Earlier this week, we broke down the selections our data valued far above where the respective player landed on the second or third day of the highly anticipated and widely viewed NFL draft.
Now we’re taking another deep dive in an effort to discover which teams might have jumped the gun and reached for players far earlier than our data would have advised.
Instead of using NFL scouting combine results and medical records, we’ve weighed individual performance statistics and implemented many of our advanced analytics to rate top prospects. These metrics measure things like quantifying defenders’ performances at shedding blocks and disrupting the play design, as well as offensive linemen’s pass-blocking and run-blocking performances.
Without further delay, here is a look at some of the picks our data didn’t value as much as the teams that made the selections (glossary of metrics at the bottom):
First Round, 16th pick; Atlanta Falcons – A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
After cutting Desmond Trufant from an already weak secondary, the Falcons desperately needed to find a cornerback early in this draft. Terrell had a solid season for Clemson and has a chance to be a very good NFL player, but among the 11 cornerbacks drafted in the first two days, he ranked eighth or worse in Big Play%, Burn Yards Per Target and Open%. The second tier of cornerbacks is admittedly very close with little separation, but we think Atlanta would have been better off going with Jeff Gladney (Minnesota Vikings, 31st pick), Jaylon Johnson (Chicago Bears, 50th pick) or Kristian Fulton (Tennessee Titans, 61st pick).
First Round, 20th pick; Jacksonville Jaguars – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
This was a completely understandable pick as the Jags had a big hole on the edge with Calais Campbell traded to the Baltimore Ravens and Yannick Ngakoue in a contract dispute, and scouts love Chaisson’s physical traits. Chaisson’s 6.5 sacks from 2019 are fairly underwhelming, and his 18.4% Pressure Rate was the lowest of any player drafted in the first three rounds. His 6.8% Disruption Rate on run plays (average is 7.5% for edge defenders) shows he also isn’t strong in the run game. Jacksonville will have to really tap into his physical potential in order to get the value it’s looking for with this pick.
First Round, 21st pick; Philadelphia Eagles – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
The Eagles’ weakness at wide receiver has been well documented. They didn’t have a single receiver with more than 500 receiving yards last year and were forced to start a receiver with three career catches in their Wild Card playoff game. Reagor was consistently used downfield at TCU (second-highest Depth Per Target among WRs in the first three rounds), but he struggled to convert on a rate basis. His Burn% and Big Play% were both below average among Power 5 receivers, and he tied for the fifth-most drops. This was a loaded draft for wide receivers, and with Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings, 22nd pick) and Tee Higgins (Cincinnati Bengals, 33rd pick) still on the board, Reagor seems like a questionable choice.
Second Round, 12th pick; Cleveland Browns – Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Delpit’s inclusion on this list comes with the caveat that he was fantastic in his first two seasons in Baton Rouge. In the four major coverage metrics (Big Play%, Burn%, Burn Yards Per Target and Open%), the former All-American was well above average, and those numbers would have had him a top-tier safety. But as evidenced below, his fall in 2019 was severe. He struggled greatly in coverage, and a 75.4% Tackle Rate was second worst among all drafted safeties. Delpit is obviously talented and has had success in the past. If the Browns can bring that potential back, he quickly moves from one of the worst picks to one of the best.
|Grant Delpit, LSU||Big Play Allow%||Burn Allow%||Burn Yds/Target||Open Allow%|
Second Round, 16th pick; Seattle Seahawks – Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee
Taylor was a productive but unspectacular player at Tennessee as his 21.9% Pressure Rate was right in line with most of his fellow second-round edge players. His 7.7% Disruption Rate on run plays was less impressive, but still average among Power 5 edge defenders. Ultimately though, if the Seahawks were going to go with an edge player right here (we agree that was a weakness they needed to fill), there were a number of other ones that we like more. If they wanted a pure pass rusher for their Leo spot, Josh Uche (New England Patriots, 60th pick) or Terrell Lewis (Los Angeles Rams, 84th pick) had elite pressure rates. If the Rams wanted to go with more of a strong-side end that excels in the run game, A.J. Epenesa (Buffalo Bills, 54th pick) or Jonathan Greenard (Houston Texans, 90th pick and one of our favorite picks) looked like strong choices.
Advanced analytics and data analysis provided by Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads.
Glossary of metrics:
Depth Per Target: Average yards downfield the receiver is targeted
Pressure Rate: Pressures per pass rush opportunity
Run Disruption: Disrupting the design of the run play by beating a blocker
Tackle Rate: Total tackles (tackles+assists) divided by total opportunities (tackles+assists+broken+missed)
Big Play%: A way to contextualize Burn yards. TDs and passes of 19 or more yards are full big plays, Burns less than 20 yards are a sliding scale between 1 and 0 based on yardage
Burn: A productive play for the offense, agnostic of the QB accuracy. For example, if a player is wide open 30 yards downfield but the QB overthrows him, it’s credited as a Burn to the receiver and a Burn allowed to the defender covering him.
Burn Yard Per Target: Total yards accrued on Burns, then measured per target
Burn Allow%: Burns allowed per defensive target
Open%: Rate of being open on targeted passes