It's been a while since the SPARQ series ran in April. I've been remarkably tardy in writing a SPARQ-cap of the draft and we've almost made it through the July Wilderness and into training camp season. With that in mind, I think it's worthwhile to cover a few bases at the same time, working our way through each position on the roster by evaluating the 2014 draft and also taking a look ahead to camp.
There have been some slight back-end tweaks to SPARQ. The numbers haven’t changed appreciably, but they also won’t be exactly as we saw them pre-draft. Also, I finally processed the 2013 data, adding it to post-draft 2014 data to compute new normalization factors. With more data, we’re able to more confidently state the average athleticism at a given position. On the whole, these normalization tweaks were minimal.
Because it’s important for stats to be difficult to explain, there exist two (2!) different SPARQ formulations of which we need to be aware. I’ll briefly detail the distinguishing features of each.
rSPARQ – this stands for "regression SPARQ." When I attempted the back-calculation in March, the goal was to exactly replicate the formula which was used to generate SPARQ scores for the 2012** High School class. This was the only publicly-available data set available which was large enough to allow for a regression-based analysis.
Now, that SPARQ formula utilizes the powerball throw (the other four inputs: weight, 40 time, short shuttle, and vertical), an exercise which we correlate to the bench press in this metric. This is not ideal by any stretch, as the bench differs significantly in the parameters it measures; however, to keep the formulation as Heisenberg-pure as possible, it was used in a straight swap. As the powerball throw was a key component of rSPARQ, these scores are heavily influenced by the bench press.
** Note that the high school formulation does seem to vary a little from year-to-year. From my (fairly) informed perspective, the scaling is very similar, so their introduction of new tests isn’t making old data irrelevant. It’s just adding in more factors, a similar idea to…. pSPARQ.
pSPARQ – "profiled SPARQ." After running an initial analysis of the Seattle roster and taking into account a few comments made by John Schneider in April, I decided to add in a few new parameters. This accomplishes a few things: (1) a greater number of tests yields a better picture of the athlete (preferable, natch) and (2) allows us to better capture the intent of SPARQ (Yes, there is intent beyond the main drive to confuse readership).
(If this chart is difficult to read, a fully updated 90-man roster is available in google doc form.
2014 DRAFT IN: Paul Richardson (2nd), Kevin Norwood (4th), Kevin Smith (UDFA)
We’ll start here as it’s one of the positions that Seattle targeted in the draft.
Wide receiver is an interesting position for the Seahawks. While there elite athletes at the position such as Percy Harvin (3.93 short shuttle!), Ricardo Lockette, and Jermaine Kearse, it isn't as easy as taking a visit to the top of the SPARQ rankings to predict the draft. This is a position at which there’s an easy goal to isolate: speed, speed, speed.
4.45, 4.42, 4.46, 4.44, 4.33.
Those five numbers represent the forty-yard-dash times for the five receivers Seattle has drafted in the PCJS era. Speed, and at a standard deviation from the WR average. There’s not much deviation from the average at other athletic parameters, such as the short shuttle, broad jump, vertical jump, bench press, and 3-cone drill.
That doesn't mean that speed is the sole requirement. Of the 18 SEA receivers in my database, I have arm length measurements for 9 currently on the roster and 5 who have departed in the last 3 seasons. The average Seattle receiver has 32.6" arms, while the average NFL WR comes in at 31.6". The 5 departed receivers also measure at 31.6". Considering the standard deviation for arm length is 1.5", the current roster comes in at the 75th percentile.
There are some promising player comps for Paul Richardson.
There’s also one that’s a little more discomfiting.
Norwood is older at 25, but fits the mold with speed and length. A few recently drafted doppelgangers are shown in the following table.
TRAINING CAMP PRIMER:
Baldwin, Harvin, Richardson, Norwood, and Kearse are near-locks to make the 2014 roster. As Seattle is likely to carry 6 WR, there are eight players competing for one spot. The team has also carried 2-3 receivers along on the practice squad in recent years, with Phil Bates, Bryan Walters, and Arceto Clark sticking on the P.S. or Shadow Roster last year. My gut instinct is that Lockette’s special teams ability results in him getting the last spot, with Sidney Rice landing on the PUP, a possibility pointed out by The Danny Kelly a few months ago. (My roster prediction isn’t revolutionary. Danny predicted a similar roster a month ago.)
