Answers in Search of a Question: Denver's 2009 Draftees

"We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself." -- Lloyd Alexander

"Okay football fans, here we go.  Welcome to the 2009 NFL Draft.  I guess you're ready to get going.  Thank you for taking the afternoon to be with us.  This is a great day for the NFL. . ."

    One of the first active threads I participated in here at MHR came on draft day.  My wife was gone for the weekend with her girl scout troop.  My daughters were both gone.  I was home alone, and thus spent waaaayyyy too much time glued to my keyboard following the ebb and flow of the draft selections.  It was an interesting experience, getting see how the many different members viewed each selection.  Hopes ran high, fell flat, and roller coasted all over the spectrum of emotions.  Some of our members were ecstatic about the picks, some were content, some disliked what occurred. 

    Now, because I'm not a particularly good draft prognosticator, I recently posted a look at some rookies who were named by Vic Carrucci of NFL.com as being most likely to have a positive impact on their team.  I used statistics compiled by Pro Football Focus as a means of launching the discussion.  This time around, I'd like to take a look at those college players that were drafted by the Broncos in the 2009 draft.  After the fold, we'll see what we ended up with.

    I would like to preface this look at our 2009 draft picks with a couple of caveats:  First, this list includes only those players whose names were called during one of the seven rounds of the NFL draft.  This is to say, I did not include the Free Agents who were brought in, nor did I choose to include the College Free Agents. 

    Second, prior to the natural inclination to compare one of the players we actually picked to one that you wish we had picked, I would encourage you to take a look at the number of snaps that the players in question actually played.  For example, I've seen comments about how some fans would have preferred Brian Orakpo over Robert Ayers.  They might be tempted to cite how Orakpo achieved a 10.0 rating versus the rush while Ayers' rating was only -1.6.  It might be helpful to realize that Orakpo was on the field for 922 snaps, while Ayers only played 426.  In other words, Orakpo had over twice as many plays with which to hone his skills.  This is a part of the equation that often gets overlooked: practice makes perfect, and opportunity plays a role in how high and how quickly a player's statistics can grow.  

    Third, and finally, I would like to point out some things about the data I used to compile these tables.  The information was drawn from Pro Football Focus (http://profootballfocus.com/home.php?tab=home).  This site provides some nice compilations of statistics, some ratings of those statistics, and most of the statistics are sortable.  The statistics can also be filtered.  PFF filters the the stats by the following criteria:

1)All -- every player at a given position who was on the field for at least 1 snap.
2)25% -- players at a given position who was on the field for at least 25% of his teams offensive or defensive snaps (depending on position.
3)50% -- players who were on the field for at least 50% of the snaps.
4)60% -- players who were on the field for at least 60% of the snaps.
5)75% -- players who were on the field for at least 75% of the snaps.

There is one glaring problem with this filtering template: players who were on the field for less than 25% of the teams snaps, can only be viewed in the context of all of the players at that position.  This can be an unfair comparison for some of the rookies in the league.  How fair is it to rank, say, a rookie safety who plays 5% of the snaps against a veteran safety who plays 85% of the team's snaps?  So, as you peruse these statistics, I would suggest that the first thing you want to look at are the number of snaps that the player was on the field.

    I would also like to point out that I am making absolutely no attempt to compare our draftees to any other individual player.  I am simply looking to see how they ranked in comparison to the rest of the players at their position as a whole.  If you want to compare a particular player, say Knowshon Moreno, to someone on another team, I would invite you to go to Pro Football Focus, research the other player and then share your observations in a fan post.  I am not trying to be rude or curt with that suggestion, quite the opposite really.  It is the point/counterpoint and fan participation that makes MHR a very rich site.

    Without further ado, let's take a look at our ten 2009 draftees (pictures courtesy of SBNation):


1)Knowshon Moreno

Drafted in the 1st round.  Received permission from the mother of the late Darrent Williams to wear #27 in honor of Williams, on the condition that Knowshon provide at least two hours per month of volunteer work at the Darrent Williams Teen Center.  He signed a 5-year contract.

