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Experts vs. Outcomes - Defense

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How will do the experts manage when it comes to actually predicting the success of players on the defensive side of the football?

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With 2013’s draft way back in the rearview mirror, I thought it would be fun to look at a few draft gurus and see how their predictions matched up with actual outcomes. Last week I started with offense, and now I’m moving on to defense.

Remember that this entire project comes with a huge caveat. It is possible for a great prospect to be hindered by injury or by landing spot, and so my approach to scoring is designed to be as generous as possible. Basically, if an expert’s top choice (or in some cases, top un-injured choice) ends up as one of the top three players at his position, then that prediction counts as a hit. If an expert also put the actual “top player” in his top three, that also counts as a hit. Thus, each guru can score up to two points per position grouping. Here is where things stand after the offensive side of the ball is done:

Miller: 7/14

Mayock: 9/14

Kadar: 9/14

Kiper: 8/12*

*Because I wanted to respect the paywall, I simply presented his final score in the comments section of the last piece. Here, I will likewise simply tally his score without revealing his choices. They are easy to find for the determined.

Defensive End

Okay, a reminder about defensive prospects. Nobody agrees on what to call them. I am therefore giving the benefit of the doubt in position grouping whenever remotely possible.

Matt Miller was high on Cornellius Carradine and Dion Jordan heading into 2013, and while he ranked Ziggy Ansah as his third-best DE overall, he also predicted that he would be the biggest bust. Mayock was likewise fond of Jordan, but he had Ansah as his second DE. Kadar agreed with Mayock.

In real life, the only Pro Bowler in the group was Ansah, and Carradine had one injury but also a lot of non-productivity (he was also injured in November 2012, meaning the experts had a chance to take his history into consideration). Finally, Jordan has been suspended due to PED for 20 games, of 13 more games than he has career sacks. I can’t give Miller credit for barely ranking Ansah when he also called him the biggest bust, but Kadar and Mayock get credit here.

Miller: 0/2

Mayock: 1/2

Kadar: 1/2

Defensive Tackle

Miller was found of Shariff Floyd and Star Lotulelei, going so far as to call Lotulelei the lowest risk and the most NFL-ready, even though Floyd was his top choice. Sheldon Richardson was his third choice. Mayock liked Floyd, but he had Richardson ahead of Lotulelei. Kadar actually put Lotulelei and Richardson ahead of Floyd

In real life, Richardson is one of only two Pro Bowlers so far, and he has the highest CAV. Everyone whiffed on Kawann Short, who is by most measures the second-most successful DT of this group. Lotulelei has played well, earning the third-highest CAV and managing to make it as a starter in 4 seasons. Meanwhile, Floyd has recently been hampered by knee injuries, but he never really lived up some of the hype.

That means that Miller and Mayock missed on Floyd, but they each get a point for having Richardson in their top three. Meanwhile, Kadar benefits from having Lotulelei as his top choice sneak into the top three and he also gets credit for having the true #1, Richardson, ranked so highly.

Interestingly, this means that on the defensive line, the gurus were typically better at spotting at least some of the potential of the eventual top talents but tended to overestimate players as well.

Miller: 1/2 (1/4)

Mayock: 1/2 (2/4)

Kadar: 2/2 (3/4)

Outside Linebacker

Matt Miller was fond of Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, and he called Barkevious Mingo the biggest risk. Meanwhile, Mike Mayock had Mingo ahead of Jones (and he had Ogletree as an inside linebacker, and lower than either). Finally, Dan Kadar mirrored Mayock’s preference for Mingo ahead of Jones (and he also put Ogletree much lower and on the inside).

Who was the true best prospect? Well, Ogletree has the highest CAV so far, but Jamie Collins is actually the only Pro Bowler to be found. Jones has been a little injury-prone, but he has also been middling in the games he has played. With some generous scoring, we can call Ogletree a hit for Miller in that he identified the potential of the true star, but Jones was a miss. Mayock and Kadar miss completely, both on account of Mingo and on their low placement of Ogletree..

Miller: 1/2 (2/6)

Mayock: 0/2 (2/6)

Kadar: 0/2 (3/6)

Inside Linebacker

Remember Manti Te’o? In so many ways, Te’o was the story of the 2013 draft. He was also Miller’s favorite inside linebacker, followed by Kevin Minter. Te’o was going to be the first Pro Bowler and the best in five years. Meanwhile, Kiki Alonso was going to be the biggest risk, but he was still in the Top 3. Mayock agreed on the top two. Kadar put Arthur Brown ahead of either Te’o or Mintner, and he also put Ogletree ahead of Mintner.

