Few are aware that Pride of Detroit headquarters has a laboratory deep beneath the posh, hipster setting the front office suggests. If you braved the depths, there is a winding staircase that leads down into the murky depths, so old that no modern electronic lighting was ever installed. You light your way down the staircase by making a torch out of an old broomstick and some Silverdome handbills. When you reach the bottom, you find two wooden doors, rotten and nearly falling off their hinges. One leads to “The Void,” an ominously named graveyard of old Butterfinger wrappers and hundreds of essays about the folly of eating mozzarella sticks. The other door is my office, with a little MathBomb logo hastily drawn on the wall in sharpie and a bunch of math instruments strewn about like calculators, an abacus, and... I don’t know, a protractor or something. You get the idea, it’s like a nerd man-cave.
Halloween has just passed, but while most are spending their times enjoying the NFL football season and finding somewhere put their pun-themed Nickelback costume (See, it’s just a giant receipt where you paid a dollar for something that cost .95 and you get...), I’ve been spending my time in other pursuits. Most notably, a massive data update to the Relative Athletic Score (RAS) database, expanding the data from 19 years, 1999-2017, to an unheard of 31 full NFL seasons worth of data, 1987 to present.
There are other updates, of course, but after two weeks of math and coding, I got antsy and wanted to share a bit of that with you, the best online community on the whole of the Internets. I’m doing it in the form of a historical look at where the Lions draft picks from 1987 to present rated with RAS both now, and where they would have rated when they were drafted. An RAS retrospective, as it were. The regular Relative Athletic Scores will change every time new players are added, but these draft year RAS are static and (after everything is complete) will never change. They become a snapshot.
It all started with Reggie Rogers (6.43), who came out as a DE but played DT in the NFL. I mean, sort of. He had a million off-field issues and flopped harder than Lebron in a stiff wind. Third-round pick Jerry Ball didn’t measure well (1.43), but was a far superior draft pick, notching three Pro Bowl selections.
This year gave the Lions elite athlete and fan favorite Bennie Blades (9.52) as well as multiple Pro Bowler and current Lions color commenter Chris Spielman (3.17).
This... was a pretty good draft. The Lions got some guy named Barry Sanders (9.35*), and I should point out that his scores are without including his 20 or 10 splits (which I don’t have), likely putting him at or near the very top all time. Despite being an elite athlete at the time, John Ford (10.00) would do absolutely nothing in the NFL. Since his score is incomplete, I won't post it here, just know that an incomplete look still shows an elite athlete.
Is it possible to pretend this follow up to Barry Sanders and Mike Utley didn’t actually occur? Andre Ware? Dan Owens (7.46)? Who? Best pick might have been Willie Green (5.27) in the eighth round, who was only a tad above average athletically in 1990.
The Lions netted Herman Moore, who I’m sad to say never measured, in the 1991 draft. Their next pick was their second of three 10.00 RAS wide receivers in 31 seasons. This one, Reggie Barrett, was a bit less successful than his 2007 counterpart, Calvin Johnson.
I’m a fairly unflappable guy. Especially when it comes to this kind of stuff. Few RAS cards have made me double take than seeing Robert Porcher (3.01) come up red not only all time, but as of his draft year. I’d love to know the story there, because very little of his measurements look like the guy we know and loved on game days.
There isn’t much to talk about with this one.
The Lions didn’t have anybody that did anything from this draft that measured or, conversely, anyone that measured who did anything.
Fan favorite David Sloan (8.73) was drafted in this year, and posted a great RAS coming out. I really wish Luther Ellis had measured, because he’s one that gets compared to a lot of prospects during the draft.
Jeff Hartings (8.35) was a first-round pick and would go on to be a Pro Bowl level starter... for the Steelers. An elite athlete in his day, it didn’t keep him in Detroit.
Hoo-wee did I want Bryant Westbrook to have a score. Unfortunately, I had to look at the rest of this class, who all measured pretty terribly. Should come as no surprise that almost this entire group was out of the NFL by 1999 and none made any notable contributions.
Ah, Terry Fair... since you didn’t measure we can’t talk about how bad of a pick that ended up being. Charlie Batch (8.32) was a great athlete in his day, but would end up being one of the better backups in the league, making little use of it.
This season saw the Lions approach the draft wanting some athletes, and they certainly got them. The best of which was probably Chris Claiborne (8.75), who posted elite numbers coming out of USC and went on to have a decent career with the Lions.
Stockar McDougle didn’t measure, so he has no RAS, but second-round pick Barrett Green (9.17) and third rounder Reuben Droughns (4.85) did. Green scored better, but had a relatively quiet career. Droughns would go on to have back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons... for other teams.