Jared Stanger noted back in April that Kevin Smith would be on Seattle’s practice squad in 2014, and he’s finally on the roster after stints in Arizona and Jacksonville.
ROSTER PREDICTION: Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood, Ricardo Lockette, Kevin Smith (PS)
2014 DRAFT IN: Keith Price (UDFA, since cut)
I don’t consider QB a SPARQ position, so I haven’t compiled a positional adjustment for pSPARQ. Because numbers (!), though, the rSPARQ numbers are included.
Terrelle Pryor is clearly an elite athlete by the eyeball test, but his broad and vertical jump numbers are both well below the standard of a standout. This is likely because quarterbacks treat the pre-draft process differently and don’t specifically train to excel in these drills. My guess is that the QB numbers are depressed for the great majority of prospects.
Quarterback is not a key position in training camp. While Seattle has not typically carried a second backup on the 53-man roster, Pryor has a shot at a roster spot, his main competition being the possible 10th OL, 6th WR, 5th RB, and 4th TE.
ROSTER PREDICTION: Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson, B.J. Daniels (PS)
2014 DRAFT IN: Kiero Small (7th), Demitrius Bronson (UDFA, rookie tryout)
We'll cover both running back and fullback here, two positions which are on opposite ends of the SPARQ spectrum. Fullback is one of two positions (along with nose tackle) where I don't feel there's much of a correlation between athleticism and roster decisions.
Seattle acquisitions at this position were fairly light. Small does have my favorite 2013 highlight reel, which is fourteen minutes of him running into taller things and single-handedly proving the physical concept commonly referred to as "leverage." He's not a SPARQ player by any means, falling near the bottom the roster by both raw and position-adjusted standards.
I've previously written enough about Christine Michael to last his career, but one more nugget: he has the highest rSPARQ of any player over the last two drafts.
TRAINING CAMP PRIMER:
Carroll-era Seattle has typically carried five backs (3 RB and 2 FB) and I'm assuming that this trend will continue in 2014. While Bronson has promise, it appears more likely that he contends for the practice squad than displace either Christine Michael or Robert Turbin.
The remaining players for the two fullback slots are Small, Spencer Ware, and Derrick Coleman. The team was committed to giving Ware a spot last year, carrying him on the 53 even when he was hobbled by a high-ankle sprain and unable to contribute (though he did eventually hit the IR). Because of this, I think he takes the FB/RB hybrid role and Small slots in as the pure fullback.
ROSTER PREDICTION: Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Spencer Ware, Kiero Small
2014 DRAFT IN: Chase Dixon (UDFA, priority), Rashaun Allen (UDFA, rookie tryout)
There's a bit of a small sample size warning on Seattle tight ends. Only 3 have been drafted in the PCJS era, so conclusions come with an asterisk. Acknowledging this, the drafted numbers are kind of hilarious. The Konz/Willson/McCoy group rings in the following z-scores relative to position: 40 (1.64σ), 10 (2.11σ), SS (0.62σ), 3C (1.15σ), BP (0.20σ), Vertical (2.30σ), Broad (1.18σ).
All of this results in an average pSPARQ z-score of 134.3, equivalent to a 2.10σ.
With that context in mind, where does the 2014 class? Well, Chase Dixon was coming back from an injury this spring and we don't have test results available. He had private workouts with New Orleans (drafters of Noted Athletic Specimen Jimmy Graham) and Seattle, so there's a decent chance he's a pretty good athlete.
Now, yeah, that's a SPARQ. A collection of Dixon GIFs are included in a prior Field Gulls post.
Rashaun Allen is also an excellent athlete, particularly for a rookie tryout. The Seahawks will often double-down on a player type, and that appears to be the case with Allen. If you squint, you can just about see the general outline of Anthony McCoy, and his 38" vertical is a pretty interesting proposition as a red-zone target.
TRAINING CAMP PRIMER:
With Luke Willson and Zach Miller as roster locks and Anthony McCoy having a fully-guaranteed contract, it's a little difficult to see another tight end making the 53-man roster; however, there are a few ways that I could see it playing out.
First, my pet theory is that Seattle's considered a WR6/TE4 hybrid player. Last year's receiving group did lack a big target, but players like Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate played bigger than their height and the attack wasn't significantly hindered in most situations. There was a noticeable lack of a large red-zone target, though, a role which PCJS have attempted to fill since their arrival. If Chase Dixon (he of the 33% college TD rate, h/t to Stanger) or Rashaun Allen is able to fill this role, they could function similarly to a Sidney Rice or Chris Matthews.
