With the end of the NFL season now put behind us, and the college football season officially over, it would appear that the time is right for the NFL Mock Draft season. It is a magical time where we all begin to ponder the great questions; "what if?", "should they?", "could they?" A time where we all attempt to play the role of 32 different GM's to get the perfect new addition to better each team around the league (with the least amount of bias as possible).
And with "Mock" season in full swing, I felt it would be a nice to start by ranking the incoming wide receiver class of 2012.
Just like the two previously posted articles, the number one position player is pretty much locked up for the WR class. In this case Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, has proved to many experts and fans that he is the consensus top receiver. However, the rest of the WR Draft Board is mostly up in the air with no true number two because this draft class is so incredibly deep. It is very likely that the 2012 WR draft class could end up being like the 1996 WR draft class that boasted players such as; Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Marvin Harrison, Eric Moulds, Amani Toomer, Muhsin Muhammad, Bobby Engram, Terrell Owens, and even Joe Horn. In order to fully dive in and discover how these receivers should be ranked I have recreated my QB "EOL" (Expected Outcome List) for the 2012 WR prospects.
However, the WR EOL will be slightly different than my last two because of; one, it was brought to my attention that the previous Weighted Production Rankings (WPR) could not be applicable to Independent schools like Notre Dame. And two, production for a WR is a little bit harder to judge because that production is dependent on the team's offensive style and the QB's ability to get him the ball. Therefore production will not be as big a factor in this EOL.
For this assessment of the future players of the NFL, I have created a system to attempt to find the best player around for each position. The system uses a combination of two professional mock's, my own mock, a production ranking, and a weighted production ranking. The two professional mock's come from cbssports.com and walterfootball.com, two sites that I have found to be thorough and accurate in their scouting abilities (check the sites out yourself to judge). My own mock is created through my own "scouting" which includes game tape, live action, and my gut's "intuition.
The first production list is solely based on each players statistics through the years, specifically focusing on five key stats (which will be identified at the production chart), that are averaged to a typical 13 game season to eliminate the rankings being dominated by statistical anomalies or "one-hit wonders." And weighted production is simply just the first production scores altered and re-aligned based on their teams Strength of Schedule (SOS), (this will also be further explained when this chart is presented).
Whew. That was a mouthful, but onto the several charts I use to find the top player's in their positions.
First up is cbssports.com and its list of the top ten WR's in the nation as of February 29th, 2012, please make a note of the numbers located directly after each player's school as this is the numerical value I have attached to that player's spot on the ranking list;
1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (20)
2. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame (19)
3. Kendall Wright, Baylor (18)
4. Rueben Randle, LSU (17)
5. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech (12)
6. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina (11)
7. Chris Givens, Wake Forest (10)
8. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers (9)
9. Nick Toon, Wisconsin (4)
10. Juron Criner, Arizona (3)
Again, let me explain that the number after the player's school is used for the final computation I use to find the best position player's. Please also note that because the two different mocks have differences in their top ten's that the current numerical value does not reach 1 until the My Rankings and the Production charts. P.P.S. the numbers are grouped as 20, 19, 18, 17, 12, 11, 10, 9, 4, 3, 2, and 1 because I wanted there to be a bigger reward for being on top of each category and vice versa.
Second up is walterfootball.com, and the list used here was last updated on February 28th, 2012, the same rules for the CBSSPORTS.com list still apply to this list;
1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (20)
2. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina (19)
3. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame (18)
4. Kendall Wright, Baylor (17)
5. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers (12)
6. Rueben Randle, LSU (11)
7. Dwight Jones, North Carolina (10)
8. Marvin McNutt, Iowa (9)
9. Tommy Streeter, Miami (4)
10. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech (3)
Next is My Rankings of each of the top WR's from both lists above, so this would make a top 13 for my list. My Rankings are based on game tape and gut instincts, which is why I have two professional mock's, keeping the overall rankings balanced.
