I regard the combine as mostly a creepy experience where grown men intensely stare at college kids wearing really tight clothing. However, it turns out perhaps the shuttle run and vertical leap are not wholly useless, at least, when evaluating edge pass rushers.
Behold, another Football Outsiders article, where they unveil their "SackSEER" formula used to evaluate the pro potential of "edge" pass rushers. It's basically a 4 part formula because after running a regression the dude who did the research found that 4 factors were the strongest at predicting NFL performance. The factors are:
- Short Shuttle time
- Vertical Leap
- Sacks per game in college
- Total missed games when eligible to play (injuries)
Anyway, I write about this because if my beloved offensive line prospects are not there, I would be satisfied with an edge rusher. I'm sure others feel differently, but our pass rush still strikes me as underwhelming, and I don't know if we'll have JJ & Leon around forever to make it less obvious just how underwhelming it is.
How good is SackSEER? Well, FO lists some players SackSEER would have ranked highly in the past (since 1999) and also those they would have ranked lowly. It's pretty effective based on those lists. You can check that out for yourself. For our purposes, we want to know what it says about the draft this year.
So here's how this formula ranks the current prospects:
- Jerry Hughes, TCU
- Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
- Everson Griffen, USC
- Brandon Graham, Michigan
- Sergio Kindle, UT
- Carlos Dunlap, Florida
- Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
As for the top prospects, not a whole lot stands out (maybe Sergio is overrated a little) except for one: Jason Pierre-Paul, who is getting tons of hype by draft gurus. Here's what FO has to say:
This projection is not a misprint. Although Pierre-Paul is widely regarded as one of the top edge rushers by draftniks, it is hard to conceive of a prospect that SackSEER would like less.
Is it fair to say that Pierre-Paul 26 missed games because he spent his first two years in junior college? Yes, because the few recent edge rusher prospects with junior college experience were among the worst defensive draft picks in recent memory. The illustrious list includes Anton Palepoi, Jerome McDougle, Tony Bryant, Lamar King, Erik Flowers, Michael Boireau and most recently, David Veikune, Cleveland's 2009 second-round pick, who did not record a sack as a rookie and was inactive for much of the season.
However, even if we removed the missed games adjustment, Pierre-Paul would still have the worst projection in this class. Although Pierre-Paul's "handflips" video has earned him the distinction as the 2010 NFL Draft's consummate physical "freak," he put up poor numbers in all of the workout metrics that matter to SackSEER. This is certainly not the first time that similar "gimmicky" athleticism has not translated into workout numbers. For instance, just last year, San Diego State defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert made waves (pardon the pun) with a widely circulated video depicting Gilbert jumping out of a swimming pool flat footed. Despite his aquatic jumping ability, Gilbert only registered a 35.5-inch vertical leap at the Combine.
The ability of Pierre-Paul to translate his particular brand of athleticism to pass rushing success is speculative at best. Overall, the general manager who pulls the trigger on Pierre-Paul better be very confident that he has something special -- so special that it will completely buck the historical trends.
Yikes. Sounds like he's not worth the risk with a first round pick. Anyway, let's stay away from him please.