  All (131) 25% (63) 50% (29) 60% (21) 75%
Snaps 611 17th 17th 14th 11th N/A
OA 0.7 46th 31st 14th 11th N/A
Pass -4.2 130th 62nd 28th 20th N/A
Run 4.5 15th 15th 12th 10th N/A
Block 1.9 14th 12th 8th 6th N/A
Penalty -1.5 126th 57th 25th 18th N/A
Attempts 247 10th 10th 10th 10th N/A
Yards 947 16th 16th 15th 13th N/A
Average 3.8 74th 38th 22nd 18th N/A
Yd after Con 603 16th 16th 15th 13th N/A
YAC/Att 2.4 80th 38th 21st 15th N/A
TD 7 16th 15th 11th 10th N/A
Missed Tkl 23 16th 16th 12th 10th N/A
Fumbles 1 74th 19th 5th 3rd N/A

We can first notice that Moreno was on the field for over 60% of Denver's offensive snaps.  As such, he is being compared to the top 20 rushers in 2009.  He was in the top 10 in rushing attempts and the top 15 in yards.  His average, however was in the bottom half of the league.  What leaps out of this data is the fact that 64% of his yards came after first contact.  This is a strong indication of issues with the offensive line; while working the Upon Further Review  team, there were many instances in which Moreno was hit first in the backfield.  From what I've been given to understand, yards after first contact are tough for a RB to acquire.  We can also take note of the fact that he was in the top 10 in touchdowns among rushers, and the top 10 in breaking, or forcing misses on tackles.

 

2)Robert AyersDrafted in the 1st round.  Signed a 5-year contract.

  All (68) 25% (28) 50% 60% 75%
Snaps 426 23rd 23rd N/A N/A N/A
OA 1.6 20th 15th N/A N/A N/A
Rush -1.6 55th 21st N/A N/A N/A
Cover 1.2 11th 9th N/A N/A N/A
Run 3.0 13th 13th N/A N/A N/A
Penalty -1.0 43rd 7th N/A N/A N/A
QB Sck 0 38th 27th N/A N/A N/A
QB Hit 5 17th 17th N/A N/A N/A
QB Pr 17 15th 15th N/A N/A N/A
Bat Pass 1 8th 7th N/A N/A N/A
Tkl 19 22nd 22nd N/A N/A N/A
Asst 0 41st 28th N/A N/A N/A
Missed Tkl 2 42nd 8th N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)            
Stops 12 25th 24th N/A N/A N/A
Thrwn At 9 18th 17th N/A N/A N/A
Recep 6 18th 16th N/A N/A N/A
% Caught 66.7 32nd 17th N/A N/A N/A
Yards 48 19th 17th N/A N/A N/A
Average 8.0 24th 18th N/A N/A N/A
TD 0 1st 1st N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)            
Int 0 5th 3rd N/A N/A N/A
Pass Def 0 5th 12th N/A N/A N/A

It should be noted that Ayers was on the field for less than 50% of Denver's defensive snaps.  It is interesting to note that he ranked in the top 10 in coverage.  He also had more QB pressures than I remember.  It is also helpful to remember that he amassed these stats in spite of being deactivated for the second San Diego game.  If I remember the facts of that game correctly, he was deactivated in favor of Jarvis Moss because Denver believed that San Diego's left tackle would be susceptible to Moss' style of speed rushing.  Unfortunately, Moss was not able to achieve the intended goal.  He was also among the top 10 in both coverage rating and batted passes.

 

3)Alphonso Smith
Drafted in the 2nd round after Denver traded their first round pick in 2010 to Seattle in order to move up to take Smith.  Signed a 4-year contract.

  All (198) 25% 50% 60% 75%
Snaps 150 129th N/A N/A N/A N/A
OA -3.1 132nd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Rush 0.1 50th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Cover -3.8 165th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Run 0.6 60th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Penalty 0.0 1st N/A N/A N/A N/A
QB Sck 0 32nd N/A N/A N/A N/A
QB Hit 0 14th N/A N/A N/A N/A
QB Pr 1 30th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Tkl 8 131st N/A N/A N/A N/A
Asst 0 122nd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Missed Tkl 6 150th N/A N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)            
Stops 4 117th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Thrwn At 19 120th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Recep 13 119th N/A N/A N/A N/A
% Caught 68.4 51st N/A N/A N/A N/A
Yards 186 113th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Average 14.3 36th N/A N/A N/A N/A
TD 1 63rd N/A N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)            
Int 0 94th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pass Def 2 97th N/A N/A N/A N/A

First, we should note that Smith was on the field for less than 25% of Denver's defensive snaps.  Without an explanation form the coaching staff, we do not know the reason for his limited play.  The second thing that should be taken into account, is that he is being ranked against all 198 CBs to be on the field in 2009 -- this means he is being compared to such players as Dawkins Hill and Bailey.  Thus it is very difficult to determine the true nature of Smith's capabilities.  When we compare Smith to other CBs with a similar number of snaps (there were 5 with snaps ranging from 147 to 161 -- Smith had 150).  Among that group, Smith was 4th in the overall rating, but 1st in the rushing rating, 4th in the coverage rating, but  2nd against the run.

