaiah Crowell, when we know he has SOME kind of off-field issues (which is why he’s at Alabama State) but we don’t know how to weigh them accurately. (In his case, we’ve largely decided to base our evaluation almost entirely on pure talent.) With some of these players, we don’t know what the real story is or how much to weigh it (and we don’t know what teams will think about said story, either, or how it will affect their own evaluations).

I think this explains Louis Nix, our #19 prospect, falling to #81. Nix had an injury-plagued 2013 and struggled a bit, but he was terrific in 2012, a clear first-round talent. Our high rating was because we believed his 2012 level of performance was reflective of his true talent. Teams may have felt otherwise, or felt that having chronic minor injuries was enough to lower him regardless.

When we ranked Zach Mettenberger as highly as he did, we didn’t have the information teams did about his back problems. I don’t know anything about spondylolysis beyond what’s on Wikipedia, but if it’s serious and degenerative to the point where teams think he won’t be functional as an NFL player in a matter of years, then that would of course severely affect his stock.

On the other hand, I don’t know anything about ACLs, either, but Dominique Easley’s injuries scared me enough that I couldn’t in good conscience rank him as a first-rounder.

We don’t know how to evaluate certain positions well enough. Many of our disparities, it must be noted, were on offensive linemen and on safeties. Needle is really the only one of us who’s qualified to evaluate the offensive line, and while we did the best we could, sometimes we’re still guessing. We saw a lot of guards go in the third round we weren’t crazy about at all; it’s very possible we’re just measuring the wrong things.

We did land some good evaluations early in the process: Even when Antonio Richardson was being talked about as Tennessee’s top offensive lineman, vix saw early on that Ja’wuan James was a better prospect. Flash forward to this weekend: James is picked #19 overall, and entering the fourth round, Richardson has yet to be selected.

With safeties, the bigger problem is that it’s not only difficult to know what their responsibilities are, but most film we have available to us often keeps them off-screen. It’s hard to know if a guy is doing his job if you can’t watch him.

We don’t know how teams value certain positions. Nix is another example: If a team thinks he’s only a two-down guy, it’s hard to justify taking him early. We ranked a bunch of linebackers we thought were pretty capable with fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-round grades because there were a fair number of them and we didn’t think of linebacker as a priority position. Some of these players went in the third round.

We simply don’t have enough information, period. Some of the players drafted in the third round were guys we’d seen positive flashes from in the film we’d seen, but the problem was, we’d seen so little of them, that we couldn’t confidently place them over other players whom we’d seen similar tape on but had much more footage to assess what that player’s “true” performance level might be. So two guys might have shown similar talent, but in one case three or four of us have seen multiple games from him, and in the other one guy has seen one game of poor-quality footage. I tended to hedge on moving players up the draft board if I wasn’t confident in my assessment of their skill level. If I’d never heard of him, I couldn’t put him in the third round on one tape just because he flashed some third-round ability.

This ends up with me seeing quite a few picks where we had a player graded in the fifth or sixth round but I ended up thinking “Hmm, that could be good.” Will Clarke is an example– he showed occasional great burst, and if I’d gotten more information on him and seen he had done so consistently, I might have moved him up closer to where he was drafted.

And at the furthest extremes of this were Dezmen Southward, whom I had very little information on (and what film we did study still had the aforementioned issues with safeties), and Dexter McDougle, whom I didn’t even have enough information on to include on our final big board. (vix did draft him late in the seventh round in our complete mock; that was our only mention of him.)

All that said, 100 picks in, and 70% of our top 100 was drafted, so I don’t think we’re doing too badly.

We’ll be back to chat on day three as well. Check out our live board for a list of picks made so far and where we graded those players, and you can reference your favorite team on our list of picks by team.

1 comment on Why I think our evaluations differed from the picks

  1. Great writeup, Nath. Good wisdom.

    The other thing I’ll add is that the difference between 3rd rounders and UDFAs just in terms of pure athleticism is vastly overstated. I saw Justin Britt mostly graded as a 6th/7th rounder (which is where you guys had him, too), but at 6’6″ 325 with 33 1/2″ arms he compards well to Jake Matthews (6’5″ 308 with 33 3/8″ arms). He’s not as athletic as the first-rounders, but ran better than Moses / Richardson / Kouandijo and jumped about the same as Zach Martin. His short shuttle and bench press were good, too. And he was a three-year starter at LT in the SEC. The hairs between him and a guy like Mewhort or Moses or Richardson or Cameron Fleming are pretty fine, but he was almost universally considered a worse draft project. Evidentally, the Seahawks didn’t agree.

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