Win. Your. League.

Receive 3 Free Downloads More Details

The Rookies: Week 12

An indepth look at this year's crop of rookies

SPECIAL DYNASTY REPORT

(The usual content for The Rookies column will return in Week 14)

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

A Summing Up - Changing of the Guard?

Dynasty IDP 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 quatitative.

It is always a good habit when examining the Top 20* (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 Top 20 IDPs are likely to remain from the previous season's final standings, and who will be jettisoned? Which IDPs currently outside the Top 20 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 six sets of top 20/30 standings (three positions of DL, LB and DB for '14 and '13, 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 '13 to '14 in the top 20/30 standings for their respective positions (though not nearly as much at DB as DL and LB during the two seasons examined here).

More fertile ground for data mining would be looking at measurables (for positional physical prototype info), as well as college pedigree (Div I, small school, etc.), but these will be left as a suggestion for further research and an exercise for interested readers. Also, 40 times (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. - do these developmental curves differ BETWEEN positions. Are there pedigree distribution differences the top 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-related 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 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 defensive study (and the counterpart offensive 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.

* Why Top 20 DL, Top 30 LB and Top 20 DB? 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. 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 a magnificent example of an 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 contains information that could be relevant to redraft purposes.

2014 DEFENSIVE LINEMEN - TOP 20

'14 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Position, Age ('14), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played

1) J.J. Watt, HOU, DE, 25, 1.11, Wisconsin (6'5" 290), 16 - 240.75
2) Jason Pierre-Paul, NYG, DE, 25, 1.15, South Florida (6'5" 280), 16 - 172.5
3) Robert Quinn, STL, DE, 24, 1.14, North Carolina (6'4" 265), 16 - 134.75
4) Carlos Dunlap, CIN, DE, 25, 2.22, Florida (6'6" 280), 16 - 132.25
5) Mario Williams, BUF, DE, 29, 1.1, North Carolina State (6'6" 290), 16 - 129
6) Everson Griffen, MIN, DE, 27, 4.2, USC (6'3" 275), 16 - 127
7) Rob Ninkovich, NE, DE, 30, 5.2, Purdue (6'3" 260), 16 - 122.75
8) Sheldon Richardson, NYJ, DE, 24, 1.16, Missouri (6'3" 295), 16 - 122.5
9) Calais Campbell, ARI, DE, 28, 2.19, Miami (6'8" 300), 14 - 121
10) Jerry Hughes, BUF, DE, 26, 1.31, Texas Christian (6'2", 255), 16 - 120.75
11) Cameron Wake, MIA, DE, 32, UFA, Penn State (6'3" 270), 16 - 116.75
12) Corey Liuget, SD, DE, 24, 1.08, Illinois (6'2" 300), 16 - 116.25
13) Jared Allen, CHI, DE, 32, 4.30, Idaho State (6'6" 270), 15 - 115.75
14) Fletcher Cox, PHI, DE, 24, 1.12, Mississippi State (6'4" 300), 16 - 115.25
15) Sen'Derrick Marks, JAX, DT, 27, 2.30, Auburn (6'2" 295), 16 - 110.25
16) Charles Johnson, CAR, DE, 28, 3.18, Georgia (6'2", 280), 16 - 109.5
17) Ezekiel Ansah, DET, DE, 25, 1.5, Brigham Young (6'5" 280), 16 - 107.25
18) Cameron Jordan, NO, DE, 25, 1.24, California (6'4" 285), 16 - 107.25
19) Jurrell Casey, TEN, DE, 25, 3.13, UCLA (6'1" 305), 16 - 106.25
20) Marcell Dareus, BUF, DT, 25, 1.3, Alabama (6'3" 330), 15 - 104.5

Data Mining Section

Percentage of DL from '13 Top 20 10 of 20 (50%)

The 50% churn rate was tied for second lowest among the three IDP positions (DL, LB and DB) for either year, with the 2013 LBs, edged only by the 2013 DL. Five of the top 10 from 2013 repeated in 2014 (including three of the top four). Mario Williams at #5 was the only top five DL older than 25 (29). He was also one of three Bills teammates to crack the 2014 top 20 DL list, along with Jerry Hughes (#10) and Marcel Dareus (#20). J.J. Watt signed a six year extension worth $100+ million before the 2014 season, making him the highest paid non-QB in the league, and he was worth every million. He had 20.5 sacks for the second time in three years (becoming the first player in NFL history with more than one 20+ sack season), received a rare second Defensive Player of the Year Award, was All-Pro First-team at DE for the third time as well as a Second-team at DT, scored three offensive TDs as a TE plus two on defense, was the MVP runner up and first defensive player to receive votes in nearly a decade, and finished #1 in the peer voted NFL Top 100 list for the 2014 season. Three DEs were taken in the top 10 of the 2015 draft, Dante Fowler at #3 by JAX (torn ACL in the pre-season), Leonard Williams at #6 by NYJ and Vic Beasley at #8 by ATL.

Difference Between

#1 & #10 Scorer... 240.75 - 120.75 = 120 pts
#11 & #20 Scorer... 116.75 - 104.5 = 12.25 pts

Watt's separation figure for the 2014 season was at least 2-3 X higher than the other positions in the two seasons put under the microscope here (and DL in 2013). Beyond the top 10, the differences begin to become more compressed and indistinguishable, and therefore harder to find DIFFERENCE MAKERS (that goes for every IDP position in either year).

