Where is the final mock draft?

Written By: David Maziasz - May• 08•14

If you were waiting to see my final thoughts before the draft, I am sticking to the mock draft I made last month. I looked it over again, and I still like the matches between player and team. Usually my last second changes have not fared well anyways. I’m trusting the hard work I put into my original research, and now it’s time to simply watch the events unfold.

Enjoy watching the draft this evening, at 7 pm central time. It should be fun!


2014 PRR: Defensive Ends

Written By: David Maziasz - May• 04•14



Which college pass rusher pressured quarterbacks most frequently last season?

Who was the most disruptive force in the passing game?

Throughout  the season, I have tracked college prospects’ ability to generate pressure and to force turnovers in the passing game with the hope of identifying under the radar prospects.

Here is a quick overview of the scoring system, based on Pro Football Focus’ system for calculating NFL pass rusher productivity (PRP) as a foundation, but with some additions:

  • Sacks=1 point
  • Strip sacks, sack fumbles=1 point
  • Hurries and hits=0.75 points each
  • Drawing a holding penalty=0.75 points

Total up these stats, then divide by the number of pass rushing snaps (screen passes and plays where player has contain responsibilities are excluded). This new number is the PRR, which roughly equates to a percentage of the time that a player pressures the quarterback.

A final administrative note-names in red indicate a small sample size (under 50 pass rush snaps). Also, the column “TFL” is short for tackles for loss.

Player NameSchoolPressures/Total # of snaps
Marcus SmithLouisville18.5/7823.721.5
Kony EalyMissouri28/12918.220
Ben GardnerStanford20/9017.51.5
Kareem MartinNorth Carolina11.5/7114.794
Jackson JeffcoatTexas10/6014.581
Scott CrichtonOregon State20/12114.055
K. EdebaliBoston College12.5/7514.00
Dee FordAuburn29/18313.663
Chris SmithArkansas14.5/17710.471
Jadeveon ClowneySouth Carolina19/15310.298.5
James GayleVirginia Tech6/489.903
Taylor HartOregon7/569.822
Cassius Marsh UCLA10/1017.672
Josh MauroStanford13/1427.044
Ed StinsonAlabama3/455.000

To answer the question at the start, the most efficient pass rusher this season, regardless of whether he is an outside linebacker or defensive end prospect is:

  • Marcus Smith

If I may point out, he also posted the highest single game score measured this season. In the match against Miami, he scored a 40. 91 by producing 2 sacks (one was a sack fumble), 2 hurries, and 1/2 of a TFL (tackle for loss) on 11 countable rushes.

 Games Studied for PRR

Player NameSchoolGames Studied
Marcus SmithLouisvilleRutgers, South Florida, Connecticut, Houston, Miami
Kony EalyMissouriIndiana, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas A&M
Ben GardnerStanfordArizona St, Washington, UCLA, Oregon St
K. EdebaliBoston CollegeFlorida St, Wake Forest, North Carolina
Kareem MartinNorth CarolinaMiami, Boston College, Cincinnati
Jackson JeffcoatTexasKansas St, TCU, Texas Tech
Scott CrichtonOregon StUtah, Stanford, Arizona St, Oregon, Boise St
Dee FordAuburnLSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Florida St
Chris SmithArkansasLouisiana-Lafayette, Southern Miss, Rutgers, Texas A&M, LSU
Jadeveon ClowneySouth CarolinaNorth Carolina, Vanderbilt, Central Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Florida, Clemson
James GayleVirginia TechGeorgia Tech, North Carolina, Miami
Taylor HartOregonTennessee, Washington, Oregon St
Cassius MarshUCLANevada, Nebraska, New Mexico St, Utah, Stanford, Oregon
Josh MauroStanfordArizona, Washington, UCLA, Oregon St, Oregon, USC
Ed StinsonAlabamaOle Miss, Arkansas, LSU

As for other notable observations from the study, time-permitting I will post them before the draft itself (which is just a few days away!).

Until then, in the Orthodox way of greeting one another and say good-bye in the days following Pascha/Easter, Christ is Risen!

Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Board Analysis

Written By: David Maziasz - May• 01•14



How interested would you be to know which players your team is targeting in the upcoming NFL Draft?

