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The Rookies: Week 10

An indepth look at this year's crop of rookies

SPECIAL DYNASTY REPORT

(The usual content for The Rookies column will return following next week's defensive counterpart article)

VOLATILITY, AGE AND PEDIGREE DATA BY POSITION THROUGH A DYNASTY LENS (OFFENSE - 2013 AND 2014)

A Summing Up - Changing of the Guard?

Dynasty players know intuitively that in general it is a good thing to target young, high pedigree prospects, but this study aims to make this loose body of knowledge more precise, rigorous and quantitative.

It is always a good habit when examining the top 10/20/30 (or whatever sample size you choose to put under the data-scope) to try and guesstimate who is legit and who is a pretender. Which skill position players are likely to remain from the previous season's final standings, and who will be jettisoned? Which ones currently outside the positional leader standings have a shot to penetrate it, and who will remain isolated outside?

Take care to look at games played (and missed) in this context. It is also hoped that the below breakdowns by position, age and pedigree will provide some clues in your own research.

There are eight sets of top 10/20/30 standings (four positions of QB/RB/WR/TE for 2014 and 2013, with rank, name, NFL team, position, age, draft pedigree, college, height and weight, games played and points scored) organized in a form by which the general contours can be scanned and absorbed at least in outline fairly rapidly. Of course, there is some overlap from 2013 to 2014 in the top 10/20/30 standings for their respective positions.

More fertile ground for data mining would be looking at measurables (for positional physical prototype info), as well as college pedigree (FBS and FCS), but these will be left as a suggestion for further research and an exercise for interested readers. Also, combine and pro day measureables such as 40 times, vertical jump, shuttle and cone drill times, bench press reps, etc. (not included here), can be instructive for positional breakdown, though also misleading at times.

You can also look at the age data and breakdown not only WITHIN a position to see where a certain positional player is likely to be in his learning curve (ramping up, peaking, cresting or twilight), but also to see if there are INTER-POSITIONAL differences... i.e. - are there identifiable and recognizable differential patterns of developmental rate curves BETWEEN positions? Are there pedigree distribution differences in the top 10/20/30 across the respective positions? And so on.

This is a small sample size (two seasons), and not too much of the INTER-POSITIONAL differences in terms of age developmental and life cycles and pedigree distribution at the top alluded to above should be inferred solely from this study. With the pro game evolving so rapidly, though, it is unclear how relevant methodical and systematic back-tests of what happened decades ago would be to the present? The intent here is definitely to track this type of information going forward, to see if some of the trends/patterns observed and noted below hold up, or prove to be chalked up as aberrations, statistical red herrings and a case of finding spurious, unwarranted connections.

It will also be interesting to track going forward whether any appreciable impact is felt in the longevity column due to potential ongoing advances in sports medicine (surgery and rehab therapy), nutritional science, training regimens, etc.

The numbers should be allowed to speak for themselves, however, some interstitial commentary has been included to provide context and perspective, and also to make inferences and draw out potential implications that may be suggested by the data (or to note where data is ambiguous and conclusions can only be drawn tenuously). The last thing intended here in this offensive study (and the counterpart defensive study) is to fit the data to a Procrustean bed of preconception and presuppositional biases. To extend that idea, the intent is not to force feed conclusions, but to stimulate thought on these matters in the reader.

Taking a step back can enable a more bird's eye view perspective of the informational mosaic. Using a historical lens to survey the dynasty statistical landscape can lead to discovering more pockets of signal within the roiling maelstrom of noise, and feed your “comp” associative network and pattern recognition engine.

Pay close attention to how the rookies fared at their respective positions in the past two seasons, which could yield clues towards current trends and future expectations.

* Why Top 10 QB and TE, Top 20 RB and Top 30 WR? There tends to be a lack of difference makers after that point, with the gap between them becoming appreciably smaller and increasingly less important. While examinations that go deeper in numbers would yield different answers to different questions, this study is not interested in mediocrity, but represents a historical and statistical attempt to identify potential defining characteristics and hallmarks of excellence.

What this study is NOT. It does not even begin to attempt a comprehensive study of the relation of pedigree to bust rate of ALL players (as opposed to just the scoring leaders of the respective skill positions). That would again entail a different answer to a different question. One issue is agreeing on a definition of what constitutes a "bust" (a somewhat slippery if not subjective term fraught with difficulties in pinning down). Also, there would have to be a sliding scale By Round. In other words, nobody would dispute that JaMarcus Russell was an exemplary, epic, colossal bust. Whereas virtually no seventh rounder would ever be categorized as a bust, as they are typically a long shot to even make the team.

While this study is ostensibly geared towards a Dynasty perspective, it could contain information relevant to redraft purposes.

2014 QUARTERBACKS - TOP 10

2014 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Age (2014), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played, Points Scored

1) Andrew Luck, IND, 25, 1.1, Stanford (6'4" 240), 16 - 426.35
2) Aaron Rodgers, GB, 31, 1.24, California (6'2" 225), 16 - 404.95
3) Drew Brees, NO, 35, 2.1, Purdue (6'0" 210), 16 - 375.5
4) Peyton Manning, DEN, 38, 1.1, Tennessee (6'5" 230), 16 - 374.95
5) Russell Wilson, SEA, 26, 3.12, Wisconsin (52011" 215), 16 - 369.35
6) Ben Roethlisberger, PIT, 32, 1.11, Miami, Ohio (6'5" 240), 16 - 368.70
7) Matt Ryan, ATL, 29, 1.3, Boston College (6'4" 220), 16 - 347.20
8) Eli Manning, NYG, 33, 1.1, Mississippi (6'4" 220), 16 - 335.60
9 Ryan Tannehill, MIA, 26, 1.8, Texas A&M (6'4" 225), 16 - 334.90
10) Tom Brady, NE, 37, 6.33, Michigan (6'4" 225), 16 - 334.15

Data Mining Section

  • Percentage of QB from 2013 Top 10 - 6 of 10 (60%)

The 40% churn rate in 2014 matched 2013 for the QB position. This was the same rate as 2014 TEs, with both (slightly) lower than the 2014 RBs and WRs. It is on the lower end of the spectrum among all positions on either side of the ball in the two year time frame looked at here. Brees and Manning were the only repeat top 5 QBs. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are representing the class of 2015 well, and both have future top 10 potential.