Positional Breakdown

DE - 18
DT - 2

Lends credence to the rule of thumb that you generally don't want to draft DTs high (with the exception of Pro Bowlers like Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins). The above can be further broken down and subdivided into...

4-3 DE - 10
3-4 DE - 8

In 2013 4-3 DEs populated the top 20 DL list by a decisive 13-4 ratio over their 3-4 DE counterparts, but dramatically narrowed the gap in 2014 (10-8, respectively).

Age Breakdown

(21-23) - 0
(24-26) - 12
(27-29) - 5
(30-32) - 3
(33-35) - 0
(36+) - 0

DL typically take some time to ramp up, ascend in the second and third age bracket, crest and fade in the fourth from 30-32, than crash and burn afterwards for the most part. The three oldest top 10 DL members in 2014 were Calais Campbell (28), Mario Williams (29) and Rob Ninkovich (30). So far in 2015, though Campbell is close (#22), only Ninkovich is currently in the top 20 (#18), and Mario Williams has fallen off a cliff (#97). Only two of the DL that comprised #11-#20 were 30+ in either 2013-2014. This was the only IDP position in either year to have no representatives in the youngest age bracket.

Pedigree Breakdown

(Round 1-3) - 16
(Round 4-7) - 3
Undrafted Free Agent - 1

By Round

1 - 11
2 - 3
3 - 2
4 - 2
5 - 1
6 - 0
7 - 0
UFA - 1

Pedigree figured prominently in the 2013-2014 DL scoring leaders (as in many positions on either side of the ball in both years). Of the top 20 DL, 80% were drafted in the first three rounds both seasons, the highest percentage among the IDP positions. Among the 2013 top 10 DL, 60% were first rounders, including four of the top five (Watt, Pierre-Paul, Quinn and Williams), and there were no UFAs - there were none even in the top 20 in 2013. Also in both seasons, there was only one player not drafted in the first five rounds, the lowest percentage among the IDP positions.

* Calais Campbell of the Cardinals at #9 was the highest scoring DL in 2013 to miss time (14 games). Jared Allen and Marcel Dareus, at #13 and #20, respectivelly, missed one game each.

2013 DEFENSIVE LINEMEN - TOP 20

'13 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Position, Age ('13), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played

1) Robert Quinn, STL, DE, 23, 1.14, North Carolina (6'4" 265), 16 - 194
2) J.J. Watt, HOU, DE, 24, 1.11, Wisconsin (6'5" 290), 16 - 185
3) Rob Ninkovich, NE, DE, 29, 5.2, Purdue (6'3" 260), 16 - 148
4) Greg Hardy, CAR, DE, 25, 6.6, Mississippi (6'4" 290), 16 - 145
5) Chandler Jones, NE, DE, 23, 1.21, Syracuse (6'5" 265), 16 - 143
6) Justin Tuck, NYG, DE, 30, 3.10, Notre Dame (6'5" 270), 16 - 142
7) Muhammad Wilkerson, NYJ, DE, 24, 1.30, Temple (6'4" 315), 16 - 140
8) Calais Campbell, ARI, DE, 27, 2.19, Miami (6'8" 300), 16 - 138
9) Carlos Dunlap, CIN, DE, 24, 2.22, Florida (6'6" 280), 16 - 132
10) Kyle Williams, BUF, DT, 30, 5.1, LSU (6'1" 300), 16 - 131
11) Lamarr Houston, OAK, DE, 26, 2.12, Texas (6'3" 300), 16 - 130
12) Cameron Jordan, NO, DE, 24, 1.24, California (6'4" 285), 16 - 129
13) Jared Allen, MIN, DE, 31, 4.30, Idaho State (6'6" 270), 16 - 129
14) Marcell Dareus, BUF, DT, 24, 1.3, Alabama (6'3" 330), 16 - 126
15) Jurrell Casey, TEN, DT, 24, 3.13, UCLA (6'1" 305), 15 - 117
16) Olivier Vernon, MIA, DE, 23, 3.9, Miami (6'2" 270), 16 - 117
17) Adrian Clayborn, TB, DE, 25, 1.20, Iowa (6'3" 280), 16 - 115
18) Jason Hatcher, DAL, DE, 31, 3.28, Grambling State (6'6" 300), 15 - 113
19) Michael Johnson, CIN, DE, 26, 3.6, Georgia Tech (6'7" 270), 15 - 112
20) Mario Williams, BUF, DE, 28, 1.1, North Carolina State (6'6" 290), 16 - 112

Data Mining Section

Percentage of DL from '12 Top 20 11 of 20 (55%)

The 45% churn rate was higher than some of the top offensive skill positions, but as noted above, the lowest mark among defensive positions in the two seasons examined here. Only three 2012 top 10 DL repeated in 2013, J.J. Watt (#2), Rob Ninkovich (#3) and Greg Hardy (#4). Watt is quickly amassing an Aaron Rodgers-like resume (no worse than #2 the past three seasons, #1 in 2012 and 2014 - and was #16 in his 2011 rookie season). Ninkovich has been no worse than #7 in four consecutive seasons (#4, #4, #3 and #7 in 2011-2014 - and at #11 in 2010, just missed making it five straight years). Of the top 20 2012 DL that comprised the balance of the repeats, eight came from the 11-20 spots. Robert Quinn surged all the way from #31 to first overall, developing into one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the game. Chandler Jones made nearly as impressive a move up, from #28 into the top five. Both turned just 24 in 2014. Ninkovich (#3) and Jones (#5) were improbably top 5 DL teammates in 2013. Bengals bookend DEs Carlos Dunlap (#9) and Michael Johnson (#19) were a top 20 tandem, and the Bills had another top 20 DL trio as in 2014, with Kyle Williams (#10), Marcel Dareus (#14) and Mario Williams (#20).

