Review Series: Comparing Montee Ball To LeSean McCoy

When NFL Data Consultants used a comparison of Montee Ball to LeSean McCoy in the opening of a series of projections last summer, it was done for three purposes.

  • It was to highlight the power of analytics and forecasting of personnel in a billion dollar industry. Rookie deals are the best salary cap bargains so why not devote resources to player forecasts as an additional decision tool?
  • It was to compare to others using an analytical approach. Montee Ball was heavily attacked on other analytical players. He was repeatedly stated to be too slow or just another Wisconsion RB. With NFL Data Consulants rules/methodology/metrics, these were able to be dispelled. Montee Ball had 50 less carries than Gio Bernard and had just as many 20+ yard runs and 1 more 40+ yard runs. Montee Ball had an amazing 29.2% of his carries go for a first down. That was better than Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell, Zac Stacy, Giovanni Bernard, and Andre Ellington. The objective of the game is to win and moving the chains is critical.
  • It was also put out there to be graded and reviewed because we name this project “The Win Project”. That is why NFL Data Consultants measures and compares and grades ourselves. It is just the tip of the iceberg of the ideas that NFL Data Consultants has in store for an organization that fully embraces this approach and is willing to commit to a team to carry the more advanced ideas out.

Graphed below is first 120 carries of Montee Ball compared to the first 123 carries of LeSean McCoy. This does not factor in age, but Montee Ball’s 2nd half jump correlates with the jump that LeSean McCoy saw in his 2nd year. Montee Ball is a little older than what LeSean McCoy was during his rookie season. McCoy averaged 4.11 ypc as a rookie, and then it jumped to 5.22 yards per carry in his second season. After his first 120 attempts, McCoy topped out at career average of 4.98 ypc at just past 525 carries at 23.33 years old. McCoy’s surge began near 140 carries in and continued until around that 525 mark. Montee Ball’s last regular season game was at 23.07 years old and he sits at 4.66 and averaged over 6 yards per carry over his last 6 regular season games. Montee Ball is still trending up after a slower start, but was clearly the better runner in the Denver Broncos backfield. Knowshon Moreno averaged 4.31 ypc and had only a 22% first down percentage.

Montee Ball versus LeSean McCoy

Review Series: NFL Data Consultants Comparison of Montee Ball to LeSean McCoy

If you are an organization seeking to draft a RB, this type of projection analysis can work as a tool for your decision makers. NFL Data Consultants uses enough metrics to fill an NCAA tournament bracket for RBs.

If you are an organization considering an early round Quarterback, this article on the odds of selecting a franchise Quarterback is worth the quick read.

NFL 2013 Preseason Week 3 Football Notes

Notes and Updates from Week 3 of the 2013 NFL Preseason are below:

  • As mentioned in the NFL Preseason Week 2 Notes, Michael Vick had played excellent football in the short sample size, but had mixed results when given a larger sample. QB Nick Foles is probably the first Quarterback in history to lose a QB job with an 84% completion percentage with a  QB Rating. Bill Parcells was once quoted, “You all act like you can dial 1-800 and get a quarterback.” To that, I say he is literally correct. Right now, that phone number starts with a Philadelphia area code.
  • So who was the highest graded offensive player by Pro Football Focus for the Green Bay Packers in the third preseason game? It was none other than RB Alex Green, who had 2 carries for 31 yards and finally showed the burst that makes him an NFL Data Consultants favorite. He is in a crowded backfield now, but there is no doubt he can play and be an effective running back when healthy. With RB Johnathan Franklin ineffective and RB DuJuan Harris battling a knee injury, the door is opening for Alex Green.
  • New York Jets Quarterback Geno Smith finally got back on the field after returning from an ankle injury. The quote in my Preseason Week 2 Notes says it all. QB Geno Smith threw three interceptions and accounted for a safety by running through the back of the endzone. To top that off, QB Mark Sanchez entered the game in the 4th quarter behind a backup offensive line and injured his right shoulder. The New York Jets is an organization in disarray, and the only way out of that is to take a long term analytical approach.
  • Unfortunately for the Arizona Cardinals, OG Jonathan Cooper is going to be potentially out for the season. Guard is a position of lesser value, but what how can this injury affect QB Carson Palmer? Remember pressure on the Quarterback will drop the QB Rating by 25% or more.
  • QB Mike Glennon of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers demonstrated the Jekyll and Hyde persona of his analytical profile. He completed only 3 of 9 passes for 44 yards, but had a TD and no interceptions.
  • Defensive End Margus Hunt delivered his first preseason sack for the Cincinnati Bengals. Hunt also had two solo tackles, an assist, and a tackle for loss. With DE Michael Johnson playing the season on a franchise tag, DE Margus Hunt is likely going to be filling the position next year so he needs to develop and be ready by year two. Relatively new to the game of football, he still has a way to go in development; however, the ceiling remains high.
  • TE Luke Willson continues to run with the Seattle Seahawks first team offense. Willson had 2 receptions for 21 yards and continues to make rapid improvement, especially in his run blocking.  He will continue to make it difficult for the Seattle Seahawks Coaching Staff to get keep him off of the field.
  • Denver Broncos RB Montee Ball showed more of why he should get more opportunity over Ronnie Hillman at running back. Ball had 70 total yards, 43 rushing and 27 receiving and added a touchdown. Ronnie Hillman had 6 carries for 34 yards, but once again turned the football over with a fumble.
  • WR Quinton Patton made his first preseason appearance, which was referenced in the NFL Preseason Week 2 Notes. Patton led the San Francisco 49ers in receptions and receiving yards, catching 4 passes for 35 yards. For having a road bump in his rookie year development due to a fractured finger, the prediction that WR Quinton Patton would be better than A.J. Jenkins is practically in the bag after A.J. Jenkins had a horrific offseason and was traded away. Patton remains destined for a good future at wide receiver.