1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (20)
2. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame (19)
3. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina (18)
4. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech (17)
5. Kendall Wright, Baylor (12)
6. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers (11)
7. Marvin McNutt, Iowa (10)
8. Rueben Randle, LSU (9)
9. Juron Criner, Arizona (4)
10. Dwight Jones, North Carolina (3)
11. Chris Givens, Wake Forest (2)
12. Nick Toon, Wisconsin (1)
13. Tommy Streeter, Miami (0)
Now here come the interesting parts, the Production chart. For WR's, the five stats I use consists of; receiving yards per season, receiving TD's per season, yards per reception, receptions per season, and receptions per TD (or TD rate). For each stat line each player is ranked just like the numbers used in the previous lists and then those numbers are added together, except for average yards per reception and receptions per TD which are multiplied by two (because I deemed them the most important measures of production in a WR) and receptions which are multiplied by ½ (because some schools don't pass as often so some receivers don't get as many reception opportunities as others). So the formula would look like this;
18+12+ (17 x 2) + (9 x 2) + (4 x ½) = 84 points.
1. Marvin McNutt, Iowa 101 points (20)
2. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State 92 points (19)
3. Tommy Streeter, Miami 89 points (18)
4. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech 84 points (17)
5. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame 73.5 points (12)
6. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina 66 points (11)
7. Chris Givens, Wake Forest 65.5 points (10)
8. Juron Criner, Arizona 64 points (9)
9. Rueben Randle, LSU 58.5 points (4)
10. Dwight Jones, North Carolina 44.5 points (3)
11. Kendall Wright, Baylor 40 points (2)
12. Nick Toon, Wisconsin 28.5 points (1)
13. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers 12.5 points (0)
*Only the numbers in parenthesis are attributed to the overall chart*
And now the final chart before the overall rankings of the WR position is the Weighted Production Rankings (WPR). The WPR is the same list used as the Production chart except each players points, such as Stephen Hill's 84 points in the above list, are multiplied by a fraction representing how good each player's Strength of Schedule (SOS) is, for example a Rueben Randle and the LSU Tigers have had several very difficult schedules in a row. During Randle's tenure at LSU they continually finished in the top 10 for the SOS rankings. LSU's seasons are then averaged and then made to a fraction such as if a team has an SOS of 15, 5, 32 in three years, it is then averaged to 17.33 which is then converted to a 102.67/120 and then is multiplied by the players above points, drastically altering the list.
Weighted Production Rankings
1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State 70.53 points (20)
2. Tommy Streeter, Miami 60.57 points (19)
3. Marvin McNutt, Iowa 59.76 (18)
4. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina 57.93 points (17)
5. Rueben Randle, LSU 56.22 points (12)
6. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame 53.59 points (11)
7. Juron Criner, Arizona 44.27 points (10)
8. Chris Givens, Wake Forest 36.45 points (9)
9. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech 33.83 points (4)
10. Kendall Wright, Baylor 33.42 points (3)
11. Dwight Jones, North Carolina 26.82 points (2)
12. Nick Toon, Wisconsin 14.78 points (1)
13. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers 4.38 points (0)
Now that all of the lists that factor into the final overall rankings are posted above, it is time to unveil the Expected Outcome List (EOL). The EOL is what I created to show my confidence in the top position players, meaning that the percentage points gained (similar to a batting average in baseball) is how successful I believe the player can be at the next level (*disclaimer* some players on the list, I believe, should be higher than others, but numbers don't lie...often). The formula used for the final list is as follows; cbssports.com assigned number multiplied by 2, walterfootball.com assigned number multiplied by 1.5, My Rankings assigned number, Production Rankings assigned number, and the WPR's assigned number:
12+11+12+ (17 x 1.5) + (12 x 2) = 84.5
Upon finding the total combined value (such as 84.5 above), the value is then dived by the total amount of points available (in this case a player can achieve a total value of 130):
84.5/130 = 0.650
It should also be mentioned that the EOL formula for the WR's was altered because production does not reflect a WR's ability as much as a QB or RB because a system (like Georgia Tech) may limit how many passing plays a WR might be able to get.