Difference Between

  • #1 & #10 Scorer... 426.35 - 334.15 = 92.20 pts

Andrew Luck had an exceptional year (50+ points more than #3 QB Drew Brees), but this separation figure still paled in comparison to Manning's massive 2013 campaign. Comparing interpositionally, it was lower than RB in either 2013-2014 and TE in 2013, but higher than WR in either year and TE in 2014.

Age Breakdown

  • (21-23) - 0
  • (24-26) - 3
  • (27-29) - 1
  • (30-32) - 2
  • (33-35) - 2
  • (36+) - 2

With the perspective of another season, it presents an opportunity to see if the data suggests there are patterns within the randomness measured over longer spans. Are these patterns cyclical in nature (like the QB classes of 1983 and 2012), or do marked and pronounced trends beyond the cyclical examples pop out, like a Rodin relief sculpture struggling to emerge from the matrix it is embedded in (hard to see the forward pass ever going completely out of style)? While some patterns may endure over longer periods, the individual fortunes of particular prospects can change in the relative blink of an eye relative to the historical time frames of the dynasty landscape. Historically, QB is a position tough to excel at immediately (except for the great Dan Marino), and also one in which the top players can have extended careers. The data here fits that supposition and supports both the extreme younger and older demographic trends.

Pedigree Breakdown

  • (Round 1-3) - 9
  • (Round 4-7) - 1
  • Undrafted Free Agent - 0

By Round

  • 1 - 7
  • 2 - 1
  • 3 - 1
  • 4 - 0
  • 5 - 0
  • 6 - 1
  • 7 - 0
  • UFA - 0

Pedigree weighed heavier at QB than any other position on offense or defense in the time frame looked at here, with 90% coming from the first three rounds in 2014, and 100% in 2013. Top 10 QBs like sixth rounder Brady and UFA Romo (and Kurt Warner) happen, but have been the exception in recent years. Another reason pedigree is important is not just as a sort of proxy for scout vetting, but franchise's tend to extend more chances to higher pedigree prospects, and stick with them longer. Of course, high pedigree good will extends only so far, and this dynamic couldn't overcome profound, repeated failures by the likes of Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell. High pedigree, though important, is ultimately just one component of the scouting and evaluation process, and has to be weighed with many other factors on a case by case basis.

* Every top 10 QB in 2014 (and 2013) played a complete 16 games. In large part due to many rule changes slanted to offense in general and QB specifically, it is the safest position, relatively speaking (at least at the top, as measured here).

2013 QUARTERBACKS - TOP 10

2013 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Age (2013), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played, Points Scored

1) Peyton Manning, DEN, 37, 1.1, Tennessee (6'5" 230), 16 - 487
2) Drew Brees, NO, 34, 2.1, Purdue (6'0" 210), 16 - 426
3) Andy Dalton, CIN, 26, 2.2, TCU (6'2" 220), 16 - 357
4) Matthew Stafford, DET, 25, 1.1, Georgia (6'3" 230), 16 - 349
5) Philip Rivers, SD, 32, 1.4 North Carolina State (6'5" 230), 16 - 347
6) Cam Newton, CAR, 24, 1.1, Auburn (6'5" 245), 16 - 347
7) Andrew Luck, IND, 24, 1.1, Stanford (6'4" 240), 16 - 336
8) Ben Roethlisberger, PIT, 31, 1.11, Miami, Ohio (6'5" 240), 16-327
9) Russell Wilson, SEA, 25, 3.12, Wisconsin (52011" 215), 16 - 323
10) Matt Ryan, ATL, 28, 1.3, Boston College (6'4" 220), 16 - 318

Data Mining Section

  • Percentage of QB from 2012 Top 10 - 6 of 10 (60%)

The 40% churn rate among the top 10 QBs in 2013 was the same as 2014 (see above).

Difference Between

  • #1 & #10 Scorer... 487 - 318 = 169 pts

Manning's historic, record shattering season with 55 TDs and nearly 5,500 yards (Denver became the first team to ever eclipse 600 points in a season) understandably created by far the largest separation for any position on either side of the ball in the two seasons examined here (and extending further back). Though the drop from #2 Drew Brees to #3 Dalton (69 pts.) was even greater than that from Manning to Brees (61 pts.).

Age Breakdown

  • (21-23) - 0
  • (24-26) - 5
  • (27-29) - 1
  • (30-32) - 2
  • (33-35) - 1
  • (36+) - 1

Similar age distribution to 2014 (see above).

Pedigree Breakdown

  • (Round 1-3) - 10
  • (Round 4-7) - 0
  • Undrafted Free Agent - 0

By Round

  • 1 - 7
  • 2 - 2
  • 3 - 1
  • 4 - 0
  • 5 - 0
  • 6 - 0
  • 7 - 0
  • UFA - 0

As noted, pedigree weighed heavier among the top 10 QBs than any other position on offense or defense in the time frame looked at here, with 100% coming from the first three rounds. Of the seven first rounders here, all but Ben Roethlisberger were HIGH first round picks.

