NFL Draft 2014 SPARQ Profiling, Part 4 - Wide Receiver

Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE

It's time to evaluate the 2014 crop of wide receivers. There are so, so many receivers.

If you missed earlier entries in the series, it'd be helpful for you to catch up before reading this one.

Introducing rSPARQ

SPARQ Profiling, Part 1: Offensive Line

SPARQ Profiling, Part 2: Tight End

SPARQ Profiling, Part 3: Running Back

Recap

As a reminder of the basic terminology, here's a little summary of our two metrics.

rSPARQ - a "regression SPARQ" metric, defined by back-calculating NIKE's SPARQ formula and applying regression techniques to get pretty close to the original formulation.

pSPARQ - a "position-adjusted" or "profiled" SPARQ which takes into account a few more parameters, weighting them according to public comments from Seahawks brass and analysis of the existing roster. The main change is using broad jump more than bench press with vertical jump to determine the player's power/explosiveness SPARQ contribution.

Existing Roster

We already calculated rSPARQ for wide receivers in the initial post, but we still haven't looked at the existing roster and provided context for these results. Wide receiver is an interesting position in this draft because of the talent available and a certain Golden Tate-sized hole in the Seattle depth chart. As with the previous posts: this table represents a cross-section of Seattle wide receivers or acquired by current Seattle management.

Running backs are pretty similar to wide receivers in SPARQ-makeup, even in all categories except weight and bench press, so we don't need to do any tweaking of our formula. Again, everything's normalized so that the average wide receiver is at a 110 pSPARQ.

Existingwr_medium

These results show the weakness of rSPARQ in dealing with certain positions. With the broad jump rather than the bench press figuring in, players like Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse rocket up the board (sorted by pSPARQ). There's no reason for Doug's 6 reps on the bench press to make him a below-average receiver when he ranks highly in every other category. As we'll see in a bit, the bench press appears to share very little correlation with success for wide receivers, so I don't have any qualms about marginalizing the effect.

And hey, Doug Baldwin! Our favorite angry slot receiver looks great in this analysis, particularly when compared to other slot receivers. There's also somewhat of an inherent bias against big receivers, because the Brandon Marshalls and Sidney Rices of the world just can't cut on a dime like Percy Harvin.

Before we continue, a similar table to one we've seen before to establish the pattern.

Wr_stats_medium

Seattle receivers are clearly excellent in the vertical, 3-cone, and speed categories, which are probably the three most intuitive areas for a receiver to excel. This data makes a lot of sense.

Wide receiver, like tight end, is a position less homogeneous in skill set than running back. For a slot receiver, a 120 value is very good. A flanker who's in the SPARQ sweet spot (5110-6020 or so) will probably need to get to 125-130+ to stand out, and a bigger receiver will generally fall from 100-120. We have to be careful to look at the individual components of a receiver's SPARQ, use critical thinking to establish how he utilizes that athleticism to play his position, and then grade for the roster to see if he makes sense as a potential pick.

Chris Harper, Outlier

Hello, Chris Harper. The following table shows his rank relative to the other twelve Seahawk receivers in each SPARQ category.

Chrisharperranks_medium

This is a bit of an odd one. You can make cases for the other lower-SPARQ guys on the list. Golden Tate has very good quickness and speed, he's just sub-200 lbs and very average at the power/explosiveness drills. The C/Krises Matthews and Durham are at least tall, long-striding red-line targets. Chris Harper's SPARQ is only where it is because of weight and bench press, the two values which correlate the least with the rest of Seahawk receivers.

Chris Harper is the SPARQ outlier, and he was cut out of training camp after being selected in the fourth round.

Historical Context

Having seen that SPARQ scores for taller receivers seem to be a little lower, I thought it'd be interesting to see how the super-elite (and one decidedly non-elite) NFL receivers fare. There were some missing bench numbers, so I just used an average value of 15 reps.

Historicalwr_medium

Star receivers are insane. Calvin Johnson is insane. The world is insane.

(I'm more convinced than ever that the bench press is just noise)

2014 Draft

The same note applies as before: values that are bolded, italicized, and underlined are assumed. If most of the necessary variables were present, I assumed that the player's 40 would be in the same percentile as his 10-split, 3-cone to shuttle, etc. This means that if a player doesn't have a 10-yard split, his speed index is only influenced by his 40, and things function similarly for other categories.

Again, disclaimer: the average values of rSPARQ to pSPARQ may seem alarming in some cases (pretty high for a few players), but it averages out.

There are a ton of receivers. So many receivers. It may look like there's too many guys above 110, but the average is still true. There are just so. many. receivers.

2014draft_wr_medium

Jarvis Landry, Outlier

Jarvis Landry doesn't just have a bad SPARQ. He has the 162nd-best SPARQ, which isn't great as it also happens to be the second-worst. Seattle might be interested on taking a chance on a lower-rated guy, but it seems extremely difficult to imagine them picking a player who's 30 SPARQ points below noted outlier Anquan Boldin. It's not just that Landry tested poorly at the combine, it's that he might have a worse SPARQ than any other receiver in the league, and one that's 2 or 3 standard deviations from the lowest-rated Seahawk.