Expected Outcome List
1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State 0.992
2. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame 0.823
3. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina 0.742
4. Kendall Wright, Baylor 0.604
5. Rueben Randle, LSU 0.581
6. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech 0.512
7. Marvin McNutt, Iowa 0.473
8. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers 0.362
9. Tommy Streeter, Miami 0.331
10. Chris Givens, Wake Forest 0.315
11. Juron Criner, Arizona 0.223
12. Dwight Jones, North Carolina 0.177
13. Nick Toon, Wisconsin 0.085
As stated before, I personally believe that some of these players should be higher up on the list but this is what the formula gave me. For the WR EOL I feel like Marvin McNutt, Iowa, is getting a huge shaft in the rankings, although this is most likely due to the fact that he isn't that high up on anyone else's boards. If the EOL formula was the same as previous EOL's I made then McNutt would more than likely be in the top five of the boards. This is also similar to Rutgers' number one target, Mohamed Sanu, who shows a lot of potential and reminds me a lot of an Anquan Boldin. Not too fast but very reliable in the receiving game. Meanwhile, Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State is setting very pretty on the board with a near perfect score (129/130), I did not even believe that that would be at all possible. But there is a reason for his stellar score; he is just a phenomenal athlete.
Offenses in the NFL run very different systems from each other, and normally these systems affect how well a new player can fit into a scheme. But with the WR position, a coach can almost (I stress almost) place any WR into any system as long as that player is willing to work. In that sense then the WR's for the 2012 NFL Draft are pretty much part of a "first come, first serve" basis. Or maybe more like a "roll of the dice" gambling system.
So with the Draft coming up, it is fair to say that the teams at least interested in gaining a WR in one of the many rounds are; Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Minnesota, New England, New York (J), Oakland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Washington (even New Orleans may sneak in there and take a WR if Colston or Meachem aren't retained). This means that 19 total teams are looking for a WR, that's well over half the league, and maybe about 10 of those teams will grab two WR's (one early and one late) making roughly 29 WR's being potentially drafted for this season.
When I said, "judging a best fit for the RB position is a little easier than trying to find a fit for a QB," I had completely forgotten about the WR position. As stated above, a WR is not a very difficult position to find a fit for; the only sorting will really involve "head-case" players and teams that are willing to put up with their issues.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, has to be the easiest placement for a WR I have ever had to do. Blackmon is an outstanding player on and off the field (don't believe me; you should look up his ESPN interview about the band he wears on his wrist). Most teams are salivating at the mouth to nab Blackmon; however, most of these teams have bigger needs at the O-line position such as Minnesota or St. Louis. I personally do not see St. Louis taking Blackmon because your first priority as an organization is to protect your QB and if he isn't protected then your top receivers won't be as effective (remember great QB's make great WR's and great WR's make average QB's). But I digress, Blackmon is a special kind of talent, he runs great routes, stretches defenses, has superb hands, is willing to block on the run (not something you see in too many WR's these days) and actually takes coaching (another rarity in players in general). I see Blackmon as Terrell Owens 2.0 because of these qualities he possess, Owens was usually willing to block (something we all forget), was (stress was) a consistent pass catcher, and he ran efficient routes. The only difference between the two is Blackmon's ability to be coached, he will listen, Owens really didn't like to be told what to do, ever.
In the NFL, I would say the best fit for Blackmon would be in Jacksonville or Cleveland. Why? Well for starters, both Minnesota and St. Louis are going to either take top tier OT's or a DB (I am more leaning to Kalil and Reiff). Second, both Jacksonville and Cleveland have very good and very young, O-lines, O-lines that can block fantastically if they had receivers that could get open and not force their QB to sit in the pocket for five to six seconds every play. And finally, both franchises have good running backs that could use a WR to open up the ground game and take pressure away from them, could you imagine a Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Blackmon lead offense?
Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, is another WR I think resembles a Terrell Owens. He isn't all that fast but he runs good routes, has solid hands, and blocks on the run. If he is coachable or not I am not sure, but I would assume that no news is good news on this topic right? Now there is talk of Floyd flying up on the boards before the draft which means he could end up anywhere from Jacksonville to Chicago (in relation to their draft spots) next season. I personally believe that Floyd could end up being very successful on the Arizona Cardinals, but I believe that the Cards will only go after Floyd if they do indeed trade their early choice to the Bengals. But if the Cards do steal Floyd away they will have a recreation of the Fitzgerald-Boldin pass attack. However, if the trade does not occur I could easily see Floyd being a more than capable replacement to Vincent Jackson on the San Diego Chargers for years to come and I could see the Cards acquiring Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers, in the later rounds to accomplish the same thing.
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina, has a lot of talent hid in that massive frame but he has a major red flag; character issues. However, I feel like some of Jeffery's complaints have been warranted because of South Carolina's switch to a run-heavy offense when Garcia was dismissed from the team. Jeffery's numbers really dropped off from there for reasons I do not fully understand because Jeffery still should have been targeted the most during the passing situations, I have never seen a team so willing to abandon its top receiving threat. In all honesty, if Jeffery gets more passes his way he might have stayed at South Carolina for the next season but now they have to move on without a true number one receiver. NFL teams that are the most interested in Jeffery will be teams with an abundance of speed receivers and without a possession WR. Of these teams I would have to assume the best landing spot for Jeffery would be in San Francisco so good ol' Coach Jim Harbaugh could whip him into shape (literally and figuratively), Chicago to compliment Hester and Knox while competing for Roy Williams job, or he could fall to the second round and into Washington's lap seeing how Santana Moss is on the downswing of his career they need a solid possession receiver.
Kendall Wright, Baylor, ran a disappointing 40 time at the combine clocking in at 4.61 seconds. However that won't, in all honesty, affect his draft stock. Personally if you are known as a speedier player and you run a poor 40 time it would be enough for me to have second thoughts. But sometimes the 40 time is a fluke in the judgment process, just look at Joe Haden the starting CB for the Cleveland Browns. There really isn't much else to say about Wright other than he does stretch defenses in game and shows an ability to go after the ball. Unlike Jeffery, Wright needs to be targeted, and picked up, by a team lacking a deep threat but not too many teams lack such a receiver. One team that does fit this need is the Houston Texans; the Texans are backlogged with slow possession receivers such as Kevin Walter. With Andre Johnson and Kendall Wright the Texans could become an even more legitimate title contender in 2012 with a very serious and deadly WR combination that could keep DB's up at night.
Finally there is Rueben Randle the WR from LSU with limited starting experience yet he still has some upside. In college, Randle was part of a run-heavy and spread out passing attack at LSU which limited his production. However, Randle wasn't really that much of a special talent yet, he dropped easy passes, didn't come back to the ball on short throws, didn't go over the top for high passes, and he ran lazy routes (except for a few "killer" slugo routes that destroyed DB's). With his less than spectacular skills I wouldn't expect him to be anything more than a solid number two receiver or a very good three receiver. With that in mind I would have to assume the best location for Randle would be in the New York Jets organization because they aren't known to be looking for a WR in the first round and they need a WR opposite Holmes to lift a little pressure. And if they get some height in their receiving core (since it looks like Plaxico is going to sign elsewhere), it wouldn't hurt either.
So there is my Mock Draft tool, feel free to leave comments about how the formula can be altered to show a better caliber level for each player. And please don't be too mean about it (I worked really hard on this for several weeks to get it right).
And make sure to look out for a new EOL in the following days. I am not sure if I should do a TE EOL or move right on in to the defensive rankings, but I am sure that it will come to me.