The 2014 draft didn’t yield many elite DE options, with so many pass rushers reclassified and designated as LBs (including #1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and top 10 Anthony Barr, with DeMarcus Lawrence probably the best pure 4-3 DE play. The Cowboys coughed up a mid-second and third round pick to secure his services with the second pick in round two, grading him as one of the top pass rushers in the draft. The best DL prospect in the 2014 draft was a DT, Aaron Donald. He won virtually every major collegiate award possible for a DT, blew up the combine and completed a four (top half of the) first round St. Louis front four, including Quinn, Chris Long and Michael Brockers. Scouts have compared Donald to previous elite “undersized” interior pass rushers and DD sack artists such as John Randle and Warren Sapp, as well as contemporary Geno Atkins. Donald won Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Difference Between

#1 & #10 Scorer... 194 - 131 = 63 pts
#11 & #20 Scorer... 130 - 112 = 18 pts

Quinn's separation figure was the second highest among the three defensive positions in either seasons, after Watt's 2014 number (which can't be called an outburst, as it replicated his 2012 campaign, and is quickly becoming routinized).

Positional Breakdown

DE - 17
DT - 3

Similar to the 2014 DL positional distribution. The above can be further broken down and subdivided into...

4-3 DE - 13
3-4 DE - 4

As noted above, 3-4 DEs are usually not as productive as their 4-3 counterparts, so the 2014 pattern was atypical.

Age Breakdown

(21-23) - 3
(24-26) - 10
(27-29) - 3
(30-32) - 4
(33-35) - 0
(36+) - 0

All three members of the 21-23 age bracket (Robert Quinn, Chandler Jones and Olivier Vernon) turned 24 in 2014, which left a void in the youngest age bracket. The oldest top 10 DL members were DEs Rob Ninkovich (29) and Justin Tuck (30), as well as DT Kyle Williams (30).

Pedigree Breakdown

(Round 1-3) - 16
(Round 4-7) - 4
Undrafted Free Agent - 0

By Round

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

Pedigree also figured prominently in the 2013 DL scoring leaders, see above (an identical 80% of the top 20 to 2014 were drafted in the first three rounds). Among the top 10 DL, 40% were first rounders, including the top two, Robert Quinn and J.J. Watt, as well as Chandler Jones (#5) and Muhammad Wilkerson (#7). DL in 2013 was the only position in either year with no UFAs.

* The Titans DT Jurrell Casey (#15) was the highest scoring DL in 2013 to miss time. Jason Hatcher (#18) and Michael Johnson (#19) also missed one game each.

2014 LINEBACKERS - TOP 30

'14 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Position, Age ('14), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played

1) Luke Kuechly, CAR, MLB, 23, 1.9, Boston College (6'3" 240), 16 - 230.5
2) DeAndre Levy, DET, WLB, 27, 3.12, Wisconsin (6'2" 240), 16 - 225
3) Lavonte David, TB, WLB, 24, 2.26, Nebraska (6'1" 235), 14 - 211.5
4) Justin Houston, KC, OLB, 25, 3.6, Georgia (6'3" 260), 16 - 206.75
5) D’Qwell Jackson, IND, ILB, 31, 2.2, Maryland (6'0" 240), 16 - 204
6) Jamie Collins, NE, WLB, 24, 3.20, Southern Miss (6'3" 250), 15 - 197
7) C.J. Mosley, BAL, ILB, 22, 1.17, Alabama (6'2" 235), 16 - 197
8) Curtis Lofton, NO, ILB, 28, 2.6, Oklahoma (6'0" 240), 16 - 193.25
9) Alec Ogletree, STL, WLB, 23, 1.30, Georgia (6'2" 245), 16 - 192.25
10) Paul Worrilow, ATL, MLB, 24, UFA, University of Delaware (6'0" 230), 16 - 190.75
11) Daryl Smith, BAL, ILB, 32, 2.7, Georgia Tech (6'2" 250), 16 - 185.5
12) Brandon Marshall, DEN, WLB, 25, 5.7, Nevada (6'1" 250), 14 - 184.5
13) David Harris, NYJ, ILB, 30, 2.15, Michigan (6'2" 250), 16 - 176 - 181.25
14) Demario Davis, NYJ, ILB, 25, 3.14, Arkansas State (6'2" 240), 16 - 175.5
15) Lawrence Timmons, PIT, ILB, 28, 1.15, Florida State (6'1" 235), 16 - 175.25
16) James Laurinaitis, STL, MLB, 28, 2.3, Ohio State (6'2" 250), 16 - 169
17) Ryan Kerrigan, WAS, OLB, 26, 1.16, Purdue (6'4" 260), 16 - 165.75
18) Jelani Jenkins, MIA, ILB, 22, 4.7, Florida (6'0" 245), 15 - 165.25
19) Jameel McClain, NYG, MLB, 29, UFA, Syracuse (6'1" 245), 16 - 161.75
20) K.J. Wright, SEA, WLB, 25, 4.2, Mississippi State (6'4" 245), 16 - 161.75
21) Chris Borland, SF, ILB, 23, 3.13, Wisconsin (5'1"" 250), 14 - 158.25
22) Connor Barwin, PHI, OLB, 28, 2.14, Cincinnati (6'4" 265), 16 - 156.75
23) Nigel Bradham, BUF, SLB, 25, 4.10, Florida State (6'2" 240), 14 - 156.75
24) Telvin Smith, JAX, WLB, 23, 5.4, Florida State (6'3" 225), 16 - 156.25
25) Keenan Robinson, WAS, ILB, 25, 4.24, Texas (6'3" 240), 13 - 153.25
26) Thomas Davis, CAR, SLB, 31, 1.14, Georgia (6'1" 235), 15 - 147
27) Joseph Mauga, ILB, KC, 27, UFA, Nevada (6'2" 245), 16 - 145.25
28) Vincent Rey, CIN, MLB, 27, UFA, Duke (6'0" 255), 16 - 144.75
29) Clay Matthews, GB, ILB, 28, 1.26, USC (6'3" 255), 16 - 144.5
30) Mychal Kendricks, PHI, ILB, 24, 2.14, California (5'11" 240), 12 - 141.25