* As in 2014, every top 10 QB in 2013 played a complete 16 game regular season schedule.

2014 RUNNING BACKS - TOP 20

2014 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Age (2014), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played, Points Scored

1) DeMarco Murray, DAL, 26, 3.7, Oklahoma (6'0" 217), 16 - 304.10
2) Le'Veon Bell, PIT, 22, 2.16, Michigan State (6201", 220), 16 - 287.50
3) Marshawn Lynch, SEA, 28, 1.12, California (52011" 215), 16 - 269.30
4) Matt Forte, CHI, 29, 2.13, Tulane (6'2" 220), 16 - 244.60
5) Arian Foster, HOU, 28, UFA, Tennessee (6201" 230), 13 - 239.55
6) Eddie Lacy, GB, 23, 2.29, Alabama (52011" 230), 16 - 234.60
7) Jamaal Charles, KC, 28, 3.10, Texas (52011" 200), 15 - 217.00
8) Justin Forsett, BAL, 29, 7.26, California (5'8" 195), 16 - 200.90
9) Lamar Miller, MIA, 23, 4.2, Miami (52010" 225), 16 - 191.40
10) Jeremy Hill, CIN, 22, 2.23, LSU (6201" 235), 16 - 187.90
11) LeSean McCoy, PHI, 26, 2.21, Pittsburgh (52011" 208), 16 - 177.40
12) C.J. Anderson, DEN, 23, UFA, California (5'8" 225), 15 - 177.30
13) Alfred Morris, WAS, 26, 6.3, Florida Atlantic (52010" 220), 16 - 170.90
14) Joique Bell, DET, 28, UFA, Wayne State (52011" 220), 15 - 166.20
15) Mark Ingram, NO, 25, 1.28, Alabama (52010" 215), 13 - 164.90
16) Frank Gore, SF, 31, 3.1, Miami (5'9" 217), 16 - 151.40
17) Matt Asiata, MIN, 27, UFA, Utah (6'0" 220), 15 - 148.20
18) Giovani Bernard, CIN, 23, 2.5, North Carolina (5'8" 207), 13 - 144.90
19) Chris Ivory, NYJ, 26, UFA, Tiffin (6'0" 220), 16 - 136.30
20) Andre Ellington, ARI, 25, 6.20, Clemson (5'9" 210), 12 - 135.50

Data Mining Section

  • Percentage of RB from 2013 Top 20 - 11 of 20 (55%)

This was not as good a retention figure as QB or TE in either 2013-2014, but better than WR in either year, and a big improvement over the 40% from 2013. RB typically has the heaviest injury-related attrition rate among the skill position. Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Eddie Lacy and DeMarco Murray all repeated in the top 10 from 2013. LeSean McCoy just misssed (#11 in 2014), Knowshon Moreno tore his ACL and Adrian Peterson was suspended for all but the opening game of the 2014 season. Lynch is the only RB to be top 5 and Charles top 10, three years in a row, but the 29 year old RBs haven't fared as well in 2014 - Lynch missed several games already and his production has fallen off a cliff, and Charles suffered his second torn ACL. As if on cue, while some older RBs may be fading, serious talent has entered the league at the RB position in recent years, including #2 Le'Veon Bell in 2014 (alas, also already with a season-ending knee injury) and potential generational talent Todd Gurley, who broke several NFL rookie rushing records in his first month of starts (including total rushing yards and four straight with 125+, despite a pesky torn ACL of his own in 2014, his final collegiate campaign at Georgia). He has already generated positive buzz and the authoritative imprimaturs of former Ram Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (who owns the rookie rushing yardage record for a season with 1,800+) and fellow Bulldog alumni Herschel Walker. Karlos Williams of the Bills is another good looking rookie RB, and is only the second player in league history (with former RB Robert Edwards) to score a TD in each of his first six games. The former blue chip safety recruit only played RB his last two seasons at Florida State, oozes potential and has tons of upside once he learns more positional nuances.

Difference Between

  • #1 & #10 Scorer... 304.10 - 187.90 = 116.20 pts
  • #11 & #20 Scorer... 177.40 - 135.50 = 41.90 pts

DeMarco Murray had comparable separation in 2014 to Jamaal Charles in 2013, but needed to compile a hellacious number of carries to accomplish the feat, with nearly 400 (LeSean McCoy was the only other RB to have 300+, and he had "just" 314). Murray compounded the beating by adding another 57 touches in receptions, and was worked like a rented mule in his final season with the Cowboys, prior to shifting his allegiance to the divisional rival Eagles. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard of the Bengals were the only RB teammates in the 2014 top 20.

Age Breakdown

  • (21-23) - 6
  • (24-26) - 6
  • (27-29) - 7
  • (30-32) - 1
  • (33-35) - 0
  • (36+) - 0

A sobering look at the stark wasteland which is the bleak reality for post-30 RBs. Among the top 20 RBs, 95% in 2014 and 90% in 2013 were under 30, by far the highest ratio of any skill position in the time frame studied here. More than any other skill position, this is a young man's game. Like 16th century political theorist Thomas Hobbes characterization of human life in the pre-governmental state of nature, an NFL RBs life is often solitary (maybe a bit less with the proliferation of RBBCs), poor, nasty, brutish and SHORT. Though half of the top 10 were a geezerish 28-29. How are they faring so far in 2015? Not well, for the most part. Lynch and Charles were already noted above in this context, also Matt Forte who is in a contract year with promising rookie Jeremy Langford waiting in the wings, Arian Foster (another seemingly ubiquitous injury in recent years, with a ruptured Achilles tendon) and journeyman Justin Forsett, who has fallen off the pace of his career season last year.

