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Pass Rushers: The Myth of the "Workout Warrior"?

Discussion in 'Patriots Draft Talk' started by patchick, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    With the two top rookie pass rushers this year being "measurables freaks" Bruce Irvin and Chandler Jones, and with other recent examples of workout warriors made good like Clay Matthews, I started to wonder about the oft-repeated wisdom that you can't tell much from what players do in shorts.

    I decided to compare the major-conference pass rushers who put up the best numbers on the field vs. the best measurables at the Combine over a five-year period, 2006-2010. (I couldn't go later because many of the top producers are still in college.)

    For production, I took the players who put up the highest single-season sack totals over that period. For measurables, I required:
    Length (6'4"+) /Strength (20+ reps)/Explosiveness (VJ 35"+, BJ 09'06"+, 10-yd split 1.65-)/Quickness (3-cone 7.25-). A modest miss on one subscore was ok IF the player significantly overperformed on most others.

    An * next to a player name indicates at least one 6+ sack or Pro Bowl season in the NFL.

    The All-Shorts Team:
    *Mario Williams
    *Kamerion Wimbley
    *Mark Anderson
    *Manny Lawson
    *Gaines Adams
    Jamaal Anderson
    Vernon Gholston
    *Chris Long
    Jeremy Thomspon (note: retired in 2nd NFL season for medical reasons)
    *Connor Barwin
    *Brian Cushing (note: moved to ILB in NFL)
    *Clay Matthews
    Brad Jones
    *Brian Orakpo
    *Michael Johnson

    The All-Pads Team:
    Ameer Ismail
    *Von Miller (note: not eligible for above list because still in college in 2010)
    Greg Middleton
    Da'Quan Bowers (note: limited games due to injury)
    Jerry Hughes
    Brandon Sharpe
    George Selvie
    Jamaal Anderson
    Vernon Gholston
    *Chris Long
    Jan Jorgensen
    Phillip Hunt
    Bruce Irvin (note: rookie)
    Brandon Jenkins
    Jonathan Massaquoi

    Who would have qualified based on measurables in 2011 & 2012? Check it out:

    *Von Miller
    *Justin Houston
    *J.J. Watt
    *Ryan Kerrigan
    Chandler Jones (note: rookie)

    My goodness.

    It's pretty striking that the 2 major busts on the measurables-only list, Gholston & J. Anderson, also made the productivity list! Also, the measurables screen identified just late-round sleeper, Brad Jones, and he has turned out to be a nice 7th-round pickup for the Packers. None of the late-round picks on the productivity list have amounted to anything.

    Does this mean that teams shoud just shut down their scouting departments and just. sort tables of measurables instead? Of course not. My screen was purposely simplistic. But I do think that -- for pass rushers, at least -- it's time to put aside the scorn for "drooling over measurables."
  2. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I don't think we should ever scorn great measurables. Or great intangibles. Or great smarts. Or great productivity. But we've learned that even the combination of all of them doesn't guarantee success in the NFL, and we've seen several "sure things" flop over the bigs. Success in the college ranks doesn't translate to success in the pros, even with incredible physical tools.

    Looking at the current group of college prospects, there are an amazing number of guys with tremendous physical tools and huge upside. Consider the DE position alone: Margus Hunt (6'8" 290#, reported 4.7 speed or better), Devin Taylor (6'7"+ 270#, can drop into coverage), Cornelius Carradine (6'5" 270#), Ziggy Ansah (6'6" 270#, plays LB for BYU), William Gholston (6'7" 280#, started as a LB), Deion Jordan (6'6" 243#, plays slot CB at times), Michael Buchana (6'5" 240#, plays a Leo type of DE/OLB role for Illinois). None of those guys would be a certain 1st round pick if the draft were held today, and the odds are at least 1 and maybe more might even slip to day 3. It's hard to predict which one(s) of those guys will be the dominant pro(s) over the others, but I'd be willing to bet that there are some future Watts', Barwins, Jones', Irvins, etc. in that group. And it wouldn't shock me at all if an "inconsistent" or "underproductive" player at the college level with all the physical tools managed to put it together and become dominant at the pro level. Sometimes it just takes time, maturity, the right fit, the right coaching, or just plain luck.
  3. patsfaninpa

    patsfaninpa Rookie

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    The defensive line is historically the toughest position to draft. You love to have the measurables. You love to have the great motor. So much of this position is want to. It's awfully difficult for an outsider. Like us to determine. We don't see the interviews with the prospects. We don't have the background checks. We don't get to talk to their college coaches. One thing I do know. As we start drafting more of them. Be ready for some busts and all of the bs that comes with it on the board. I knew that kid was a bum.etc

    I'm still baffled this kid didn't become an all-pro. Here's a link to SI article on him.
    Had the size, speed, character, intelligence, hard-worker. What happened?

    Penn State's Courtney Brown doesn't toot his own horn, - 04.17.00 - SI Vault
  4. Snake Eyes

    Snake Eyes Rookie

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    Great post and outstanding research.

    I think the issue comes down to correct application of information.

    To get very excited about the 40 time of a D-lineman is silly because that's simply not what they're doing on the field, so people are looking at the wrong thing. If we then look at proper drills/exercises which do have on the field applicability, that's only part of the picture but it's most definitely a part, the issue is to give that athletic ability more weight than it should have when evaluating a player.

    That said, with proper testing I think you can gain enough information to make scouting easier which would make evaluation less prone to error.
  5. fightingirish595

    fightingirish595 Rookie

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    40 times are dumb anyway, they dont even run in pads
  6. BlackFrancis

    BlackFrancis Rookie

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    Just for giggles, one of the models I ran last season was one that looks at the effectiveness for defensive linemen, as divined by a combination of size and Combine numbers. I went into it thinking there were a bunch of guys who would be excellent NFL DLs. The numbers showed the class to be mediocre overall. The best projection was for Michigan DT Mike Martin.

    Taking a look at what rookie DLmen are doing this season, it doesn't look like the model is all that far off, if at all.

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