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WCG Confidence Board 1.2: Top Offensive Prospects

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With ten boards available, it’s time to look a little more closely (just a little) at which draft candidates on offense are inspiring the most confidence.

Cactus Bowl - Kansas State v UCLA Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Earlier this year, I introduced the idea of my confidence board. Essentially, it’s an effort to collect the different opinions out there regarding draft prospects in an effort to see which players attracted consensus and which spurred disagreement. I began it as an exercise to help me direct my own limited time in watching college prospects. However, this year I am making the boards public.

This most recent edition adds the position board from WCG Community Member IOftenPanic. Regular members of the community will recognize that IOP does fantastic work, and these write-ups arealways worth a read. In addition to adding IOP’s board, I updated Matt Miller’s board to use his January 8th edition and updated Walter Football’s board to catch up with their January 11th update. Over on the “Big Boards” side of things, NFL Draft Geek is now featured by their January 10th edition, and Draftek is caught up to the January 13th update. That means that functionally half of the data is new (5 of the 10 total boards), and only Easterling’s position rankings are from before Christmas.

With the board count at ten, it’s time to talk a little bit about the players, the methodology, and some of the discrepancies that are starting to show up. This article will focus on offense, while the next article will center on defense (I am not tracking special teams players specifically, although many of the gurus do consider special teams potential in their own rankings for players like DBs and receivers).

In some ways, the new boards don’t change very much. The top players are still largely the top players. However, there’s now enough information to dig in a bit.

Quarterback

Josh Rosen is the consensus top choice on the position boards for quarterback, and only CBS Sports has him outside of the Top 10 on an overall board. His scaled score is 97.7% of a perfect score, and in terms of agreement he is the second best prospect overall. I don’t know if Rosen will be any good, but the draft community is pretty fond of him so far.

Meanwhile, Sam Darnold is a distant second, with the position boards divided on whether he is the second-best or third-best quarterback in the draft (Jackson and Mayfield split the other second-place finishes). Darnold’s greatest skeptic on the big boards is WCG’s own Jacob Infante, who places him 22nd overall (his lowest finish).

Running back

Saquon Barkley is more than the consensus best running back in this draft. He is the consensus best player. He receives all of the first-place votes at his position, his worst finish on any big board is 8th, and his scaled score is 98.7% of perfection.

This is normally the point where an analytics fan like me points out that running backs aren’t really worth elite draft capital, but if scouts know anything at all, this guy is probably the exception to the rule. It is interesting that the two most certain prospects (quarterback and running back) are at positions that the Bears seem to have locked up. That’s probably fine, as the Bears probably have no chance at either player, anyway.

Back to running backs, Derrius Guice is clearly #2. His score (86.8%) is so far beyond #3’s score (Ronald Jones II’s 51.9%) as to be embarrassing. Only Walter Football has Guice out of second place, and there’s a clear impression that he would be the top running back in some years.

Offensive Tackles

There is not a tackle the consensus board loves. Mike McGlinchey enjoys a scaled score of 81.1%, good for 14th overall. However, he’s not even the favorite tackle on a majority of boards. That honor goes to Connor Williams (80.4%), who wins first place on three boards while coming in 10th in Walter Football’s rankings. Meanwhile, McGlinchey is not popular with Draft Geek (84th overall), and that pulls him down.

Big boards normally love tackles, and that helps out both of these players as well as Orlando Brown (who is the 22nd overall player by score). Brown is strangely loved by CBS Sports, which considers him the fourth-best prospect in the draft. Given that three position rankings have him as the third-best tackle, that suggests that somebody is wrong in their evaluation, one way or another.

Interior Offensive Line

Here’s a good time to talk about a quirk of my process. How gurus rank interior offensive linemen varies widely (this is true of edge rushers, too, but that’s for the next article). Some boards group all interior linemen together. Some separate out guards and centers. Some group them. Some list them twice but with different ranks. In order to make this project possible at all, I have grouped them together, but I have given each player the privilege of his higher rank (for example, Frank Ragnow is a highly-rated center on a lot of boards but is less popular as a guard, so he gains the benefit of his center rankings). This will artificially push up some centers overall, but they are held in check, so to speak, by the big boards.