Pedigree Breakdown

  • (Round 1-3) - 11
  • (Round 4-7) - 4
  • Undrafted Free Agent - 5

By Round

  • 1 - 2
  • 2 - 6
  • 3 - 3
  • 4 - 1
  • 5 - 0
  • 6 - 2
  • 7 - 1
  • UFA - 5

The 55% ratio of 2014 RBs with third round or better pedigree was the lowest figure for any position in the two years of this study (though the 75% number in 2013 was one of the highest, underscoring the need to look at longer time scales that extend back deeper and further than a few seasons, to confer a better sense of which stats are more likely to be representative or outlier for the position). Marshawn Lynch (#3) and Mark Ingram (#15) were the only two RBs in the 2014 top 20 drafted in the first round, a very low number relative to the other positions in this two season survey and synoptic overview (except for the 2014 TEs), and an aberration and statistical outlier even compared to the 2013 RBs. It was increasingly becoming a cliche that for RBs, the second round is the new first round, with six in the top 20, as many as the first, third, fourth and fifth rounds COMBINED (and twice as many as the next closest, with three in the third round). Though with stellar rookie Todd Gurley not only being taken in the first round, but in the top 10, and Melvin Gordon also going in the the top half of the first round, the two year positional hiatus from the initial stanza of the draft may have spoken as much to a dearth of elite, blue chip prospects as seeming positional marginalization (Le'Veon Bell emerged as an elite talent in his second season as a pro, only after repurposing and transforming his body by losing 20-ish lbs., and the high first round and therefore high profile example of spectacular bust Trent Richardson admittedly didn't do much to counter or help dissipate that sense of creeping, encroaching positional marginalization).

* Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles were the only RBs in the top 10 to play less than 16 regular season games, with the former missing three games.

2013 RUNNING BACKS - TOP 20

2013 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Age (2013), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played, Points Scored

1) Jamaal Charles, KC, 27, 3.10, Texas (52011" 200), 15 - 312
2) LeSean McCoy, PHI, 25, 2.21, Pittsburgh (52011" 208), 16 - 281
3) Matt Forte, CHI, 28, 2.13, Tulane (6'2" 220), 16 - 265
4) Marshawn Lynch, SEA, 27, 1.12, California (52011" 215), 16 - 241
5) Knowshon Moreno, DEN, 26, 1.12, Georgia (52011" 220), 16 - 237
6) Adrian Peterson, MIN, 28, 1.7, Oklahoma (6201" 217), 14 - 210
7) Eddie Lacy, GB, 22, 2.29, Alabama (52011" 230), 15 - 210
8) DeMarco Murray, DAL, 25, 3.7, Oklahoma (6'0" 217), 14 - 207
9) Chris Johnson, TEN, 28, 1.24, East Carolina (52011" 190), 16 - 202
10) Reggie Bush, DET, 28, 1.2, USC (6'0" 205), 14 - 193
11) Fred Jackson, BUF, 32, UFA, Coe (6201" 215), 16 - 187
12) Ryan Mathews, SD, 26, 1.12, Fresno State (6'0" 220), 16 - 186
13) Frank Gore, SF, 30, 3.1, Miami (5'9" 217), 16 - 181
14) Alfred Morris, WAS, 25, 6.3, Florida Atlantic (52010" 220), 16 - 177
15) Le’Veon Bell, PIT, 21, 2.16, Michigan State (6201" 245), 13 - 175
16) Giovani Bernard, CIN, 22, 2.5, North Carolina (5'8" 207), 16 - 169
17) Joique Bell, DET, 27, UFA, Wayne State (52011" 220), 16-168
18) Zac Stacy, STL, 22, 5.27, Vanderbilt (5'8" 225), 14-159
19) Danny Woodhead, SD, 28, UFA, Chadron State (5'8" 200), 16 - 151
20) Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX, 28, 2.28, UCLA (5'7" 210), 15 - 146

Data Mining Section

  • Percentage of RB from 2012 Top 20 - 8 of 20 (40%)

The 60% churn rate was the worst among skill positions in either year, along with the 2013 TEs (see below).

Difference Between

  • #1 & #10 Scorer... 312 - 193 = 119 pts
  • #11 & #20 Scorer... 187 - 146 = 41 pts

Charles career best season (20 yards shy of 2,000 yards and 19 TDs combined rushing and receiving) created the second most separation after Manning in 2013, of any of the skill positions in the two seasons examined here. A week fifteen, 195 receiving yards (third most by a RB since the merger, Marshall Faulk had 204 in 1999), 5 TD scoring outburst against the Raiders helped him pull away from the competition. Charles has sprinter speed, soft hands and plays much bigger than expected for a 52011", 200 lb. RB. The top three RBs from 2012 dropped out. Arian Foster (#2) and Doug Martin (#3) missed 8 and 10 games, respectively. Adrian Peterson missed 2 games, but had already fallen off his torrid, cyborg-like 2012 pace (finishing nearly 100 pts. off), improbably coming within yards of vanquishing Eric Dickerson's refractory to breaking, nearly 30 year old NFL season rushing record, the season after suffering a torn ACL. Reggie Bush (#10) and Joique Bell (#17) of the Lions and Ryan Mathews (#12) and Danny Woodhead (#19) of the Chargers were both top 20 RB pairs as teammates.