Data Mining Section

Percentage of LB from '13 Top 20 11 of 30 (37%)

This retention rate was situated roughly in the middle of the three positions, lower than the 2013 DL at 55% and 2014 DL/2013 LB at 50%, but higher than the 2014 DB at 30% and a lot higher than the 2013 DB at a meager, paltry 10% (the worst figure in either season looked at here). Luke Kuechly and Lavonte David were the only LBs to repeat in the top 10 (with David #2 in '13 and #3 in '14). C. J. Mosley was the only rookie LB to crack the top 10, though Chris Borland and Telvin Smith finished just outside the top 20. While Borland shockingly retired after a brilliant debut campaign, Smith is currently #2 among LBs (right behind the ageless Thomas Davis) and Mosley is #15. Navorro Bowman is at #3 and making a strong rebound from his torn ACL suffered against Seattle in the 2013 season playoffs (when he was #1). Usual suspects Kuechly, David, D'Qwell Jackson and Paul Posluszny are also in the 2015 top 10 through 10 games (rookie "Master" Kwon Alexander is at #8, but was recently informed by the league of a looming four game suspension for violating the league's PED policy). Mosley (#7) and Daryl Smith (#11) of the Ravens, Alec Ogletree (#9) and James Laurinaitis (#16) of the Rams and David Harris (#13) and Demario Davis (#14) of the Jets are all top 15 teammates. After the consensus top two ILBs Mosley and Ryan Shazier went in the 2014 mid-first round, top 2015 ILB/MLB LB prospects Stephone Anthony (1.31) and Eric Kendricks (2.13) weren't selected until the end of the first and mid-second rounds, respectively. Bud Dupree (1.22) and Shaq Thompson (1.25) were the highest drafted 3-4 and 4-3 LBs.

Difference Between

#1 & #10 Scorer... 230.5 - 190.75 = 39.75 pts
#11 & #20 Scorer... 185.5 - 161.75 = 23.75 pts
#21 & #30 Scorer... 158.25 - 141.25 = 17 pts

As gifted and phenomenal as Kuechly is, his separation figure was the second lowest of all the positions in the two seasons examined here, about a third of J.J. Watt's among 2014 (and 2012) DL, and #1 2013 DL Robert Quinn was about 50% higher, as was Navorro Bowman among LBs in his Defensive Player of the Year-caliber campaign the same year. It was comparable to Barry Church among 2013 DBs, and aproximately double the venerable Charles Woodson from 2014 (brought up the rear among the three positions in either year). Of course, a stat like this speaks in part to the strength of the other top 10 LBs in 2014. There can be variance in this relative strength from position to position and year to year, while some longer range patterns seem to endure, like a tidal ebb and flow of historical forces across time.

Positional Breakdown

MLB/ILB - 18
OLB - 12

Generally, three-down MLB/ILBs are preferred to OLBs (with exceptions, of course), a heuristic which held up in 2014 (and even more so in 2013). This can be further broken down and subdivided into...

MLB - 5
ILB - 13

A sign of the general proliferation of 3-4 defenses in recent years. Of course, 3-4 teams start two ILBs whereas 4-3 teams only have one MLB, effectively doubling the pool of potential top 30 candidates from predominantly 3-4 schemes, relative to their 4-3 counterparts.

4-3 WLB - 7
4-3 SLB - 2
3-4 OLB - 3

Typically SLBs are shunned in IDP leagues, with exceptions like Thomas Davis (and formerly Chad Greenway). Identical WLB and SLB distribution to 2013 below, with two more OLBs in the 2014 top 30 LBs. WLBs DeAndre Levy, Lavonte David and OLB Justin Houston were three of the top four LBs. With fellow WLBs Jamie Collins and Alec Ogletree, that made half of the top 10.

Age Breakdown

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

LB has been likened to RB as the most instinctive position on defense (the LB maxim - see the ball carrier, hit the ball carrier parallels that for RB, see the hole, hit the hole). The data from both 2013 and 2014 supports this, with six and eight populating the youngest age bracket demographic, respectively (DL had none in 2014 and three in 2013, while DBs had two in both 2013-2014).