 

4)Darcel McBath
Drafted in the 2nd round.  Signed a 4-year contract.

  All (118) 25% 50% 60% 75%
Snaps 127 112th N/A N/A N/A N/A
OA 2.6 16th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Rush -0.1 102nd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Cover 2.7 19th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Run 0.0 81st N/A N/A N/A N/A
Penalty 0.0 1st N/A N/A N/A N/A
QB Sck 0 44th N/A N/A N/A N/A
QB Hit 0 65th N/A N/A N/A N/A
QB Pr 0 71st N/A N/A N/A N/A
Tkl 14 98th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Asst 0 118th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Missed Tkl 1 59th N/A N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)            
Stops 4 91st N/A N/A N/A N/A
Thrwn At 7 103rd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Recep 3 109th N/A N/A N/A N/A
% Caught 42.9 132nd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Yards 24 123rd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Average 8.0 127th N/A N/A N/A N/A
TD 0 1st N/A N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)            
Int 0 94th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pass Def 1 70th N/A N/A N/A N/A

As with Alphonso Smith, we must take note of the fact that McBath was on the field for less than 25% of Denver's defensive snaps, so he is being compared to all of the safeties in the league.  It is interesting to note that his overall rating and his coverage rating were both placed in the top 20 among safeties.  When we narrow the comparison to those safeties with a similar number of snaps, McBath was first in all rated categories.

 

5)Richard Quinn
Drafted in 2nd round. Signed 4-year contract.

  All (103) 25% 50% 60% 75%
Snaps 80 88th N/A N/A N/A N/A
OA 2.4 17th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pass -0.1 45th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pass Blk 0.6 31st N/A N/A N/A N/A
Run Blk 1.9 24th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Penalty 0.0 1st N/A N/A N/A N/A
Thrwn At 1 96th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Rec 0 103rd N/A N/A N/A N/A
% Caught 0 103rd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Yards 0 103rd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Yd/Rec 0 103rd N/A N/A N/A N/A
YAC 0 99th N/A N/A N/A N/A
YAC/Rec 0 99th N/A N/A N/A N/A
TD 0 62nd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Int 0 49th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Drops 0 1st N/A N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)            
Missed Tkl 0 55th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Fumbles 0 1st N/A N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)          

Saw very limited duty, but did relatively well when he was on the field.  Found it interesting that PFF keeps a stat line on the number of interceptions that were made by the opposing team when a receiver was thrown to.  When compared to TE's with a similar number of snaps (77-84, Quinn had 80), we find there were 3.  Quinn was rated 1st in overall rating and in run blocking; he was rated 2nd in passing and pass blocking.

 

6)David Bruton
Drafted in the 4th round.  Signed a 4-year contract.  Was regarded as a top prospect at his position in the 2009 draft.

  All (118) 25% 50% 60% 75%
Snaps 76 129th N/A N/A N/A N/A
OA 2.7 15th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Rush -0.1 102nd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Cover 1.9 25th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Run 0.9 48th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Penalty 0.0 1st N/A N/A N/A N/A
QB Sck 0 44th N/A N/A N/A N/A
QB Hit 0 65th N/A N/A N/A N/A
QB Pr 0 71st N/A N/A N/A N/A
Tkl 4 127th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Asst 1 96th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Missed Tkl 0 1st N/A N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)            
Stops 2 114th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Thrwn At 0 153rd N/A N/A N/A N/A
Recep 0 147th N/A N/A N/A N/A
% Caught 0.0 147th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Yards 0 147th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Average 0.0 147th N/A N/A N/A N/A
TD 0 1st N/A N/A N/A N/A
(fewest)            
Int 0 78th N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pass Def 1 70th N/A N/A N/A N/A

Bruton made the majority of his contributions on special teams -- see below.  He did place in the top 15 in overall rating.  There were 3 safeties with a similar number of snaps to Bruton (72-82, Bruton had 76).  Bruton was rated 1st in overall, coverage and run ratings, and 4th in rushing.

 

7)Seth Olsen
Drafted in the 4th round.  Signed a 4-year contract.  Listed as having been active for 3 games, but did not record any regular season, offensive unit stats.

 

8)Kenny McKinley
Drafted in the 5th round.  Placed on injured reserve on Dec 28. Did not record any regular season, offensive unit stats.

 

9)Tom Brandstater
Drafted in 6th round Denver.  Signed a 4-year contract.  Did not record any regular season, offensive unit stats.

 

10)Blake Schlueter
Drafted in 7th round.  Waived on Sept 1.  Signed by Seattle to their practice squad on Sept 7, released on Sep 15. Signed to Atlanta's practice squad on Nov 24.