Age Breakdown

  • (21-23) - 4
  • (24-26) - 5
  • (27-29) - 9
  • (30-32) - 2
  • (33-35) - 0
  • (36+) - 0

Which RBs will continue to elude Father Time in the twilight of their careers, as well as they have open field tacklers during their NFL tenure? Analytic number crunching is inconclusive in attempting to disentangle the complex question of whether age or wear ("mileage") is the bigger factor and determinant in the RB life cycle, end game phase of skill erosion and often alarmingly rapid decline. Charles and Bush fall on the lesser wear end of the spectrum, Forte, Lynch and Chris Johnson medium to heavy, and Peterson has put commercial scale mileage on the odometer. Michael Turner hit the wall hard in 2013, Steven Jackson was bracing for imminent impact, and even the venerable, ageless Frank Gore proved vulnerable to Carlos Hyde in 2015. For whatever reason, and it could be both age and wear in some cases (though the ability of the body to repair itself and recover from injury seems at some level to be a function of age, independent of wear), the vast majority of RBs hit the proverbial wall with varying rates of velocity around the 30 year demarcation. Much like the "life-clock" crystal implanted in the hands of the inhabitants depicted in the cheesy, cult, dystopian future, sci-fi film Logan's Run (and one of the seemingly few from the late sixties to mid-seventies not starring go to post-apocalyptic lead Charlton Heston, such as Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and The Omega Man), the clock is ticking and turns black at 30.

Pedigree Breakdown

  • (Round 1-3) - 15
  • (Round 4-7) - 2
  • Undrafted Free Agent - 3

By Round

  • 1 - 6
  • 2 - 6
  • 3 - 3
  • 4 - 0
  • 5 - 1
  • 6 - 1
  • 7 - 0
  • UFA - 3

The 75% ratio of RBs with third round or better pedigree was one of the higher figures, after the 2013-2014 QBs and 2014 WRs.

* Jamaal Charles and Eddie Lacy both missed one game from the top 10, and Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray and Reggie Bush each missed two games. Relative to other positions, more top 10 RBs missed games, and missed a larger number of games. RB and TE are more violent and dangerous positions than QB and WR, in terms of risk assessment.

2014 WIDE RECEIVERS - TOP 30

2014 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Age (2014), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played, Points Scored

1) Antonio Brown, PIT, 26, 6.26, Central Michigan (52010" 185), 16 - 254.10
2) Jordy Nelson, GB, 29, 2.5, Kansas State (6'3" 217), 16 - 229.90
3) Dez Bryant, DAL, 26, 1.24, Oklahoma State (6'2" 220), 16 - 228.00
4) Demaryius Thomas, DEN, 27, 1.22, Georgia Tech (6'3" 230), 16 - 227.90
5) Odell Beckham, Jr., NYG, 22, 1.12, LSU (6'0" 200), 12 - 206.00
6) Randall Cobb, GB, 24, 2.32, Kentucky (5201" 190), 15 - 204.40
7) Emmanuel Sanders, DEN, 27, 3.18, SMU (52011" 180), 16 - 198.80
8) Julio Jones, ATL, 25, 1.6, Alabama (6'3" 220), 15 - 195.40
9) Jeremy Maclin, PHI, 26, 1.19, Missouri (6'0" 200), 16 - 192.90
10) T.Y. Hilton, IND, 25, 3.29, Florida International (52010" 180), 15 - 178.50
11) Mike Evans, TB, 21, 1.7, Texas A&M (6'5" 230), 15 - 177.10
12) Alshon Jeffery, CHI, 24, 2.15, South Carolina (6'3" 215), 16 - 176.60
13) Golden Tate, DET, 26, 2.28, Notre Dame (52010" 200), 16 - 160.10
14) DeAndre Hopkins, HOU, 22, 1.27, Clemson (6201" 220), 16 - 157.00
15) Calvin Johnson, DET, 29, 1.2, Georgia Tech (6'5" 235), 13 - 155.70
16) Kelvin Benjamin, CAR, 23, 1.10, Florida State (6'5" 235), 16 - 154.80
17) DeSean Jackson, WAS, 28, 2.18, California (52010" 178), 15 - 153.60
18) Mike Wallace, MIA, 28, 3.20, Mississippi (6'0" 195), 16 - 147.80
19) Torrey Smith, BAL, 25, 2.26, Maryland (6'0" 205), 16 - 142.70
20) Steve Smith, BAL, 35, 3.12, Utah (5'9" 185), 16 - 142.50
21) A.J. Green, CIN, 26, 1.4, Georgia (6'4" 207), 13 - 140.30
22) Brandon LaFell, NE, 28, 3.14, LSU (6'3" 210), 16 - 138.60
23) Anquan Boldin, SF, 33, 2.22, Florida State (6201" 220), 16 - 136.60
24) Jordan Matthews, PHI, 22, 2.10, Vanderbilt (6'3" 212), 16 - 135.20
25) Sammy Watkins, BUF, 21, 1.4, Clemson (6'0" 210), 16 - 135.00
26) Roddy White, ATL, 33, 1.27, UAB (6'0" 215), 14 - 134.10
27) Julian Edelman, NE, 28, 7.23, Kent State (52010" 200), 14 - 130.60
28) Eric Decker, NYJ, 27, 3.23, Minnesota (6'3" 215), 15 - 126.20
29) Mohamed Sanu, CIN, 25, 3.20, Rutgers (6'2" 210), 16 - 122.05
30) Malcom Floyd, SD, 33, UFA, Wyoming (6'5" 225), 16 - 121.60

Data Mining Section

  • Percentage of WR from 2013 Top 30 - 15 of 30 (50%)

One of the higher churn rates (comparable to the 2013 WRs at 47%), after the 2013 RBs and TEs came in at a meat grinder-like 60%. It could be important to note potential interpositional CAUSAL differences in churn rate. As noted above, RB (and to a lesser extent, TE) are extremely violent, dangerous positions. Nonetheless, despite being a relatively "safer" position, year-to-year attrition at WR could come about for other reasons. For one example, compared to the run game, in which the QB merely hands the ball off to the RB, the passing game can involve a greater degree of difficulty in threading the needle downfield (admittedly a simplification, as the run game does involve complex linkages and multi-valent causal interactions with the OL, passing competence, quality of their own defense, sensitivity to and dependence on variable game script conditions, etc.). In the top 10, Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas were the only WRs to repeat from 2013, though Alshon Jeffery (#12) came close.