Manti Te’o has managed to make it as a starter in three of his seasons, and he’s played in 54 games. He’s on his second team, and an argument could be made for him being the fourth-best inside linebacker of the class, or maybe the third. On a CAV-level, Alonso barely edges Mintner. To be fair, though, Te’o could still be the first Pro Bowler, as nobody from this class has earned that distinction, yet.

Miller hedges his bets well enough to score a point with Alonso, but Mayock and Kadar missed. If I go by a strict interpretation of my own rules, then Miller and Mayock both technically earn a point for Te’o as well (as he was their top prospect and I can just barely fit him into the top three). However, this was a weak class for inside linebackers, and it feels like cheating to call it a success when the kid from Notre Dame is already on his second team.

Miller: 2/2 (4/8)

Mayock: 1/2 (3/8)

Kadar: 1/2 (4/8)

Corners

Ah, corners. I remember when the Bears had multiple good corners. Matt Miller, presumably, remembers when he thought that Dee Milliner was the best corner prospect in the draft (ahead of Desmond Trufant) and when he felt David Amerson would be the first Pro Bowler. I assume he has chosen to forget calling Xavier Rhodes the biggest bust. DJ Hayden was at the top of Mayock’s list, followed by Milliner. Dan Kadar went Milliner, Rhodes, and then Trufant.

Someone interested in defending the praise given Milliner heading into the draft might point out his injury-riddled career. However, we was benched for performance issues before he was ever out for injuries. Desmond Trufant, on the other hand, has had a solid career. He’s made the Pro Bowl and would be the top DB in terms of CAV if not for Xavier Rhodes, the All-Pro, double Pro-Bowler.

Miller gets a goose egg here, in that his top choice was a bust and his bust choice was the All-Pro. Mayock placed Rhodes as his third choice, so he sneaks a point there, even if he also missed with Hayden. Kadar likewise loses out with Milliner but picks up a point for putting Rhodes in the conversation.

Miller: 0/2 (4/10)

Mayock: 1/2 (4/10)

Kadar: 1/2 (5/10)

Safeties

Miller listed both free and strong safeties, and Mayock sometimes did. Kadar didn’t. However, the listed designation was not always what a player ended as. Therefore, in a spirit of generosity, I’m counting both types of safeties together.

Miller liked Kenny Vaccaro and DJ Swearinger at free safety, whereas Johnathan Cyprien and Matt Elam were his top strong safety choices. Meanwhile, Mayock had Vaccaro as his top safety and Elam as his top (second?) free safety. Eric Reid and Johnathan Cyprien followed up in the FS role. Kadar simply has Vaccaro and Cyprien as his top safeties.

Vaccaro has not been bad (he and Swearinger are tied for the third-best safety by CAV, behind Reid and Cyprien). Reid is the only Pro Bowler, but Cyprien and Vaccaro are five-year starters. Miller missed on Reid, but he gets a point for Vaccaro or Cyprien. Mayock actually scores twice, in that Vaccaro has been solid and he also included Reid in his top three. Kadar gets a single point for Vaccaro.

Miller: 1/2 (5/12)

Mayock: 2/2 (6/12)

Kadar: 1/2 (6/12)

Summary

This is a very small sample size, but it’s interesting how many top choices busted on the defensive side. Sharrif Floyd, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, and Dee Milliner all provide examples of widely-praised top prospects who just didn’t work out. Add in the lackluster performance of Manti Te’o, and this was a bad draft for the star defensive prospects.

Final scores across both sides of the ball, with Mel Kiper’s score (but not actual picks) counted:

Miller: 12/26

Mayock: 15/26

Kadar: 15/26

Kiper: 13/26

When you think about how many moving pieces there are in the draft, these are actually pretty good results. More than that, the methodology is loose enough, and the results are close enough, to make it difficult to say that one guru has a decisive edge. It’s not even safe to say that being a consensus choice is any sort of armor. It does seem, very anecdotally, that top defensive prospects were more likely to bust coming out of 2013 than top offensive prospects. Conversely, top offensive prospects tended to do well even if they weren’t the eventual best players. We’d need more years of comparison to see if this is a trend or a blip.