Check out this excel. It lists every draft WR prospect since 2006, including:
- Year they were drafted, round and pick #
- A subjective Score of how good they have been in the NFL
- Their Reception, Yardage, and Touchdown total from their best college season, scaled to 14 games played
- The % of their team's Completions, Yards, and TDs they accounted for in their best season, scaled so individual games = team games. (For example, if a player played just 6 games and got 30 catches, and his team completed 150 passes over a 12 game season, the player accounted for ((12/6)*30)/150 = 40% of his team's completions.
- Estimated drop in production & percentage of offense from the receiver's best year to his draft year. There are several players (Tiquan Underwood is a good example) who were great one year and regressed hard by their draft year.
- Height, Weight, and BMI
- 40 time, Vertical, and Arm Length
- # of college teammate WRs and TEs who were drafted the same year or a year after. This is scaled so if you are teammates with another highly picked WR (like Brandon Marshall was with Mike Sims-Walker), your ability is probably a bit higher than your raw numbers.
- A subjective Class variable, 1 if that player is an NFL star talent, 0 if that player is not.
The idea behind the excel, and the problems with it...
The idea was to try to estimate Class or Score based on those objective variables only, and if you look at the Exp column, you'll see the regression did a good job (receptions, TDs, percent yards, percent TDs, AvgProductionDrop, Height, Weight, BMI, 40, Arm Length, Teammates were significant). 14 of the top 15 players turned out to be stars, and the model pegged Greg Jennings, DeSean Jackson, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, Mike Williams (Syracuse) as stars even though they weren't 1st round picks. It missed a few too (thought Jeremy Maclin and Sidney Rice were overrated... didn't see much sleeper status in Antonio Brown), but overall it pegged a star/non-star correctly 93% of the time.
The thing is, with just 153 players in the dataset and 11 variables, there wasn't much room for outliers, and in a couple cases where there were outliers in high variance categories, weird things happened. So when I entered Greg Childs (arguably the greatest combine star since Calvin Johnson), his range went from 7th round pick to top-10 pick depending on how much you want to penalize his production drop due to his patella injury. And nobody mentions this about Justin Blackmon, but he went from accounting for about 40% of his team's passing game in 2010 to about 30% in 2011, a huge dropoff. Tinker with that a bit, and he moves anywhere from a solid 1st rounder to a solid 3rd rounder. Alshon Jeffery has an even bigger range due to his dropoff. And who knew that Arkansas was loaded with NFL talent? They have 3 WRs ranked in the top 25 WR prospects this year (Childs, Wright, Adams) along with a TE who might get drafted next year (Chris Gragg). Adjust that weight a bit, and Jarius Wright moves from a few spots ahead of Kendall Wright to a round or two behind him (those two are actually really similar on paper).
But that's the worst of it. The good news is most of the categories don't have outlier values (nobody ran a 4.20 40 this year, for example, and nobody is 240+ lbs), and that means plenty of players are nestled safely between players of past years already in the model. Some of them are really good too, and maybe a lot better than most of us have been giving them credit for. Here's the list of guys who surprised me, in good or bad ways...
In no particular order, 5 WRs that I think have different value from the WCG consensus
1. AJ Jenkins - This guy has no outlier characteristics, and the model rates him as the 7th best WR prospect since 2006, with an estimated 85% chance of becoming an impact player at the next level. If he were to not become a star, he'd be the highest rated player to do so, as everybody above 78% so far has translated. (Certainly possible that he breaks the trend, as Devin Thomas was in the training set at 77% and failed, but Jenkins looks at least like a safe pick with upside and good comps.)
Everything about him is good to extraordinary. His production was elite, he was the top percentage producer of all 2012 receivers, accounting for 52% of the Illini passing yards and 52% of the Illini TDs. He was also 9th in receptions per game despite his terrible passing offense. His 4.39" 40 ranks seventh, and he makes up a bit for his 6'0" height with a nice 6'5.5" wingspan. He compares extremely closely to both Greg Jennings and Santonio Holmes. The more I look at him, the more I think he's a top-3 WR in this draft.