 

A Word About Special Teams

    Some of our rookies did participate in special teams play, and in Kick off/Punt returns in particular.  These statistics include the following ratings and statistics:

Special Teams
G # of games played on special teams
OA PFF Overall Rating
KO PFF Kick Off Rating
P PFF Punt Rating
FG/EP PFF FG/ExPt Rating
Pen PFF Penalty Rating
Tkl # of Tackles made
Asst # of Assists made
MT # of Missed Tackles
 
  Kick Off and Punt Returns
G # of games played on Kick Offs and/or Punt Returns
OA PFF Overall Rating
K Ret PFF Kick Off Return Rating
P Ret PFF Punt Return Rating
KR # of Kick Off Returns
Yds # of Yards
FC # of Fair Catches
Ave Average of Kick Off Returns
TD Kick Offs Returned for a TD
PR # of Punt Returns
Yds # of Yards
FC # of Fair Catches
Ave Average of Punt Returns
TD Punts Returned for a TD

 

 

Special Teams and Returns

 

Special Teams 930 Players Ratings: -5.0 to 9.5  
  Bruton McBath Ayers Smith Quinn McKinney
G 8 8 3 3 2 N/A
OA 3.5 2.5 0 -3.5 -3.0 N/A
KO 2.0 2.5 0.5 -0.5 -1.0 N/A
P 2.5 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 N/A
FG/EP 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 N/A
Pen -1.0 0.0 -1.0 -3.0 -2.0 N/A
Tkl 9 10.0 1 1 1 N/A
Asst 0 1 1 1 0 N/A
MT 1 0 0 1 1 N/A
 
  Returns 291 Players Ratings: -4.9 to 10.7    
  Bruton McBath Ayers Smith Quinn McKinney
G N/A N/A N/A 6 1 5
OA N/A N/A N/A -1.9 -0.1 0.5
K Ret N/A N/A N/A -0.4 -0.1 -0.2
P Ret N/A N/A N/A -1.5 0.0 0.7
KR N/A N/A N/A 4 1 7
Yds N/A N/A N/A 75 19.0 158
FC N/A N/A N/A 0 0 0
Ave N/A N/A N/A 18.8 19 22.6
TD N/A N/A N/A 0 0 0
PR N/A N/A N/A 10 0 3
Yds N/A N/A N/A 47 0 32
FC N/A N/A N/A 3 0 0
Ave N/A N/A N/A 4.7 0 10.7
TD N/A N/A N/A 0 0 0

 

 

Observations

    It is interesting to note that only Moreno and Ayers saw significant playing time on regular plays.  Moreno was on the field for 60% of Denver's offensive snaps, and Ayers was on the field for 41% of the defensive snaps.  After that, playing time for rookies began to tail off rather quickly: Smith (14%), McBath (12%), Quinn (7%), Bruton (7%).  Olsen, McKinney and Brandstater had no recorded statistics at PFF, and Schlueter was waived. Ayers has often been criticized for a lack of "production."  By production, I would assume that his critics are referring to tackles, sacks etc.  It is often missed that he had 17 quarterback pressures -- an act of forcing a quarterback to change what he is wanting to do -- which ranked 15th among all 68 players at the OLB position.

     Smith, Bruton, McBath, Quinn and McKinney all contributed on Special Teams. Bruton's 3.5 overall rating placed him 20th among the 930 players who played on special teams.  McBath's 2.5 rating put him in 41st place.  What these statistics do not show is the non-statistical participation of these players on special teams -- such as forcing an opposing player off his line of attack, throwing a block, etc.  Careful film review is needed to spy out these sorts of contributions.  This is especially true of Quinn.  His primary role when on the field for a special teams play was to be a blocker.

     It could be inferred that McDaniels prefers to play his veterans first, and bring the majority of his rookies along more slowly, though it must be admitted that this is purely speculation on my part.  When I mentioned this observation to Emmett Smith during a conversation recently, his response was something along the lines of: "Well, yeah.  Most head coaches prefer to play veterans over rookies."  What head coach will choose to play a rookie if he has a veteran with equivalent skills available?


    So what do we make of our rookie class, after Year 1?  I'm inclined to take the position that, with the exception of Moreno, given the limited participation we have in game situations, it is too early to tell precisely what we have in this set of rookies.  The player who the most playing time -- Moreno -- showed a great deal of promise.  Ayers had flashes of great play, so may just require time to develop more.  The rest of the class were pretty much middle of the pack in most areas, though that most likely is a result of limited playing time.

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