Well, how about you and I see if we can answer that question to your satisfaction.

There are many big boards on the internet. And helpful as they can be in seeing the bigger picture, you may want to know a bit more about how your favorite team views particular players.

Since this level of detail requires significant amounts of data, I will only be creating team-specific draft boards for several of the more stable franchises, in terms of front office turnover.

Our first team to examine is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh is a good case study because the team has had very little change to its football operation in the last 6+ years. This consistency has led to the Steelers having a most recognizable style of play on the field.

How to read the “Draft Board”

Rather than making my own list of the top players, I chose to use former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah’s list of top 50 NFL draft prospect rankings as a starting point. With this list, I identified several major factors the Steelers emphasize, searching for the prospects that had the most matches in these areas.

Prospects who satisfy all criteria are most likely to be targeted in the draft. Finding which players are likely to be targeted is truly the goal of this board. The order of the names on the list is of lesser importance.

Why two charts?

  1. The first chart shows how Daniel Jeremiah’s top 50 players fit with the Steelers.
  2. The second chart only contains a list of the prospects that fit in 3 or more of the grading categories. Also, know that the Pittsburgh Steelers have been known to remove players with legal issues. Some of these prospects did not make it onto the second chart.

How do the Prospects match up with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Player NameScheme FitMeasurable Fit'Plays like a Steeler''Acts Like a Steeler'Notes
Jadeveon Clowneynoyesyesnoneeds investigation-legal
Sammy WatkinsyesN/Ayes???needs investigation-legal
Greg RobinsonyesN/Ayesyes
Khalil Mackyesyesyes???needs investigation-team violation
Jake MatthewsyesN/Ano, almostyesIdeal zone blocker
Anthony Barryesnoyesyes
Mike EvansnoN/Ayes?yes?
C.J. Mosleyyesyesyesyes
Justin GilbertnoN/Ano?man cover CB
Taylor LewanyesN/Ayes???needs investigation-legal
Teddy BridgewaterQB not needed early
Johnny ManzielQB not needed early
Eric EbronnoN/Anoyes?not physical enough blocking?
Aaron Donaldnonono, almostyesnot physical enough, but due to scheme?
Calvin Pryoryesno, almostyesyes
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dixyesno, almostyes?needs investigation-NCAA rules violation
Odell BeckhamyesN/Ayes?yes?
Tim Jernigannonoyesyes?
Zack MartinyesN/Ano, almostyesIdeal zone blocker
Blake BortlesQB not needed early
Darqueze DennardyesN/Ayesyes
Brandin CooksyesN/Ayesyesexplosive run after catch ability
Marqise LeeyesN/AyesyesPlays with lots of intensity
Carlos Hydeyesyes?yesnoneeds investigation-legal
Ryan Shazieryesyesnoyes?ideally 4-3 LB
Ra'Shede Hagemanyesyesnoyesinconsistent pad level
Kelvin BenjaminnoN/Ayes?yes?
Bradley RobyyesN/Ayesnonot match off the field-legal
Morgan MosesnoN/Ayesyes?
Kyle FulleryesN/Ayesyes
Louis Nixyesyes?yes?yes?
Kony Ealynoyesnoyes?not ideally 2-gap DE
Dee Fordyesyesnoyesnot stout against run
Stephon Tuittyesyesyesyes
Derek CarrQB not needed early
Jason VerrettyesN/Ayes?yes??probably nickel CB
Jace Amaro?N/A?noneeds investigation-legal
Jarvis Landry?N/Ayesyes
Austin Seferian-Jenkinsyes?N/Anononeeds investigation-legal
Demarcus Lawrenceyesyesyesnoneeds investigation-team
Dominique Easleynonoyesyes
Cyrus KouandjionoN/Ayesyes?
Jimmie Wardyes?nonoyesnot physical enough
X. Sua-FiloyesN/Ayesyes??best suited for power
Marcus Smithyesyesnoyes
Allen RobinsonyesN/Ano?yes?
Weston RichburgyesN/Ano?yes
B. Breelandno?N/Ano?yes?
Davante AdamsyesN/Ano?yesinconstent physicality and hands
Ja'Wuan JamesnoN/Ano?yes

Now that you have seen the full list, take some time and see what happens when we start to trim down that group.