It's also true that Anthony McCoy isn't a stone-cold lock to make the roster. He's returning from a difficult injury, and Seattle's cut a player with guaranteed money before. Still, McCoy's an excellent blocker and familiar in the scheme, so it'd be a surprise to see him cut.
My ultimate guess is that Seattle keeps all three veteran tight ends and tries to sneak Chase Dixon onto the practice squad. It's probably an excellent sign for Dixon's long-term future if he makes the 53, but McCoy remains the solid favorite.
ROSTER PREDICTION: Zach Miller, Luke Willson, Anthony McCoy, Chase Dixon (PS)
2014 DRAFT IN: Justin Britt (2nd), Garrett Scott (6th), Garry Gilliam (UDFA, priority), Bronson Irwin (UDFA), Nathan Isles (UDFA, rookie tryout)
The Seattle offensive line is the model of SPARQ-centric drafting. Garrett Scott is the most athletic player (relative to position, as usual) of the last two drafts. Jared Smith was second to him over that span, and (by deduction) first in 2013. Garry Gilliam was a top-ten overall z-score in 2014. This doesn't include J.R. Sweezy and his 3.41 z-score, very possibly the best in the 2012 class. It's true that Smith and Sweezy wouldn't rank as well if they weren't converted to guard, but for the purposes of our analysis, we need only consider their Seattle position and corresponding rank.
There is one exception: Seattle has shown a proclivity for a few very large earth-movers at guard, typically on the left side, a mold which fits James Carpenter, John Moffitt, Michael Bowie, and Nate Isles. Both Bowie and Carpenter have played (and were acquired) as tackles, yet Carpenter failed to stick at tackle and Bowie may have put in his best shift at guard last season.
Another string of numbers: 34.3", 33.0", 32.5", which represent the arm length measurements for Seattle OT, OG, and OC, respectively. Britt comes in at the low end at 33.5", but that's just about the smallest you'll see among Seattle tackles, and it's not far below the OT average of 33.7". It's really as simple as: Seattle drafts them with athleticism and length.
There seems to be a significant shift in player acquisition along the line since 2012. In that year and the two subsequent, the team spent late-round picks on elite athletes, also pursuing good athletes in UDFA, such as Alvin Bailey. Some have theorized that this is due to the failure of Carpenter and Moffitt, but it's difficult to assign "credit" in this case. All the data shows is a significant shift since the John Moffitt selection.
I was thinking about a player comp for Britt, and then it came to me.
It's not an identical match, but it's not far off, either.
Scott was a pre-draft favorite of mine who is currently on the Non-Football Injury List. He's likely one to watch in Training Camp 2015. Still, the following table illustrates what kind of athlete he is.
TRAINING CAMP PRIMER
The clear player to watch in camp is Gilliam. In addition to his awesome story, he's a tremendous athlete. Originally a tight end, he converted to tackle as Penn State lacked depth after their NCAA-mandated scholarship limits. Because of his limited experience, he's very raw, but has good feet and was noted as a standout performer in OTAs, even spending some days as the first-team LT ahead of Bailey.
Currently, there are eight players that considered near-locks to make the team: Max Unger, Russell Okung, Lemuel Jeanpierre, James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, Alvin Bailey, Michael Bowie, and Justin Britt. With Gilliam and Caylin Hauptmann both impressing in camp, it appears that one of the two is likely to earn the 9th OL spot. As with Chase Dixon, it will be interesting to see if the team risks releasing Gilliam with the intent of placing him on the practice squad. His lack of experience points to that outcome, but if the team feels he's worth it, we could see a situation play out similar to that of Benson Mayowa last season.
2013 SPARQmonster Jared Smith spent last season on the practice squad and is a potential candidate to continue there this season.
I think the ninth spot is currently Hauptmann's to lose, but I'm going to stay on-SPARQ-brand and predict that Gilliam impresses in camp and forces inclusion into the 53.
ROSTER PREDICTION: Russell Okung, James Carpenter, Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy, Justin Britt, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Michael Bowie, Alvin Bailey, Garry Gilliam, and Jared Smith (PS).
I'll be back later in the week with a look at the defense.