NFL 2013 Preseason Week 2 Football Notes

Notes and Updates as it pertains to Week 2 of the 2013 NFL Preseason is below:

  • Michael Vick has won the starting job in Philadelphia. He has played tremendous this preseason and if going by the short sample, he is the logical choice. Vick has a tendency of turning the football over, and it is likely that a bigger sample size will bear that out. Luckily for the Philadelphia Eagles, they are deep in Quarterback options if the turnover trend emerges during the season.
  • TE Ladarius Green caught 5 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. He has Wide Receiver like potential out of the Tight End position, and just needs the right scheme to fit. With the San Diego Chargers struggling to keep WRs healthy, perhaps Ladarius Green will be able to carve more of a Wide Receiver like role even with a healthy Antonio Gates.
  • The New York Jets have to be concerned right now regarding with the Quarterback situation. Mark Sanchez has continued the 1:1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions throughout the preseason. He has proven what he is. Geno Smith did not play after an injuring his ankle and having brutal practices. It is sort of like the quote, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” While Geno Smith is sidelined, he isn’t able to remove all doubt that he is not the long term answer at Quarterback for the New York Jets. Geno Smith is slated to start at QB for the New York Jets in Preseason Week 3.
  • It had to be nearly impossible for the St. Louis Rams to evaluate their second team wide receivers properly with the play of QB Kellen Clemens; WR Stedman Bailey was among this group that had little chance to be evaluated. Kellen Clemens provided a brutal Quarterback outing as he lived on the a rule of 2s; he threw 2 over the head of Bailey,completed 2 of his eleven passes, and then threw 2 interceptions. Quarterback is a difficult position to find and upgrade. Perhaps they could find an upgrade since there are 2 third string Quarterbacks that NDC analytics grades to have a good rate of success.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers Strong Safety Shamarko Thomas led the team in tackles, providing 4 solo tackles and 2 assists. He also forced a fumble that led to a turnover. He clearly demonstrated the skills of a successful Strong Safety.
  • While the Denver Broncos were getting beat like a drum by the Seattle Seahawks, the battle at running back raged on. RB Ronnie Hillman had 13 carries for 34 yards, and he turned the ball over with a fumble. A turnover and an average yards per carry of under 3 yards is going to make it tough to not hand the ball to RB Montee Ball; Ball had 6 carries for 28 yards, an average of 4.66 yards per carry. Analytically, it is clear that Montee Ball is the better ball carrier, but he did miss a blitz assignment that led to QB Peyton Manning being hit. The only thing that can keep him off the field is himself; it is based on his determination to learn and execute his pass block assignments. He has the skill set to be a successful runner in the NFL.
  • WR Quinton Patton of the San Francisco 49ers has yet to play this preseason due to a fractured finger. Now that it has healed and he has been cleard to catch passes, he should be available for evaluation in NFL Preseason Week 3 or Week 4. The San Francisco 49ers are clearly searching for answers at wide receiver as seen by the trading WR A.J. Jenkins to the Kansas City Chiefs for WR Jon Baldwin. Just like Jenkins, Baldwin has an analytical profile that suggests a high risk of failing.

Denver Broncos Having A Montee Ball

There are a lot of varying viewpoints on the Montee Ball selection by the Denver Broncos, but NFL Data Consultants is a fan after much analysis. One of the data points of contention with RB Montee Ball was his short shuttle. A number of sources reported 4.11 and a number of them reported 4.31 as his short shuttle time. This is one of the reasons that NFL Data Consultants believe in a holistic approach and multiple points of analysis.

