"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.
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):
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%|
|Yd after Con||603||16th||16th||15th||13th||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%|
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.
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.
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.
Drafted in the 2nd round. Signed a 4-year contract.
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.
Drafted in 2nd round. Signed 4-year contract.
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.
Drafted in the 4th round. Signed a 4-year contract. Was regarded as a top prospect at his position in the 2009 draft.
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.
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.
Drafted in the 5th round. Placed on injured reserve on Dec 28. Did not record any regular season, offensive unit stats.
Drafted in 6th round Denver. Signed a 4-year contract. Did not record any regular season, offensive unit stats.
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:
|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|
|Returns||291 Players||Ratings:||-4.9 to 10.7|
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.