The 2016 NFL Draft is over. We've gone from draft season to draft grade season. There are so many things to talk about during this part of the offseason, from the picks themselves to where they fit on the roster. Who do these picks replace, who is in trouble and all of those other familiar questions creep up. One thing that has always interested me as a math junkie is whether the team has gotten more or less athletic. I developed the Relative Athletic Score to quantify that and give us an idea of whether these new picks make the team faster, more agile, or stronger.
I'll be writing a more detailed explanation of the Relative Athletic Score, or RAS, sometime soon, but for now you should just understand that it measures a player and their measurements against their position group and assigns a 0-10 score. Anything above 5.00 is above average, anything below that line is obviously below average. Does this kind of score matter? For some positions more than others, as it has shown no correlation at all to NFL success for quarterbacks or safeties but a huge relation to success for defensive ends, tight ends and offensive tackles.
Gotta get the big man out of the way early. Taylor Decker measured above average for all of his speed metrics and two of the three explosion metrics. He split his agility scores, though shuttle wasn't far below average, and his worst score was with his poor 20 reps at the bench press. Offensive tackle has a massive correlation to NFL success and higher than average RAS, with only three of the 22 Pro Bowl OTs that have scores being below average since 2000. He compares favorably to former Pro Bowler Marcus McNeil, who was similarly built although somewhat faster and less agile.
A'Shawn Robinson didn't crack 5.00 for his score and happens to play a position where that can be concerning. Only four of the 24 DTs that have a RAS and made a Pro Bowl since 2000 measured below average and only two of those were lower than Robinson's score. The good news for Robinson is that a lot of the good interior nose tackles, the space eaters like what he will be expected to be, don't make Pro Bowls. Well, that's not really good news, but it does mean that his low score doesn't necessarily mean a poor career track.
Graham Glasgow is one of my favorite players from this draft class and my favorite for the Lions. I could go into all the ways he is awesome from his tape, but that's not why we're here today, we're looking at athletic profiles. Glasgow's RAS ended up well above average, but center doesn't have a good correlation to success for RAS so why does it even matter? Fun tidbit, Glasgow's 4.63 shuttle time at 307 lbs was actually better than Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes at 210 lbs. The term "Dancing Bear" comes to mind, and once you turn on his tape that's exactly what you're going to see.
Had Miles Killebrew ran a decent 40, we'd all be talking about one of the greatest athletes to ever play the safety position. As it is, he kinda crapped the bed during that particular drill, leaving an odd mark on his RAS that doesn't readily line up with his other scores. For contrast, two scores that often rate very closely are the broad jump and the 10-yard split. These use the same parts of the body, so they measure a similar aspect of athleticism, lower body burst. Yet Killebrew ended up being elite in one category and near the bottom of the other. That's odd. Strangeness aside, Killebrew is a good athlete that measured very well in most areas. Oddly, there is no correlation for success in the NFL and the safety position, but it never hurts to have someone more athletic in your defensive backfield.
Joe Dahl is one in a new breed of offensive lineman. A consummate pass protector, Dahl comes from an offense where he was asked to do very little else other than prevent defensive linemen from getting past him. Athletically, he needs to improve how much weight he carries on his frame, but that's pretty much the only knock on him. He measured just barely below average for shuttle, but the toughest thing for Dahl is going to be putting on another 10-25 lbs. without losing any of his obvious athletic talents.
When I first saw mention of Antwione Williams, I heard him described as a superb athlete. His numbers don't really bear that out, as his speed scores were all below average and his shuttle was terrible for a linebacker. His above average scores are all good, but none are exceptional. On tape, Williams hits very hard, and for a linebacker that is often indicated by an exceptional vert and broad, showing an athletic lower body. Williams brings that to the table easily, while also managing an above average bench, showing that the top half is pretty well built as well.
Jake Rudock is a quarterback and RAS doesn't really matter for quarterbacks. It's mostly just to point to individual attributes that may aid him in his work on the field. For Rudock, it's his agility. Good hip and ankle mobility reflected in those scores show that from a physical standpoint he should have no trouble moving around a collapsing pocket or escaping if needs be. The low speed times mean he probably isn't going to escape very far while the very low weight for his position and more importantly his size is going to be a concern health wise.
I posted two scores for the former Penn State defensive lineman so I can both remain accurate for what his scores are and to provide some schematic context. Anthony Zettel has already indicated that he will be playing closed end for the Detroit Lions, which is good for him since a straight DE position probably wouldn't have been ideal. Defensive end has one of the cleanest correlations I've found in my data for NFL success and RAS, but that mostly revolves around Pro Bowls and sack production. Closed end is one of those thankless positions where you can be good and productive but will be generally making other people better rather than showing off with your own production. The good thing for Zettel is that it requires him to work on the inside, where his athletic measurements would mark him as an elite athlete. His shuttle for a DT is elite, while his burst and speed for an interior rusher are both very good. It won't be a traditional role, but Zettel should find a way to work into the lineup fairly quickly.
Jimmy Landes is a long snapper and as much as I'm sure you would all like to see it, I do not collect measurement data for long snappers, kickers or punters.
Our final draft pick is also our highest rated athlete. Only a couple slots behind 2015's David Johnson and five spots ahead of Reggie Bush, there is no denying the athletic potential of Dwayne Washington. He fits a new breed of rusher that has crept up lately, pioneered by Adrian Peterson but has only become really popular the past couple of seasons. Big running backs used to end up as linebackers in college, long before they'd see the NFL, but at some point that wasn't the practice and athletes like Washington were allowed to thrive. The guy wins everywhere athletically, but mostly through his elite burst as shown by his broad, vertical, and split scores. As has strangely been the case for RBs among the elite athletes using RAS, injuries have been a factor just like the backs rated above and below him, Christine Michael and Tevin Coleman.
What do you think, Lions fans? Does anything stand out athletically to you with our newest Detroit Lions draft picks that makes you excited? Concerned? Let us know in the comments or hit us up on social media.