There's been a fair amount of chatter that he was hurt at the combine, and that his test results are not indicative of his ability. His pro day is April 9th, and it'll be vital for him to put up respectable numbers and get to a 100-105 SPARQ. Again, it's not that Seattle doesn't pick guys who are slightly lower, it's that they don't pick guys that are standard deviations below the average.

Highlights

A few guys that stood out to me on the list:

Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana, 135 rSPARQ, 134 pSPARQ

I'll try to keep my thoughts here to somewhere less than a dissertation.

Latimer was projected as a 3rd-4th round pick only a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, he's now getting 2nd round buzz and even a few murmurings of late-first potential. Physically, he's what we hoped Chris Harper would be, his size making him a great run-blocker and jump-ball target.

He's clever and instinctual when the ball's in the air, using his body to shield defenders and create late separation in a similar manner to that of Anquan Boldin. As a receiver, you can either create separation through speed (Mike Wallace) or use your body to make initial separation unnecessary. Now, Latimer's quite fast and can separate athletically, but it's the ability to do the latter that makes me the most excited about his pro potential. A great example is a catch he had against Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, one of the top corner prospects in the draft (view here, catch around 1:40).

The flat-out coolest thing about Latimer, though, is that he helps out everywhere. Watch this breakdown of his game against Penn State last season. He makes several devastating run blocks, snags a highlight catch on the sideline, takes a few screens for first downs, makes two special teams tackles, and recovers both a kickoff fumble and an onside kick. He looks motivated to be playing in every phase, and that's not necessarily something you see from star college wideouts. Latimer's a great potential Seahawk because he contributes in all facets of the game to the goal of "bigger, faster, stronger."

It comes down to where he's available. He fits the prototype, but is probably a reach at 1.32. He may be a candidate for a trade down to the mid-second.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State, 134 rSPARQ, 131 pSPARQ

Elite production and elite SPARQ. I think at some point I'll need to go back through historical data and see how good of a predictor that combination is, because it intuitively feels important. He's short, but fits the bill everywhere else and plays bigger than 5'9". I watch most Oregon State games, and what Cooks did last year should've been impossible. He elevated a team with a mediocre quarterback and no running game into a dynamic offensive force, single-handedly bringing the team back from several deficits.

I'm not sure what the physics background of the average Field Gulls reader is, but I know everyone's had some experience with magnets. Well, there are still things about the physics of magnets that science has not yet been able to explain. In my undergrad physics class, we were told that "we can't figure out the damn things, they're basically magic." That was the really fun thing about watching Cooks last year: the coverage, route, and quarterback seemed irrelevant. He was getting open, and it was magic.

(No, my physics instructor did not actually believe that magnets were magic.)

Because he's likely a 1st round pick and we have a fairly short receiving group already, he doesn't seem like an obvious pick. Despite this, Kippy Brown was spotted at Oregon State's pro day and news came out over the weekend of another meeting between Seattle and Cooks. It's hard to know if this is legitimate interest or a smokescreen. Watch this space.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss, 121 rSPARQ, 136 pSPARQ

Woah! 6'3" with elite athleticism. If I could refer back up the "historical context" section, take a look at Stephen Hill. Elite athleticism and question marks elsewhere in the 2012 draft. There's a lot of people who feel that Moncrief's athleticism make him a no-brainer. I just see Moncrief as a risk, and is a receiving class so deep, I'm not sure that's what we should be selecting.

Odell Beckham, WR, LSU, 122 rSPARQ, 130 pSPARQ

Marqise Lee, WR, USC, 119 rSPARQ, 126 pSPARQ

At the risk of repeating a Latimer-esque gushfest, I have to talk about Odell Beckham. He's probably one we'd have to move up for, but I still have to at least get my feelings out on the page. It's very difficult to place a 3.94 short shuttle in context; basically, it's stupid. He's got three-sigma type agility, fantastic burst, and power/explosion numbers which match the existing roster very well. He also has the track record of college success to go with the SPARQ-y skill set. He's slightly below 6 feet, but missing out on this kind of talent because of a few inches in height seems asinine. These are the kind of agility numbers that we will compare other top prospects to for the next five or ten years.

Marqise Lee is just below OBJ in most categories, which means he fits our profile just about as well. Yes, he's likely gone before our pick, but I'd bet that any fall wouldn't extend past 1.32.

Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor, 114 rSPARQ, 129 pSPARQ

I watched Tevin Reese in college, and I'm still not sure he'll translate well to the NFL. But in direct contrast to the land war/Asia rule, you should never ignore an Art Briles receiver. Ever.

Nathan Slaughter, WR, West Texas A&M, 128 rSPARQ, 140 pSPARQ

I'm basically obligated to talk about the top-ranked SPARQ guy. I know close to nothing about him, and he's probably just the Charcandrick (Charcandrick!) West of WRs. Feel free to treat yourself to nine minutes of small-school highlight awesomeness.

There are a ton of other receivers, but I can't talk about them all. Remember when looking at the data that height isn't adjusted for in SPARQ, so Kelvin Benjamin types need to be considered in their proper context.

We'll return in a few days with our first look at the defensive side of the ball.

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