The 2014 season was marked by a historically potent rookie WR class. Odell Beckham, Jr., Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin comprised an unprecedented 1,000+ receiving yard rookie WR trio, with Sammy Watkins missing making it a quartet by a narrrow margin. Also, Beckham (despite missing a quarter of the season!!) and Evans both finished in the top 10 in league history for rookie receiving TDs. The WR class of 2015 was highly touted, perhaps in part riding the tsunami-sized wake of their immediate predecessors, but so far has fallen predictably well short of that virtually impossible standard. Amari Cooper, Kevin White and DeVante Parker were all drafted in the top half of the first round. White has been grounded with a shin injury and Parker is off to a slow start after pre-season complications associated with a previously broken foot (similar to Julio Jones, who turned out OK). Cooper has been a revelation, though, already looks like one of the best WRs in the league, and is within striking distance of the top 10. Maybe WR is becoming a young man's game, too, with RB? In 2014, Jordy Nelson (#2) and Calvin Johnson (#15) were the only WRs older than 27 in the top 15 - and they both were still under 30. Though at approximately the 2015 season midpoint, #5 Larry Fitzgerald (32), #6 Julian Edelman (29), #8 Brandon Marshall (31), #13 Michael Crabtree (28) and #15 Emmanuel Sanders (28) all fall into a resurgent older than 27 demographic, so perhaps 2014 was more historical anomaly than future trend.

Difference Between

  • #1 & #10 WR... 254.10 - 178.50 = 75.60 pts
  • #11 & #20 WR... 177.10 - 142.50 = 32.60 pts
  • #21 & #30 WR... 140.30 - 121.60 = 18.70 pts

The 2014 and (especially) 2013 WRs had the lowest separation figures at the top among all skill positions during the two years looked at here. This speaks to the talent and depth in the NFL's contemporary WR1 landscape. Jordy Nelson (#2) and Randall Cobb (#6) of Green Bay, Demaryius Thomas (#4) and Emmanuel Sanders (#7) of Denver, Julio Jones (#8) and Roddy White (#26) of Atlanta, Jeremy Maclin (#9) and Jordan Matthews (#24) of Philadelphia, Golden Tate (#13) and Calvin Johnson (#15) of Detroit, Torrey and Steve Smith (#19 and #20, respectively) of Baltimore, A.J. Green (#21) and Mohamed Sanu (#29) of Cincinnati AND Brandon LaFell (#22) and Julian Edelman (#27) all represented top 30 WR pairs as teammates.

Age Breakdown

  • (21-23) - 6
  • (24-26) - 11
  • (27-29) - 9
  • (30-32) - 0
  • (33-35) - 4
  • (36+) - 0

The historically good WR class of 2014 spiked the youngest age bracket demographic relative to the previous season.

Pedigree Breakdown

  • (Round 1-3) - 27
  • (Round 4-7) - 2
  • Undrafted Free Agent - 1

By Round

  • 1 - 12
  • 2 - 8
  • 3 - 7
  • 4 - 0
  • 5 - 0
  • 6 - 1
  • 7 - 1
  • UFA - 1

As noted, the top three round pedigree distribution for the 2014 top 30 WRs of 90% was the second highest among skill positions in this two year time frame, with the 2014 QBs (2013 QB was 100%), and in fact was an aberration relative to the 2013 WRs (63%).

* Top 15 WRs Randall Cobb (#6), Julio Jones (#8), T.Y. Hilton (#10), Mike Evans (#11) all missed a game, Calvin Johnson (#15) missed three and Odell Beckham, Jr. (#5) missed four games.

2013 WIDE RECEIVERS - TOP 30

2013 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Age ("13), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played, Points Scored

1) Josh Gordon, CLE, 22, 2nd (Supplemental), Baylor (6'3" 225), 14 - 227
2) Demaryius Thomas, DEN, 26, 1.22, Georgia Tech (6'3" 230), 16 - 227
3) Calvin Johnson, DET, 28, 1.2, Georgia Tech (6'5" 235), 14 - 221
4) A.J. Green, CIN, 25, 1.4, Georgia (6'4" 207), 16 - 209
5) Brandon Marshall, CHI, 29, 4.22, Central Florida (6'4" 230), 16 - 202
6) Dez Bryant, DAL, 25, 1.24, Oklahoma State (6'2" 220), 16 - 201
7) Antonio Brown, PIT, 25, 6.26, Central Michigan (52010" 185), 16 - 199
8) Eric Decker, DEN, 26, 3.23, Minnesota (6'3" 215), 16 - 195
9) Alshon Jeffery, CHI, 23, 2.15, South Carolina (6'3" 215), 16 - 195
10) DeSean Jackson, PHI, 27, 2.18, California (52010" 178), 16 - 187
11) Jordy Nelson, GB, 28, 2.5, Kansas State (6'3" 217), 16 - 179
12) Andre Johnson, HOU, 32, 1.3, Miami (6'3" 230), 16 - 171
13) Pierre Garcon, WAS, 27, 6.39, Mount Union (6'0" 215), 16 - 167
14) Vincent Jackson, SD, 30, 2.29, Northern Colorado (6'5" 230), 16 - 164
15) Anquan Boldin, SF, 33, 2.22, Florida State (6201" 220), 16 - 161
16) Larry Fitzgerald, ARI, 30, 1.3, Pittsburgh (6'3" 220), 16 - 156
17) Keenan Allen, SD, 21, 3.14, California (6'2" 210), 15 - 153
18) Julian Edelman, NE, 27, 7.23, Kent State (52010" 200), 16 - 143
19) T.Y. Hilton, IND, 24, 3.29, Florida International (52010" 180), 16 - 139
20) Wes Welker, NE, 32, UFA, Texas Tech (5'9" 185), 13 - 138
21) Marvin Jones, CIN, 23, 5.31, California (6'2" 195), 16 - 138
22) Torrey Smith, BAL, 24, 2.26, Maryland (6'0" 205), 16 - 137
23) Michael Floyd, ARI, 24, 1.13, Notre Dame (6''3" 220), 16 - 135
24) Riley Cooper, PHI, 26, 5.28, Florida (6'3" 220), 16 - 133
25) Mike Wallace, MIA, 27, 3.20, Mississippi (6'0" 195), 16 - 126
26) Brian Hartline, MIA, 27, 4.8, Ohio State (6'2" 200), 16 - 126
27) Marques Colston, NO, 30, 7.44, Hofstra (6'4" 225), 15 - 124
28) Victor Cruz, NYG, 27, UFA, Massachusetts (6'0" 205), 14 - 124
29) Golden Tate, SEA, 25, 2.28, Notre Dame (52010" 200), 16 - 123
30) Jerricho Cotchery, PIT, 31, 4.12, North Carolina State (6201" 200), 16 - 120