Pedigree Breakdown

(Round 1-3) - 20
(Round 4-7) - 6
Undrafted Free Agent - 4

By Round

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

Two thirds of the 2013-2014 top 30 LBs were drafted within the first three rounds, the second lowest number among the three IDP positions in the two seasons compared in this survey, less than the 80% from the 2013-2014 DL, 75% of 2013 DBs and nearly 75% of the 2013 LB (only the 55% of 2014 DBs was lower in this time frame). Kuechly (#1), Mosley (#7) and Ogletree (#9) are all first rounders and made up 30% of the top 10.

* Among the top 10, Lavonte David incredibly finished #3 despite missing two games, and #6 Jamie Collins missed one game (also just missing the past three games in 2015 due to an undisclosed illness, if not for which he was pacing for close to top five production prior to being sidelined). Keenan Robinson (#25) and Mychal Kendricks (#30) finished in the top 30 despite missing three and four games, respectively.

2013 LINEBACKERS - TOP 30

'13 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Position, Age ('13), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played

1) Navorro Bowman, SF, ILB, 25, 3.27, Penn State (6'0" 240), 16 - 263
2) Lavonte David, TB, WLB, 23, 2.26, Nebraska (6'1" 235), 16 - 261
3) Paul Posluszny, JAX, MLB, 29, 2.2, Penn State (6'2" 240), 15 - 255
4) Vontaze Burfict, CIN, WLB, 23, UFA, Arizona State (6'1" 255), 16 - 253
5) Karlos Dansby, ARI, ILB, 32, 2.1, Auburn (6'3" 250), 16 - 251
6) Jerrell Freeman, IND, ILB, 27, UFA, Mary Hardin-Baylor (6'0" 230), 16 - 232
7) Kiko Alonso, BUF, MLB, 23, 2.14, Oregon (6'3" 240), 16 - 232
8) Luke Kuechly, CAR, MLB, 22, 1.9, Boston College (6'3" 240), 16 - 225
9) Danny Trevathan, DEN, WLB, 23, 6.18, Kentucky (6'"” 240), 16 - 210
10) DeMeco Ryans, PHI, ILB, 29, 2.1, Alabama (6'1" 245), 16 - 208
11) Daryl Smith, BAL, ILB, 31, 2.7, Georgia Tech (6'2" 250), 16 - 205
12) DeAndre Levy, DET, WLB, 26, 3.12, Wisconsin (6'2" 240), 16 - 205
13) Mychal Kendricks, PHI, ILB, 23, 2.14, California (5'11" 240), 15 - 203
14) Alec Ogletree, STL, WLB, 22, 1.30, Georgia (6'2" 245), 16 - 203
15) Thomas Davis, CAR, SLB, 30, 1.14, Georgia (6'1" 235), 16 - 198
16) Derrick Johnson, KC, ILB, 31, 1.15, Texas (6'3" 240), 15 - 198
17) Lawrence Timmons, PIT, ILB, 27, 1.15, Florida State (6'1" 235), 16 - 198
18) James Laurinaitis, STL, MLB, 27, 2.3, Ohio State (6'2" 250), 16 - 195
19) Chad Greenway, MIN, SLB, 30, 1.17, Iowa (6'2" 240), 16 - 194
20) Stephen Tulloch, DET, MLB, 28, 4.19, North Carolina State (5'11" 240), 16 - 194
21) Nick Roach, OAK, MLB, 28, UFA, Northwestern (6'1" 235), 16 - 192
22) D’Qwell Jackson, CLE, ILB, 30, 2.2, Maryland (6'0" 240), 16 - 188
23) Bobby Wagner, SEA, MLB, 23, 2.15, Utah State (6'1" 240), 14 - 186
24) A.J. Hawk, GB, ILB, 29, 1.5, Ohio State (6'1" 235), 16 - 183
25) Robert Mathis, IND, OLB, 32, 5.3, Alabama A&M (6'2" 245), 16 - 180
26) Kevin Burnett, OAK, WLB, 31, 2.10, Tennessee (6'3" 240), 16 - 175
27) Curtis Lofton, NO, ILB, 27, 2.6, Oklahoma (6'0" 240), 16 - 175
28) Philip Wheeler, MIA, WLB, 29, 3.30, Georgia Tech (6'2" 240), 16 - 173
29) Erin Henderson, MIN, MLB, 27, UFA, Maryland (6'3" 245), 14 - 170
30) Perry Riley, WAS, ILB, 25, 4.5, LSU (6'0" 240), 16 - 169

Data Mining Section

Percentage of LB from '12 Top 20 15 of 30 (50%)

As noted above, the 50% churn rate was tied for second lowest with the 2014 DL, bested only by the 55% from the 2013 DL. Four 2013 top 10 LBs repeated from 2012, including the top three, Navorro Bowman, Lavonte David and Paul Posluszny. Bowman and David moved up from #9 and #8, respectively. Two rookies made the list, Kiko Alonso (#7) and Alec Ogletree (#14). Daryl Washington was the 2012 #1 but dropped due to a 2013 suspension to start the season (he hasn't played in the past two seasons due to an escalated suspension, and it is looking like a once promising NFL career may already be over, much like troubled WR Justin Blackmon). There was an alarming attrition at the position in 2014, with not only Washington out due to suspension, but Alonso and Sean Lee out for the year with torn ACLs and Bowman shelved for the entire season while he rehabbed his earlier ACL. There were no top 10 LB teammates in 2013, but two pairs in the top 15, Luke Kuechly (#8) and Thomas Davis (#15) of the Panthers, as well as DeMeco Ryans (#10) and Mychal Kendricks (#13) of the Eagles.