The Adjusted Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Board

Player NameScheme FitMeasurable Fit'Plays like a Steeler''Acts Like a Steeler'Notes
Sammy WatkinsyesN/Ayes???needs investigation-legal
Greg RobinsonyesN/Ayesyes
Khalil Mackyesyesyes???needs investigation-team violation
Jake MatthewsyesN/Ano, almostyesIdeal zone blocker
Anthony Barryesnoyesyes
Mike EvansnoN/Ayes?yes?
C.J. Mosleyyesyesyesyes
Calvin Pryoryesno, almostyesyes
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dixyesno, almostyes?needs investigation-NCAA rules violation
Odell BeckhamyesN/Ayes?yes?
Darqueze DennardyesN/Ayesyes
Brandin CooksyesN/Ayesyes
Zack MartinyesN/Ano, almostyesIdeal zone blocker
Marqise LeeyesN/Ayesyes
Kelvin BenjaminnoN/Ayes?yes?
Ryan Shazieryesyesnoyes?ideally 4-3 LB
Louis Nixyesyes?yes?yes?
Morgan MosesnoN/Ayesyes?
Ra'Shede Hagemanyesyesnoyesinconsistent pad level , tends not to be stout
Kyle FulleryesN/Ayesyes
Dee Fordyesyesnoyesnot stout against run
Stephon Tuittyesyesyesyes
Jason VerrettyesN/Ayes?yes??probably nickel CB
Jarvis Landry?N/Ayesyes
Demarcus Lawrenceyesyesyesnoneeds investigation-team
Davante AdamsyesN/Ano?yesinconstent physicality and hands
Cyrus KouandjionoN/Ayesyes?
Paul RichardsonyesN/Anoyes
X. Sua-FiloyesN/Ayesyes??best suited for power
B. SankeyyesN/Anoyes
Brandon ThomasyesN/Ayes?yesmay not be powerful enough
Lamarcus Joyneryes?N/Ayesyes
Chris Borlandyesnoyesyes

Final Thoughts

My conclusion from this study is that there are three perfect matches (having satisfied all 4 criteria) within range of the Steelers’ 1st round pick at #15 overall

  1. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
  2. Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
  3. Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame

Keep an eye on them as serious contenders for the Pittsburgh selection, whether it is at #15 or via trade.

Thanks for reading the first segment in the NFL Draft Board Series


The NFL General Manager Team Building Strategy As It Relates To The NFL Draft

Written By: David Maziasz - Apr• 22•14

As we enter the final stretch before the NFL Draft, I want to share a collection of thoughts and observations from the research that I have done on the NFL general managers. When I began this blog, I had assumptions that shaped how I looked at the draft, and it reflected in how I designed and shaped my mock drafts. Five drafts later, my understanding of this process has led me to view things much differently. Found below are some previously held ideas of mine, in addition to some newer theories that I am excited to test for accuracy.

Original assumptions about how the draft works

  1. Team need is primary indicator in draft picking
  2. Most, if not all team draft boards look pretty much the same (this makes big boards rather useful tools)

These assumptions eventually were replaced by newer ones:

  • Teams fall into two major categories
  1. drafting for need
  2. drafting best player available

Listening to dozens of post draft press conferences, I realized the term “best player available” is rather vague and is used frequently by most teams to describe why they selected a certain player, saying player X was the highest rated player on their board when they picked. Each team’s best player available will probably be different, especially as the draft progresses. To understand what is meant by this term “best player available,” it is essential to understand the process of building a draft board, and its role on draft day.

Building a draft board

First, understand that this is a process.

A team’s draft board is usually made up of the 100 or 150 prospects that that team rated the highest. This sounds straightforward, but it requires us to go back and define the term “best.” What makes one player better than another, in the eyes of Team X?