Data Mining Section

  • Percentage of WR from 2012 Top 30 - 14 of 30 (47%)

Comparable to the 2014 WRs, and therefore similar relative standing to other skill positions in the two year time frame (see above).

Difference Between

  • #1 & #10 WR... 227 - 187 = 40 pts
  • #11 & #20 WR... 179 - 138 = 41 pts
  • #21 & #30 WR... 138 - 120 = 18 pts

As noted, the 2013 WRs had by far the lowest separation figure at the top (and the 2014 WRs were next lowest among the skill positions in either season).

Age Breakdown

  • (21-23) - 4
  • (24-26) - 10
  • (27-29) - 9
  • (30-32) - 6
  • (33-35) - 1
  • (36+) - 0

Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones and Roddy White dropped out of the top 10 from 2012. Johnson (#12) and Jackson (#14) just missed, Jones and White were injured. Johnson and White were both 32 and Jackson 30 in 2013. The three oldest WRs in the 2013 top 10 were Brandon Marshall (29), Calvin Johnson (28) and DeSean Jackson (27). Youngest top 10 WR Josh Gordon (22) was intially hit with what looked like a season-ending suspension, but the new drug policy agreement gave him a reprieve (Justin Blackmon was another talented but troubled member of the WR class of 2012, currently suspended indefinitely with his NFL future likely in the past).

Pedigree Breakdown

  • (Round 1-3) - 19
  • (Round 4-7) - 9
  • Undrafted Free Agent - 2

By Round

  • 1 - 7
  • 2 - 8
  • 3 - 4
  • 4 - 3
  • 5 - 2
  • 6 - 2
  • 7 - 2
  • UFA - 2

The pedigree distribution for the 2013 top 30 WRs of 63% taken in first three rounds is at the lower end of the spectrum among skill positions in the two seasons under the microscope here, with only the 2013 TEs (60%) and 2014 RBs (55%) lower.

* Josh Gordon (#1) and Calvin Johnson (#3) with two missed games and Wes Welker (#20) with three were the only 2013 WRs in the top 25 to have more than one - in fact, Keenan Allen (#17) was the only other WR with a DNP. WR falls below QB safety and health-wise, but ahead of RB and TE in the violent injury occupational hazard and associated volatility risk part of the positional spectrum.

2014 TIGHT ENDS - TOP 10

2014 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Age (2014), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played, Points Scored

1) Rob Gronkowski, NE, 25, 2.10, Arizona (6'6" 265), 15 - 184.40
2) Antonio Gates, SD, 34, UFA, Kent State (6'4" 255), 16 - 154.10
3) Jimmy Graham, NO, 28, 3.31, Miami (6'7" 265), 16 - 148.90
4) Greg Olsen, CAR, 29, 1.31, Miami (6'5" 250), 16 - 136.80
5) Martellus Bennett, CHI, 27, 2.30, Texas A&M (6'6" 265), 16 - 127.60
6) Coby Fleener, IND, 26, 2.12, Stanford (6'6" 250), 16 - 125.40
7) Travis Kelce, KC, 25, 3.1, Cincinnati (6'6" 260), 16 - 122.20
8) Julius Thomas, DEN, 26, 4.32, Portland State (6'5" 250), 13 - 120.90
9) Delanie Walker, TEN, 30, 6.6, Central Missouri (6'0" 250), 15 - 113.00
10) Jason Witten, DAL, 32, 3.5, Tennessee, (6'5" 260), 16 - 100.30

Data Mining Section

  • Percentage of TEs from 2013 Top 10 - 6 of 10 (60%)

This was the same retention rate as the 2013-2014 QBs, better than the RBs and WRs for either year, and far better than the 2013 TEs. Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Martellus Bennett, Julius Thomas and Jason Witten all repeated in the top 10 from the previous year. Historically, TE is an notoriously difficult position to expect scoring production from rookies (examples like Mike Ditka, Keith Jackson and Jeremy Shockey the exceptions that prove the rule). For future reference purposes, keep an eye on rookie third rounder Clive Walford, who broke receiving records at TE factory Miami (a school that not only produced Shockey, but fellow first rounders Bubba Franks, Kellen Winslow and Greg Olsen, as well as third rounder Jimmy Graham). Consensus top rookie prospects from the respective TE classes of 2013 and 2014, Tyler Eifert and, to a lesser extent, Eric Ebron, the first player at his position with top 10 pedigree since Vernon Davis (who, athletically speaking, was a player zero-type like Calvin Johnson at WR and Adrian Peterson at RB), are enjoying break out seasons.