Difference Between

#1 & #10 Scorer... 263 - 208 = 55 pts
#11 & #20 Scorer... 205 - 194 = 11 pts
#21 & #30 Scorer... 192 - 169 = 23 pts

The separation figure for Navorro Bowman’s Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season was the third highest among the three IDP posiitons in 2013-2014.

Positional Breakdown

MLB/ILB - 20
OLB - 10

Similar to the 2014 breakdown by sub-position, with the tilt towards the inside even more pronounced (see above). This can be further broken down and subdivided into...

MLB - 8
ILB - 12

Closer than in 2014, but still 50% more ILBs than MLBs, which speaks to the increase of 3-4 defenses in recent years, noted earlier.

4-3 WLB - 7
4-3 SLB - 2
3-4 OLB - 1

Virtually the same ratio as in 2014. A shrinking number of 4-3 teams could impact WLB as well as MLB numbers, though two made the top 5, Lavonte David (#2) and Vontaze Burfict (#4), and three others made the top 15, Danny Trevathan (#9), DeAndre Levy (#12) and Alec Ogletree (#14). Robert Mathis was the only 3-4 OLB to crack the top 30 in 2013, underscoring the often sporadic nature of production from the position. Aldon Smith put up prolific, historically good sack numbers in his first two years, but off-field issues led to significant missed time in 2013 and 2014. After repeated substance abuse-related off-field problems led to his being cut by the 49ers and signed across the Bay by the Raiders, it was recently announced that Smith will receive ANOTHER suspension for his most recent extra-legal escapade and misadventure (this time for a year), which prompted San Francisco to finally give up on him, despite his blue chip talent and elite athleticism for a pass rusher, for his chronic erratic behavior and habitual unreliability.

Age Breakdown

(21-23) - 8
(24-26) - 3
(27-29) - 11
(30-32) - 8
(33-35) - 0
(36+) - 0

Eight was the highest number populating the youngest age bracket among the IDP positions in either year. Only two from the whippersnapper LB demographic from 2013 were younger than 23, Kuechly and Ogletree (both 22), leaving a void partly filled in 2014-2015 by the vanguard and next generation of younger LBs, such as Mosley and Telvin Smith. Perhaps counterintuitively, the 2013 LB position also had by far the most members of the 30-32 age bracket (8) among all the defensive positions in either year, with the above RB comparison breaking down in the post-30 LB-scape, not remotely as barren a wilderness or bleak a wasteland (RBs have an unfortunately aymmetrical relationship with LBs, in that they are generally absorbing the blows inflicted on them by LBs and multiple other defenders, and not the other way around). The oldest top 10 LBs in 2013 were Karlos Danby (32), Paul Posluszny and DeMeco Ryans (both 29).

At the beginning of the development cycle, LB is more RB-like in the sense that instinct weighs heavily initially, and can surmount obstacles to success associated with lack of technical refinement and overall game understanding. Later, a quick first step informed by experience can be an equalizer for older LBs, enabling them to play with effectively superior field speed and get to the ball carrier quicker than their ostensibly "faster", but less experienced younger counterparts. In comparison to LB, DL tends to require a certain level of physical maturation and technical refinement to advance. It is a position that also seems to require a great deal of explosiveness (and exceptional speed/quickness for edge rushers), which inexorably diminishes through the aging process.

Pedigree Breakdown

(Round 1-3) - 22
(Round 4-7) - 4
Undrafted Free Agent - 4

By Round

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

Nearly 75% of 2012-2013 top 30 LBs were drafted within the first three rounds, on the higher side among the positions in this time frame. Luke Kuechly (1.9) was the only first rounder in the top 10, though there are a cluster of four straight just outside, with Alec Ogletree (1.30), Thomas Davis (1.14), Derrick Johnson (1.15) and Lawrence Timmons (1.14).

* The top 30 LBs enjoyed generally more robust health in 2013, with Bobby Wagner (#23) and Erin Henderson (#29) missing two games, and Posluszney (#3), Mychal Kendricks (#13) and Derrick Johnson (#16) one game each.

2014 DEFENSIVE BACKS - TOP 20

'14 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Position, Age ('14), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played

1) Charles Woodson, OAK, FS, 38, 1.4, Michigan (6'1" 210), 16 - 184
2) Morgan Burnett, GB, SS, 25, 3.7, Georgia Tech (6'1" 210), 15 - 183.25
3) Harrison Smith, MIN, FS, 25, 1.29, Notre Dame (6'2" 215), 16 - 176
4) Michael Griffin, TEN, FS, 29, 1.19, Texas (6'0" 215), 16 - 175
5) T.J. McDonald, STL, SS, 23, 3.9, USC (6'3" 215), 16 - 169.25
6) Ryan Mundy, CHI, SS, 30, 6.28, West Virginia/Michigan (6'1" 210), 16 - 169
7) Mike Adams, IND, FS, 33, UFA, Delaware (5'11" 200), 16 - 167.5
8) Jason McCourty, CB, 27, 6.30, Rutgers (6'0" 195), 16 - 165
9) Eric Weddle, SD, FS, 29, 2.5, Utah (5'11" 200), 16 - 164.5
10) Ron Parker, KC, SS, 27, UFA, Newberry (6'0" 205), 16 - 163
11) Rashad Johnson, ARI, FS, 28, 3.31, Alabama (5'11" 205), 16 - 162.25
12) Antoine Bethea, SF, SS, 30, 6.38, Howard (5'11" 205), 16 - 160
13) Reggie Nelson, CIN, FS, 31, 1.21, Florida (5'11" 210), 16 - 158
14) James Ihedigbo, BAL, SS, 31, UFA, Massachusetts (6'1" 215), 13 - 156.25
15) Kemal Ishmael, ATL, SS, 23, 7.37, Central Florida (5'11" 205), 16 - 156.25
16) Joe Haden, CLE, CB, 1.7, 25, Florida (5'11" 195), 15 - 155.25
17) Antrel Rolle, NYG, FS, 32, 1.8, Miami (6'0" 205), 16 - 193, 16 - 153.5
18) Earl Thomas, SEA, FS, 25, 1.14, Texas (5'10" 200), 16 - 153
19) Barry Church, DAL, FS, 26, UFA, Toledo (6'2" 220), 16 - 151.5
20) Glover Quin, DET, FS, 28, 4.12, New Mexico (6'0" 205), 16 - 147.5