Consider these factors:

  1. Scheme fit-does this player have the skills to play in our scheme? Some teams are very scheme specific, while others are very flexible and prefer players with a high level of versatility
  2. Physical Measurements– Teams sometimes place a premium on prospects who display a certain trait(s) such as height, weight, arm length, speed, and hand size. These specifications can be very specific, and varies from team to team. Most of these traits are natural, and cannot be coached, thus being heavily linked to perceived “upside.” More on that later.
  3. On-field playing temperament-The majority of teams are looking for players who play the game a certain way. Franchises such as the Steelers, Ravens, and now the Seahawks have developed a very recognizable style of play. Does a prospect show that intensity, hustle, physicality, consistent effort on the field?
  4. Off-field character-Is this player a leader/team captain? Do they have off field issues? If so, were these issues legal offenses or team rules violations? Teams want to feel comfortable with the character of the player they are bringing in. Certain teams are very strict in this area, and will remove players with certain issues off their board entirely. Pre-draft visits and interviews play a role in this area of evaluation.
  5. Other traits-Some teams have additional factors that can increase their value considerably, such as special teams experience, being able to play multiple positions, or even experience playing in certain highly competitive conferences.

New understanding of team building strategy:

Measurables are a BIG deal. More or less, teams want players who look the part of an NFL player. Coaches can teach many things, but speed, length, and size they cannot improve significantly. This may seem obvious, but the more I study about it, the more I find this to be true.

The “targeting a player” approach to drafting

First of all, I contend that NFL teams use NFL free agency, and to some extent the college free agency to fill positions of need. The draft is for finding players that fit what that team does, regardless of position (except if they have a top quarterback). This theory does not eliminate the consideration of need from the equation, but it heavily de-emphasizes it by making it something of a tie-breaker.

Through my analysis of specific team drafting behavior, and by listening to post draft press conferences, teams do indeed target specific players, identifying which players they like the most, then maneuvering into position to select these players at spots close to league value.

Since rookie contracts no longer are quite so enormous, moving up and down in the draft has become much more prevalent, not to mention less costly. This further aids in the targeting approach to drafting.

How do teams decide to move up or down?

Here is an example:

Lets pretend we are looking at the draft board of the our favorite team, Team X.

The players on our board are listed along with their respective grades, (each player name will he the position he plays, and the number that follows is his draft grade). Our current draft pick is at number 11 overall.

  1. DE 98
  2. OT 98
  3. OLB 97
  4. DT 97
  5. WR 95
  6. CB 95
  7. DE 91
  8. DE 91
  9. RB 90
  10. DT 90
  11. G 90
  12. S 89

Examining our board, you see there is a large drop off between prospect number 6 and 7. A good strategy would be for us to try to move up to select one of the top 6 players on our board if we do not think any will be available at our pick at #11. Now, if we are not the type of team that is aggressive in moving up, we may feel that we can move back and still get a good player while acquiring more picks. Building on the scenario above, lets now say that our top 6 guys are off the board and we are on the clock at #11. Here is how our board looks for the next 8 picks:

  1. CB 89
  2. ILB 89
  3. WR 89
  4. G 89
  5. OLB 89
  6. DT 86
  7. DE 86
  8. OT 85

Now, we have another cluster of similarly rated players between prospects #9-19. This is a great opportunity to try to move back from #11. Why? We have 11 prospects with virtually the same grade. We could move back to the back end of that cluster, receiving additional picks plus a very good player.

Using the targeting approach to drafting, let’s go through this same example, but lets just say that we chose to stay put at #11 and select prospect #9 on our board. Assume that prospect #11 is very highly rated by us, and he fits our system much more than he fits other teams. His league value is probably around the early 2nd round pick So, if we really like this guy, we decide to trade up 5 spots to select him. Now we have acquired the number 9 and 11 players on our board. Nice work!

Are private workouts and interviews an indication of interest by a team?

Pre-draft interviews and visits between specific players and teams do not necessarily demonstrate strong interest. Teams will often bring in players with some off field issue to get more information on the prospect. However, this holds true primarily in regards to early round prospects. Clubs will frequently select players with whom they have met in the later rounds and in college free agency.

Final Thoughts

I hope this information is useful to you, and that it will help explain why some of the decisions you see are made. As you know, the thoughts provided here are based on studying the data and from reading as much as I can about this fascinating topic. I shared my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours as well!