Of Combines and Correlations – Part 1


I’m quite certain that right about now most of you are getting pretty frothy about all the undrafted rookie free agents the Chiefs are looking at and/or signing so I’ll apologize up front if my offering today takes away from such unbridled excitement. Nevertheless, I am what I am and I do what I do.  So if you’ve been feeling a little neglected, perhaps even frustrated, as a result of going without my statistical emissions for awhile, today I render unto you an opportunity to once again revel in statistical bliss. Yep, the cold, hard, analytical world of Double D is back. Jones away.

What got me started on all this was a recommended reading link from Mike Tanier over at Football Outsiders. The name of the site is Ourlads’ NFL Scouting Services. Maybe some of you are already familiar with the Ourlads folks but discovering it was all fresh to me. Long story short, on the home page of Ourlads I happened across a pdf link under the heading of “Relevance Of The Combine”, penned by Joe Landers back in 2009. Hmm, thought I.

In a nutshell, Landers compiled and studied combine results for all positions over a 4 year span, 2005 through 2008, to see whether, or to what degree, combine performance was an indicator of future success in the NFL.  His leading definition of success was whether the prospect played 1st team during the 2008 season. What he determined, among other things and perhaps not surprisingly, is that certain measurables tend to be more important than others relative to each position.  For example, doing well in the 40 yard dash, broad jump, and vertical jump appear to be important for the wide receiver position as predictors of future NFL success.

The foundational element of Landers analysis was to calculate peer averages for each attribute test at each position. He then compared a prospect’s performance to the peer average for that position and simply came up with a metric he termed “Exceeded Peer Average” or EPA for short.  What he essentially learned was that, depending upon position, if a prospect landed in the right EPA bucket(s), and padded on enough extra EPAs in other, less important, attribute tests that the odds of that prospect making 1st team were noticeably greater.

After wading through and understanding Landers’ analysis, the obvious next step for yours truly was of course to see how well the Chiefs’ 2012 draft class fared against their peers and what players to feel most hopeful about. Right?

Let’s begin with our #1 draft pick shall we?

At the DT position, Landers notes that there were 5 prospects who EPA’d in all 6 attribute tests for that position. In 2008, all 5 of those prospects were starters. Interestingly enough, DT turns out to be the only position where exceeding the peer average on all metrics for the position ultimately translated into a starting job.  

The rest of the breakdown goes like this:  12% of prospects with 5 EPAs started, 11% with 4 EPAs started, 12% with 3 EPAs started, 12% with 2 EPAs started, 14% with 1 EPAs started, and 11% with no EPAs started. All in all, short of scoring 6 EPAs, exceeding peer averages at the combine does not appear to be a very good indicator that a DT is likely to become a starter. Still, Landers goes on to note that the risk of bust decreases for DTs who score in the 3 to 5 EPA range, wherein the odds are fairly good for a prospect scoring in that range to at least be either 2 Deep or on the roster. Landers ultimately forecasts future success for a DT prospect to most likely involve an EPA in the 3 cone and in at least 4 other categories.

Using Landers numbers from his 2005 to 2008 dataset (which have probably changed moderately), the peer averages and 1st teamer EPA percentages for DTs were as follows:

Short Shuttle: 4.61 sec; 57% of 1st teamers scored an EPA

Three Cone: 7.67 sec; 65% of 1st teamers scored an EPA

Vertical Jump: 30.10”; 43% of 1st teamers scored an EPA

Broad Jump: 106”; 52% of 1st teamers scored an EPA

Forty yard dash: 5.11 sec; 61% of 1st teamers scored an EPA

Bench Reps: 26.43; 43% of 1st teamers scored an EPA

From this, Landers surmised that an EPA score in the 3 Cone test appears to be the most important indicator of all for DTs wherein 65% of 2008 starters achieved the EPA level as prospects.  Not really too surprising given the need for quickness within close confines that is typically demanded by this position.

Okay so given all that, how did Dontari Poe score relative to his peers? Well, before I answer that question, I think it is probably important and fair to take into consideration that the average weight of a DT prospect is around 305 lbs wherein Poe weighed in at 346 lbs. In other words, Landers does not distinguish between the typically bigger NTs versus typically smaller 43 DTs. To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, gravity is such a drag. More on that later.

Dontari Poe’s results were as follows:

Short Shuttle: 4.56 sec; EPA

Three Cone: 7.9 sec

Vertical Jump: 29.5”

Broad Jump: 105”

Forty Yard Dash: 4.98 sec; EPA

Bench Reps: 44; EPA

 In summary, Poe scored EPAs in 3 metrics, which Landers views as respectable, but came up a bit short in the most important of all, the 3 Cone Drill. So what can we take away from all this?

While it might add to our optimism to know that Dontari Poe exceeded peer averages on all 6 metrics, or at least on the 3 cone and 4 other categories, the reality is that Dontari Poe is a signficantly larger guy than the average member of his peer group. Put simply, he has about 40 extra pounds to lug around compared to the average DT. Think of it this way, strap an extra 40 pounds on your back, and see if you can run the three cone drill just as fast as you did without the extra weight.

Poe’s bigness couldn’t help but weigh on my thinking. Not satisfied that Poe’s numbers represented an apples to apples comparison, I decided I to look up recent combine scores of DTs, sorted by weight. Poe, at 346,is the 5th heaviest DT to weigh in, being bested on the scales only by the likes of Ahmad Childress, Terrence Cody and Alameda Ta’amu. Scanning the names of other heavyweight contenders, you’ll also find names like Paul Soliai, Kenrick Ellis, Junior Siavii (oops), Haloti Ngata, BJ Raji, Jerrell Powe, and Phil Taylor. Ah, apples to apples.

Now, within this group, I found that Poe scored impressively well compared to the other apples. For example, Poe’s 3 cone time matched that of BJ Raji’s and exceeded, by .07 seconds, that of Haloti Ngata’s. I took this is a step further and averaged the 3 cone scores of all DTs weighing 330 lbs or more. The result? 8.00 secs. Using my own apples to apples, perhaps simplistic, comparison dataset, I unabashedly conclude that Dontari Poe also scored an EPA in the 3 cone drill for the Nose Tackle position.

That’s now makes 4 EPAs for Poe, for those keeping track.

DD’s Broad Jump Peer Average for 330+ NTs: 100”. Chalk up another EPA for Poe. That’s 5.  

DD’s Vertical Jump Peer Average for 330+ NTs: 25.76”. And there you go, another EPA for Poe, thus giving him a perfect score of 6 among his NT peers, at least by my reckoning.

Given Landers observation that all 5 DTs who attained a perfect score of 6 EPAs in his analysis ended up as 1st teamers, I can’t help but feel a bit more optimistic about Poe’s future manning the interior of the Chiefs DL? Eventually anyway.

Seeing as how this post has gotten a bit lengthy, I’ll leave discussion of our remaining 2012 draft picks for future installment(s). Stay tuned, I promise you a surprise or two.

That’s my Double Take.

What do you think Addicts? Ready to be a Poe Boy now?