I take a specific approach when looking at a player’s production. In that analysis, Ball was graded at 5.01 yards per carry despite a non-adjusted figure of 5.6 yards per carry. From a production standpoint, this is a very good measure, especially considering his competition, challenge, and reliance metrics were all very good. Thus, it meant further investigation into some of the physical measures, including the 4.66/4.51 split in his 40 times between the combine and pro day. The culprit? Medication and sinus infection. One of the interesting things we had to do was go to our scientific approach with comparative analysis to get a much better read on his physical profile. The human bias would have been to say he was too slow, but the analytical approach is key to removing human bias. At the end of the process, Ball compared as a plus on LeSean McCoy, a runner that has started 44 games and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

The great thing about using science in comparative analytics is that you can get a much stronger indicator of what a player is capable of doing at the pro levels. The other benefit is the ability to do a qualitative analysis to see what the scouting reports were of the comparable player. A common theme on physical elements of McCoy was that he is plenty quick enough to get to the corner, but lacked the elite speed. Interestingly enough, in his first 3 years he posted longs of 60 or more yards in each. According to Sports Science, Montee Ball had the 2nd fastest burst through the line and a stiff arm of 21.7% more force than Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. So what does the analytical package say? It appears the Denver Broncos have a good running back of the future regardless of any mixed reports that you see out there.

The Flying-20 On Trial: An Indicator Of Success For Wide Receivers?

At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in 2012, an executive for the 49ers, Parag Marathe,  brought up a metric called the Flying-20.  This is the last 20 yards of a 40 yard dash.  He exclaimed that it is a metric that can be used to predict success, citing Jerry Rice as the example.  Whether Jerry Rice had a fantastic Flying-20 or not is irrelevant in this study.  What is on trial is the validity of the Flying-20 by looking at some of the best Flying-20 scores over the last few years.


Flying-20: 1.71

WR A.J. Love and WR Rondel Menendez

Undrafted out of South Florida, Love was waived twice by the Vikings this offseason and failed to catch a pass in preseason.

Menendez (Eastern Kentucky) had a leg up on Love in that he was drafted at #247 in the 1999 draft by the Atlanta Falcons.  Even so, Menendez never had a reception.

Flying-20: 1.72

Tyrone Calico and Eron Riley

Calico ran a tremendous 4.34 out of Middle Tennessee State and was drafted by the Titans in the 2nd round of the 2003 draft.  He played in 27 games, starting 8 and netting 42 catches for 501 yards and 4 TDs.  I would say that it was mighty fine production from a 2nd round pick with such a good Flying-20 score, but I don’t have a sarcasm font available to me.

Eron Riley was undrafted out of Duke and signed with the Ravens after the 2009 draft.  He never played a game for them, lasted 5 days with his next team the Panthers, spent a little time on the Broncos practice squad, and was released in December of 2011 by the Jets.  Just like the WRs with 1.71 Flying-20 scores, Riley does not have an NFL reception.

Flying-20: 1.73

Jeris McIntyre

McIntyre was selected in the 6th round in the 2004 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs after playing college ball at Auburn.  His Flying-20 score and SEC roots were not enough to net him any catches at the NFL level.

We have just looked at the five fastest Flying-20 scores in my database and among the 5 WRs, the average NFL stats are 8.4 receptions, 100.2 yards, and .8 TDs.  That is not a per game stat… that is a per career stat.

Flying-20: 1.74

Trindon Holliday, Ben Obamanu, and Isaiah Jackson

Another SEC player, Trindon Holliday was taken in the 6th round of the 2010 draft by the Houston Texans.  He has shown some dynamic return ability, but he has 6 fumbles to 2 receptions in his career.

Ben Obomanu was a 7th round pick in the 2006 draft by the Seahawks after playing his college ball at Auburn.  In five seasons, he has 87 career receptions for 1,209 yards and 7 TDs.

Isaiah Jackson was undrafted in 2012 out of Central Arkansas.  Although he did put up great workout numbers in his Pro Day, Jackson has not garnered much attention.

Flying-20: 1.75

Darrius Heyward Bey, Troy Williamson, and D’Andre Goodwin

Heyward-Bey was taken 7th overall in the 2009 draft by the Oakland Raiders after playing his college ball at Maryland.  Taken this high, and with one of the best Flying-20 scores, he has to be a shoe-in for success, right?  In 4 seasons, he has caught 140 passes for 2071 yards, and 11 TDs.  That turns out to be 2.5 catches and 37 yards per game.  I am starting to wonder if Marathe was just trying to bait teams into taking the high Flying-20 WRs if they didn’t do their homework.

Troy Williamson was also taken 7th overall in the 2005 draft by the Minnesota Vikings.  He lasted 3 seasons with the Vikings before being traded for a 6th round pick and played 10 games for the Jaguars, netting 8 receptions.  In all, Williamson had 87 catches for 1,131 yards and 4 TDs.

Goodwin went undrafted after the 2011 draft and has yet to catch a pass.  Do you think he is the one likely to break this trend?

In Conclusion:

Now that we have looked at the top 11 Flying-20 scores in recent years, and have very little to show for it, one must be highly skeptical that the Flying-20 is a legitimate metric to evaluate WRs.  In fact, you would have to go 13 deep before you found a WR that made a Pro Bowl roster.  That was Devin Hester, and he made it as a return man.  There is an answer on how to find quality WRs at a fraction of the cost, but it does not appear to be the Flying-20.