Fan punching bag Jeff Backus (7.24) and the most loved/hated player in decades Dominic Raiola (9.86) both came out this season. Unsurprisingly, both measured well at the time. Raiola’s athleticism wasn’t as noticeable as his attitude.
Only one player had a RAS this year. It’s everyone’s favorite: Joey Blue Skies (9.08), who measured as an elite athlete in his day. How Joey Harrington measured that well just adds to his mystique.
The early 2000s saw many players guaranteed their draft spot skipping the combine, and the only players who registered a score this season were fifth rounder Terrence Holt (9.25) and seventh rounder Brandon Drumm (7.96), both with good scores.
The Lions pair of first rounders didn’t measure, but their second rounder, Teddy Lehman, posted an elite RAS (9.25) and had a strong rookie season before disappearing into the nether.
Third rounder Stanley Wilson posted the best RAS from this class (9.49), and even started a few games over his short career, but ultimately didn’t pan out. Shaun Cody (7.57) had a decent career, mostly after he left Detroit.
Ernie Sims (8.73) had a deserved reputation as an elite athlete while Daniel Bullocks’ top flight athleticism (9.64) is likely what led to Lions over-drafting him in the second round.
The man, the myth, the Megatron. Calvin Johnson posted the highest ever recorded raw average for RAS in 2007, a mark that has yet to be topped at any position. I was a bit surprised to see Ikaika Alama-Francis (7.16) rated so highly for RAS, since I’ve seen him play and ‘good athlete’ wasn’t really a thought that crossed my mind.
Gosder Cherilus (7.72) is the headliner here, as well as Cliff Avril in the third round (8.71 RAS), but I wanted to point out Jordon Dizon (4.85). Dizon was a massive reach in the second round, and his RAS further illustrates why that was. Not a special athlete, purely a system player, his career was mercifully short.
Matthew Stafford (6.03), Brandon Pettigrew (7.78), Louis Delmas (8.49), the flop that was Derrick Williams (3.33), there’s plenty of good scores to check out here. But instead, I’m just going to post a comparison between Dan Gronkowski (9.55 when drafted, 9.32 all time), the Lions’ seventh-round pick that season, and brother Rob.
The scores are starting to level out, but the obvious one to highlight in 2010 was Ndamukong Suh (9.56). Jahvid Best had a reputation as an elite athlete, but surprisingly weak explosion numbers pulled his score into just “very good” range (7.8).
This draft, man... Not much to do but look at what might have been if Nick Fairley (9.45) had found his football desire prior to leaving Detroit.
Riley Reiff (5.93) was the team’s first selection, but it’s Tahir Whitehead (7.68) I’ll highlight instead, since he’s still starting for the team. Chris Greenwood (9.4) was rightly billed as an elite athlete, but his raw athleticism never got harnessed in Detroit.
Ezekiel Ansah (9.79) was a mutant coming out of BYU, as was Devin Taylor (9.65) out of SC. Larry Warford posted a horrific combine, but worked his backside off to get into shape prior to his strong rookie season. I posted Theo Riddick (3.30) to highlight one important aspect of RAS and athletic testing in general: Never measure while you’re injured.
Everyone’s favorite tight end they love to hate, Eric Ebron posted a solid, but not elite RAS (7.71) in 2014. Surprisingly, it was Travis Swanson (3.97) and Nevin Lawson (3.47) who would post the most returns for Detroit’s investments despite less impressive numbers.
Laken Tomlinson was one in a long line of Mayhew picks on the line who lacked athleticism (4.50 RAS), but Ameer Abdullah’s explosion and agility combination can be matched by very few players in the NFL. Another low RAS contributor was found late with Quandre Diggs (2.98) in the sixth round.
Taylor Decker posted good numbers (7.19), as did Graham Glasgow (7.97). Both were a sign that Bob Quinn was nothing like Martin Mayhew in terms of athletic philosophy on the offensive line. A’Shawn Robinson’s low RAS (3.45) is common for nose tackle types, but it’s fourth-round fan favorite Miles Killebrew (8.18) that had fans expecting good things from this draft class. No, I don’t have a RAS on Jimmy Landes, we don’t do long snappers here.
First-round pick Jarrad Davis posted an elite RAS (8.99), as did third rounder Kenny Golladay (8.88). The Lions also got early returns from fifth rounder Jamal Agnew (8.00) and Jeremiah Ledbetter (9.33). The team has yet to see much from second rounder Teez Tabor (3.83) and fourth rounder Michael Roberts (5.13). Exciting things on the horizon for this draft class, but what will it look like in hindsight years from now?
Detroit Lions draft year RAS
|2009||4||Sammie Lee Hill||DT||5.59||6|
|2014||2||Kyle Van Noy||LB||7.32||7.5|