With that out of the way, it’s time to talk about Quenton Nelson. There is no artificial inflation here. He is the top guard on all five position boards. He is outside of the Top 50 only according to NFL Draft Days, and his scaled score of 91.1% makes him the sixth overall player in terms of average score. That is a remarkable degree of support for a guard, and it is another example of the phenomenon mentioned with Saquon Barkley. It is rare to see any player rated so highly so consistently, and so it is fair to say if any guard could be worth a top pick, it would be Nelson.

Meanwhile, Billy Price is the next most popular interior lineman, and it’s largely for his projections as a center. His 79.7% scaled score is still respectable, and he’s placed inside of the Top 32 on three of the five big boards.

Tight End

Last year saw a number of well-loved tight ends. This year is different. Gurus are split on Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert. Andrews wins both in terms of how many first-place votes he gets (3 vs 2) and in terms of scaled score once big boards are included (82.1% compared to 51.4%). That might be important, because in past years I’ve found that about a 75% consensus is a pretty big tipping point in terms of draft position and early success.

However, neither is placed in the Top 25 on any big board. It looks like the experts consider this a weakish year for tight ends, and it looks like any of the top tight ends from last year would blow this class away, at least in terms of the enthusiasm that they are generating among gurus.

Wide Receivers

Things get even more interesting over with the wide receivers. Courtland Sutton has the slightly better average position score (94%) than Calvin Ridley (92%), but Ridley has the better overall scaled score (86.4% vs 82.5%). The methodology for these boards is imprecise enough to suggest that they are functionally at a dead heat. It is worth noting that Ridley’s worst position scores come from the two oldest boards. Depending on your biases those older boards could be considered “outdated” or they could be “more honest,” in that they are somehow untainted by the college football playoff hype.

There are a number of people who will say that the combine will settle a lot with respect to wide receivers, and to some extent that is valid. The combine will influence the final rankings (and ultimate draft positions) of these players. However, there is very little evidence that the physical tests of the combine have any actual correlation with success. That suggests that the early scouting results before the combine takes place might be the ones fans should look at.

Here, it’s probably worth pointing out that Sutton is disproportionately hurt by a single really low score on a big board (71st on NFL Draft Geek’s Top 96). However you choose to look at it, those are the only wide receivers with a scaled score above 75%. Christian Kirk and James Washington are both carrying the sorts of “also ran” rankings that suggest that if they fall, years from now at least one of them will be considered a “steal” while the other will be considered a failed gamble.

With that out of the way, here are the top offensive prospects as of my most recent update:

Top Offensive Prospects

Offensive Rank Player Position Scaled Score Position score
Offensive Rank Player Position Scaled Score Position score
1 Barkley, Saquon RB 98.70% 100.00%
2 Rosen, Josh QB 97.70% 100.00%
3 Nelson, Quenton IOL 91.10% 100.00%
4 Guice, Derrius RB 86.80% 86.00%
5 Darnold, Sam QB 86.50% 86.00%
6 Ridley, Calvin WR 86.40% 92.00%
7 Sutton, Courtland WR 82.50% 94.00%
8 Andrews, Mark TE 82.10% 96.00%
9 McGlinchey, Mike OT 81.10% 92.00%
10 Williams, Connor OT 80.40% 78.00%
11 Price, Billy IOL 79.70% 98.00%
12 Brown, Orlando OT 69.70% 86.00%
13 Smith, Braden IOL 66.00% 76.00%
14 Jackson, Lamar QB 65.00% 54.00%
15 Kirk, Christian WR 63.10% 68.00%
16 Ragnow, Frank IOL 59.40% 74.00%
17 Mayfield, Baker QB 58.10% 72.00%
18 Hernandez, Will IOL 58.00% 80.00%
19 Rudolph, Mason QB 57.90% 56.00%
20 Allen, Josh QB 55.40% 70.00%
21 Washington, James WR 53.50% 50.00%
22 Jones, Ronald II RB 51.90% 62.00%
23 Goedert, Dallas TE 51.40% 72.00%