Data Mining Section

Percentage of DBs from '13 Top 20 6 of 20 (30%).

The 70% churn rate was the second worst among the positions in either year, after, you guessed it, the 2013 DBs withering 90% attrition rate. Charles Woodson and Eric Weddle were the only repeat top 10 finishes among DBs from 2013 (though Antoine Bethea was close at #12 in 2014). An exceptional rookie DB position group features some of the most productive IDPs from the class of '15. CBs Ron Darby (#9) and Marcus Peters (#17) are currently in the top 10 and top 20, respectively, and safety Landon Collins (#29) is cracking the top 30.

Difference Between

#1 & #10 Scorer... 184 - 163 = 21 pts
#11 & #20 Scorer... 162.25 - 147.5 = 14.75 pts

This was actually the lowest separation figure among the positions in either season (hard is the lot of IDP DBs to be difference makers). There is typically not as big a differential at the top among the DBs compared to the other positions, another reason to slough the position in most instances until later in IDP drafts, with the exception of some names mentioned below. If the inherent choppiness in surfing the season-to-season waves of DB productivity wasn't enough cause already to give one pause before pulling the trigger on a would be difference maker, the above spread, characterized by a more fractional, marginal and correspondingly less impactful separation near the top (relative to DL and LB), might.

Positional Breakdown

S - 18
CB - 2

Safeties tend to be viewed as more productive and consistent scorers than CBs, and this was borne out in 2014 (with a dominant 90% of the top 20 DBs). Jason McCourty (#8) was the only CB to make the top 10, and Joe Haden (#16) the only other CB to crack the top 20. The 2014 safeties can be further broken down and subdivided into...

SS - 7
FS - 11

It used to be commonly held that SS is a more coveted position than FS among the safeties. While that old saw has occasionally held up in the past, it isn't a hard and fast rule. The SS/FS positions seem to be evolving into more interchangeable roles, blurring distinctions that in some cases are increasingly artificial and tenuous.

Age Breakdown

(21-23) - 2
(24-26) - 5
(27-29) - 6
(30-32) - 5
(33-35) - 1
(36+) - 1

Charles Woodson is a different cat, finishing #1 among DBs in 2013, despite being a relatively Methuselah-like 38 (not a fluke, as he cracked the top 10 in 2013). LB Karlos Dansby at 32 in 2013 was the oldest non-DB in either year to finish even in the top 10. The contemporary safety role may be geezer- friendly, though, as Mike Adams at 33 nearly finished in the top five. Conversely, 23 year young T.J. McDonald (#5) was the only DB in the top 10 under 25. The only position with fewer than the two DBs populating the youngest age bracket in both the 2014 and 2013 (see below) was the 2014 DL, which had none.

Pedigree Breakdown

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

By Round

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

As noted above, pedigree wasn't felt as strongly here (just 55% from the first three rounds was the lowest among the IDP positions in the two seasons examined here).

* Morgan Burnett finished #2 despite being the only top 10 DB in 2014 to miss a game (he has missed nearly half of Green Bay's games so far in 2015). James Ihedigbo (#14) missed three games and Joe Haden (#16) was the only other DB to miss a game.

2013 DEFENSIVE BACKS - TOP 20

'13 Rank, Name, NFL Team, Position, Age ('13), Draft Pedigree, College, Height & Weight, Games Played

1) Barry Church, DAL, FS, 25, UFA, Toledo (6'2" 220), 16 - 209
2) Antrel Rolle, NYG, FS, 31, 1.8, Miami (6'0" 205), 16 - 193
3) Eric Weddle, SD, FS, 28, 2.5, Utah (5'11" 200), 16 - 177
4) Earl Thomas, SEA, FS, 24, 1.14, Texas (5'10" 200), 16 - 176
5) T.J. Ward, CLE, SS, 27, 2.6, Oregon (5'10" 200), 16 - 174
6) Bernard Pollard, TEN, SS, 29, 2.22, Purdue (6'1" 225), 16 - 170
7) William Moore, ATL, SS, 28, 2.23, Missouri (6'0" 220), 16 - 168
8) Antoine Bethea, IND, SS, 29, 6.38, Howard (5'11" 205), 16 - 167
9) Charles Woodson, OAK, FS, 37, 1.4, Michigan (6'1" 210), 16 - 167
10) Tramon Williams, GB, CB, 30, UFA, Louisiana Tech (5'11" 190), 16 - 166
11) Jonathan Cyprien, JAX, SS, 23, 2.1, Florida International (6'0" 217), 15 - 165
12) Eric Berry, KC, SS, 25, 1.5, Tennessee (6'0" 210), 15 - 160
13) Reshad Jones, MIA, SS, 25, 5.32, Georgia (6'1" 215), 16 - 160
14) Tashaun Gipson, CLE, FS, 23, UFA, Wyoming (5'11" 207), 16 - 159
15) DeAngelo Hall, WAS, CB, 30, 1.8, Virginia Tech (5'10" 200), 16 - 157
16) Chris Conte, CHI, FS, 24, 3.29, California (6'2" 205), 16 - 155
17) Prince Amukamara, NYG, CB, 24, 1.19, Nebraska (6'0" 207), 16 - 155
18) Josh Wilson, WAS, CB, 28, 2.23, Maryland (5'9" 190), 16 - 154
19) Mark Barron, TB, SS, 24, 1.7, Alabama (6'2" 215), 14 - 150
20) Major Wright, CHI, SS, 25, 2.11, Florida (5'11" 205), 15 - 149