Difference Between

  • #1 & #10 Scorer... 184.40 - 100.30 = 84.10 pts

This separation figure was not as high as QB or RB in either 2013-2014 (or TE in 2013), but higher than WR in either season.

Age Breakdown

  • (21-23) - 0
  • (24-26) - 4
  • (27-29) - 3
  • (30-32) - 2
  • (33-35) - 1
  • (36+) - 0

Like QB, in both 2013-2014, there were no top 10 TEs in the youngest age bracket, and conversely, at least three or more in the 30+ demographic, highlighting some possible maturational parallels and developmental arc symmetries. The RB and WR positions were alike in both ranging from 4-6 representatives populating the youngest demographic in each of the two seasons under investigation here, though with the similarity parting ways in the end game phase, with relatively few RBs enjoying success in the post-30 twilight years, and comparitively far more WRs, similar to QB and TE in that respect. While names may change from year to year, age and developmental curves and pedigree trends can sometimes remain constant and endure, like the throughput of a constantly changing cascade of molecules that sustain the form and structure of an organism over time.

Pedigree Breakdown

  • (Round 1-3) - 7
  • (Round 4-7) - 2
  • Undrafted Free Agent - 1

By Round

  • 1 - 1
  • 2 - 3
  • 3 - 3
  • 4 - 1
  • 5 - 0
  • 6 - 1
  • 7 - 0
  • UFA - 1

70% of the 2014 top 10 TEs from the first three rounds was actually one of the lower pedigree linkage figures, far below the 2013-2014 QBs (90% and 100%, respectively) and 2014 WRs (90%), as well as 2013 RBs (75%). Greg Olsen was the only first round pick in the top 10 (mirroring Marshawn Lynch among 2014 RBs).

* Julius Thomas (#8) missed three games, with Rob Gronkowski (#1) and Delanie Walker (#9) missing one game each.

2013 TIGHT ENDS - TOP 10

2013 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Age (2013), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played, Points Scored

1) Jimmy Graham, NO, 27, 3.31, Miami (6'7" 265), 16 - 217.50
2) Vernon Davis, SF, 29, 1.6, Maryland (6'3" 250), 15 - 160.00
3) Julius Thomas, DEN, 25, 4.32, Portland State (6'5" 250), 14 - 150.80
4) Jordan Cameron, CLE, 25, 4.5, USC (6'5" 250), 15 - 133.70
5) Jason Witten, DAL, 31, 3.5, Tennessee, (6'5" 260), 16 - 133.10
6) Tony Gonzalez, ATL, 37, 1.13, California (6'5" 255), 16 - 132.70
7) Charles Clay, MIA, 24, 6.9, Tulsa (6'3" 255), 16 - 119.40
8) Greg Olsen, CAR, 28, 1.31, Miami (6'5" 250), 16 - 117.60
9) Antonio Gates, SD, 33, UFA, Kent State (6'4" 255), 16 - 111.20
10) Martellus Bennett, CHI, 26, 2.30, Texas A&M (6'6" 265), 16 - 127.60

Data Mining Section

  • Percentage of TE from 2012 Top 10 - 4 of 10 (40%)
  • The 60% churn rate of the 2013 WRs/TEs and 2013 RBs was the highest of any skill position within this time frame.

Difference Between

  • #1 & #10 Scorer... 218 - 106 = 112 pts

After Peyton Manning’s monumental 2013 season, the separation figure for Jimmy Graham's stellar, dominant 2013 campaign was comparable to the 2013-2014 seasons of RBs DeMarco Murray and Jamaal Charles, and higher than the 2014 seasons of QB Andrew Luck and TE Rob Gronkowski. The Patriot super star and 3 X First-team All-Pro has been dominant when healthy (incredibly winding up second to fellow class of 2010 member Jimmy Graham in 2012, despite nearly a third of a season handicap). Even accounting for occasional missed games, Gronkowski represents compelling value because he is such a massive difference maker when suiting up.

Age Breakdown

  • (21-23) - 0
  • (24-26) - 4
  • (27-29) - 3
  • (30-32) - 1
  • (33-35) - 1
  • (36+) - 1

Nearly identical to the age distribution data from 2014 (see above).

Pedigree Breakdown

  • (Round 1-3) - 6
  • (Round 4-7) - 3
  • Undrafted Free Agent - 1

By Round

  • 1 - 3
  • 2 - 1
  • 3 - 2
  • 4 - 2
  • 5 - 0
  • 6 - 1
  • 7 - 0
  • UFA - 1

The importance of pedigree in correlation to relative interpositional success was felt less only in the 2014 RBs, among all the skill positions in both seasons.

Vernon Davis and Jordan Cameron each missed one game, and Julius Thomas missed two games in 2013 (detecting a negative DNP progression and downward health spiral, he missed three games in 2014, and exceeded that just in the first month of the 2015 season). Again, while TE tends to fare worse than QB and WR in the durability department, it isn’t as fearsome and horrific an occupation as RB (which is probably not unlike being in several hundred car crashes of varyingly escalating intensity per season, ranking only slightly below CDC level 4 pathogen biocontainment virologist and SWAT bomb disposal technician).

Thanks for reading The Rookies, all comments or questions invited - magaw@footballguys.com

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