2. Greg Childs - Stephen Hill got a massive amount of press for his combine, but Greg Childs might have the best purely-on-paper resume in years. Look at these numbers, with the Rec/Yards/TD categories scaled to 14 games for each player:
His production is a step behind those guys, but it's not bad especially with all the talented weapons at Arkansas. And purely on physical ability, he's as good as any WR in football outside of Megatron and maybe Andre Johnson. I'm guessing that, without his patella injury that cost him a season, Childs would be an easy 1st round pick. Instead, he might be there in the 4th or 5th. This is admittedly a boom or bust pick depending on how his knee holds up, but if the Bears are looking for difference makers instead of roster fillers, Childs becomes a good option imo. Here's his highlights from 2010 pre-injury, just a really special talent.
3. Dwight Jones
We know he's not the most mature guy in the draft. But not only is he talented (top 10 in this draft in percentage production), but he's also enormous. 6'3" 230lbs with a 6'8.5" wingspan... that's bigger than Greg Little, with a lot more college production. Jones is down to a 6th round projection right now, and nobody's talking about him. He's probably not a typical Bears guy, but that late in the draft he's a steal.
4. Nick Toon
Toon gets a lot of love here, but the model doesn't like him much, giving him a 6% chance of being a star, and it's easy to see why. He played in a very good passing offense this year, with no other NFL prospects at WR or TE, and had just average production (25th-30th best in his class). There's some hope for him in that he's somewhat similar to Stevie Johnson (another guy the model didn't like much), but almost all his other comps were just average players at the next level.
5. Jordan White
Never heard of him? He only had 140 catches and 1900 yards receiving this year at a D1 school. He put up a 13 catch, 265 yard line against Purdue in his bowl game; a 14 catch, 132 yard line against the Illini; a 12 catch, 119 yard line against Michigan; and a 12 catch, 173 yard, 2 TD game against UConn... all this season. And not only that, but he was getting open pretty easily, and his team was in most of those games, so it wasn't like he was just piling up garbage time catches.
He has an injury history, and his measurables are lacking (5'11.5", 208lbs, 4.60" 40) though not terrible, and he's a really heady receiver who I gotta think will find a place on an active roster. The model really likes him at 31% chance of being an impact player, although that's a highly variable estimate.
Some extra quick hits
Jarius Wright is going to be in a receiver rotation somewhere. Kendall Wright has him beat in the raw categories, but Jarius's 66 catches, 1100 yards, 12 TDs in just 12 games is really solid, especially for an Arkansas offense that passed for just 26 TDs and had a loaded receiving corps. His measureables are almost identical to Kendall's ... Rishard Matthews is interesting. The model has him at about 20% chance of being an impact player, which is pretty good for a 4th rounder. 6'0.5" 217lbs with a nice 4.44" 40 and a 6'6" wingspan, and some of the best production in the country, albeit at a small school. Scouts thought really highly of him at his pro day...Chris Givens' name pops up here a decent amount, some people here really like him. But the model thinks he's a late pick talent, and it's easy to see why. He measured 5'11" with just a 6'2" wingspan, and while his production was good, it wasn't anything exceptional, and he is the only NFL prospect target on his team. Tommy Streeter might be better than we think. He still catches the ball against his body a lot, but he had decent numbers considering Miami's passing offense was below average, and he had to split targets with a pretty good prospect in Travis Benjamin who should get drafted. 6'5" WRs with 6'11" wingspans and 4.40" 40s with decent production don't come around very often...Mohamed Sanu and Alshon Jeffery rate out where you'd expect, as good 2nd round prospects. Marvin McNutt and Rueben Randle are right there with them.
I think the big point is, if you buy into AJ Jenkins as a near-elite talent, that means the Bears can sit at #50 and likely have an impact receiver fall to them. I'd rank the second rounders as (1) Jenkins, (2) Sanu, (3) Jeffery, (4) Randle, and I still have no idea why McNutt is ranked so far behind them. The model likes Michael Floyd as a 1st rounder, but if he's gone, I think waiting till the 2nd is a better option than reaching on a Wright/Hill/Jeffery pick at #19.
But this draft is so deep at WR that I hope the Bears are thinking about using a late pick on the position too. They really couldn't go wrong using a lottery ticket on a Childs / McNutt / Dwight Jones / Tommy Streeter / Rishard Matthews type if they are there in the 5th or later, where the guy already has a history of good production and the physical ability to translate that to the NFL.