Data Mining Section

Percentage of DBs from '12 Top 20 2 of 20 (10%).

A few words that come immediately to mind regarding the prolific 90% churn rate among the DBs from 2012 to 2013 are carnage and annihilation. This was far and away the largest number in those years at any position on either side of the ball, and offers a cautionary tale regarding the at times extreme hazards and perils of attempting to identify DBs that offer year-to-year consistency (like trying to trap grains of sand using a tennis racquet as a net). Incredibly, Eric Weddle and DeAngleo Hall were the only two DBs to make even the top 20 list in both 2012 and 2013. This is no doubt partly related to the fact that the difference between an outstanding or average season for a DB can often pivot on a few big plays, and INTs are notoriously difficult to replicate from season to season. Jene Bramel has been a champion of the position that IDP leagues should not be leveled with a blanket indictment of inherent volatility and churning, whether from season to season or game to game. There is historical and statistical evidence this isn't as marked and pronounced at the DL and LB positions (closer to 50% in this two year time frame, except for the 2014 LBs at 37%), though clearly that was the case at the DB position in this two year time frame. To paint all IDP positions with the same volatility brush that characterizes DB, though, to mix metaphors, would be an example of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Playmaking, two way safeties that can run, hit, cover and have ball skills, such as Woodson, Weddle, young Cardinal teammates Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon, Reshad Jones, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, T.J. Ward, William Moore, Morgan Burnett (when healthy), Harrison Smith, Kenny Vaccaro and Jonathan Cyprien can all tackle in the open field and fill up the box score in enough other ways to offer steady, consistent production. With more complex, sophisticated and versatile contemporary passing attacks designed to stress defenses by exploiting mismatches, safeties with the complete game and multi-faceted skill set to be equally adept at run support and covering TEs or WRs out of the slot are becoming increasingly valued by the NFL.

Difference Between

#1 & #10 Scorer... 209 - 166 = 43 pts
#11 & #20 Scorer... 165 - 149 = 16 pts

Barry Church’s big season (including 100+ solo tackles, 1 INT and 3 FFs) still yielded a separation figure on the lower end of the spectrum compared to the other defensive positions.

Positional Breakdown

S - 16
CB - 4

Similar distribution to 2014, see above. For the record, Tramon Williams (#10) was the only CB to crack the top 10, and DeAngelo Hall (#15) was the only other CB in the top 15. The 2013 safeties can be further broken down and subdivided into...

SS - 9
FS - 7

SSs need to cover and FSs need to tackle in run support, or they will become mismatches waiting to be exploited by savvy OCs. Former DAL/CIN SS Roy Williams was a poster child for this development (frequently replaced in obvious passing situations towards the end of his career due to grave coverage flaws). Big, in-the-box SSs that are dedicated thumpers in run support like the archetypal David Fulcher are fast becoming dinosaurs, and extinction could be just around the corner.

Age Breakdown

(21-23) - 2
(24-26) - 8
(27-29) - 6
(30-32) - 3
(33-35) - 0
(36+) - 1

The three youngest DBs in the 2013 top 10 were Earl Thomas (24), Barry Church (25) and T.J. Ward (27), and the three oldest were Woodson (37), Antrel Rolle (31) and Tramon Williams (30). As noted, only two top 20 DBs from either 2012-2013 were in the youngest age bracket, the lowest percentage of any position in either season after the 2014 DL (with zero). Like DL, DB is a less instinctive position than LB, and heavily reliant on technical development as much as physical maturation. Again, the developmental arc/cycle age breakdown closely follows the script seen above in 2014 DB.

Pedigree Breakdown

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

By Round

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

Pedigree weighed heavily here, as with many positions on both sides of the ball in 2013-2014, with 75% of the top 20 DBs taken in the third round or higher, and 70% of the top 10 DBs taken in the first or second round.

* No 2013 DB in the top 10 missed a game (with so many clustered together, even one game missed could cause a tumble down the standings). Jonathan Cyprien (#11) and Eric Berry (#12) each missed one game, as did Major Wright. The since traded Mark Barron (#19) improbably managed to finish in the top 20 despite missing two games (he was pacing for a top 10 season with top five upside on a PPG basis at the time), and in the interim to date has proven he can be very productive for the Rams in a Deone Bucannon-like, big nickel, SS/LB-hybrid role (2015 is a contact year).

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

Hot Rod Your Head with Footballguys.com!