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Looking at WR Fits in the 2020 NFL Draft

| April 7th, 2020

Last week I identified wide receiver as Chicago’s biggest roster need heading into the draft, so today I want to look at wide receivers in the draft and see which ones might be a fit for this offense. I’ve done previous work looking at wide receivers Andy Reid brought in to Kansas City, where he trained Matt Nagy. When examining their Combine performance, all typically excelled at three drills:

  • 40 yard dash: 4.51 seconds or better
  • Vertical jump: 35.5 inches or higher
  • Broad jump: 10 feet or longer

Receivers who were targeted for that offense usually hit at least 2 of those 3 thresholds, with many of them hitting all 3. And this seems to hold true in Chicago, at least in terms of the wide receivers in which the Bears have invested most. Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel all hit at least 2 of 3 thresholds. 2019 4th round pick Riley Ridley only hit 1/3, and 2018 7th round pick Javon Wims 0/3. (A day 3 pick is less of an investment.). Given that the Bears are likely considering WR in round 2 again this year, I think it’s worth looking at what players who might be good physical fits for this offense.

As always, these test results are not a way to say how good or bad a wide receiver will be, but simply if they match the physical characteristics of previous players who have excelled in this offense.


2+ Thresholds Hit

Unlike at tight end, this is a very athletic wide receiver class; 31 of the 45 WRs who did at least 2 of these 3 tests at the Combine hit at least 2 of the three thresholds. Their results are shown in the table below (missed thresholds are shown in red).

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Light, Fast & Explosive: Looking at TE Fits in the 2020 Draft

| March 25th, 2020

It’s no secret that the Bears are looking to upgrade the tight end group this offseason, after the position gave them historically bad production in 2019. If past positional overhauls are any indication (RB in 2018 offseason, WR in 2017 offseason), Ryan Pace will likely look to add players both in free agency and the draft.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Bears have added Jimmy Graham to this group in free agency on what is essentially a one-year deal.]

Last year, I looked at the Combine performance of every tight end drafted for a Reid offense in Philadelphia (1999-2012, 2016-present with Doug Pederson) or Kansas City (2013-present) to see if any patterns emerged.  Three traits stood out:

  • Light: every tight end was 258 pounds or less, with an average of less than 250 pounds for the group as a whole. That is appreciably lighter than the NFL average of 255 pounds.
  • Fast: the average NFL tight end runs a 40 in around 4.70 seconds. 8 of 10 in this sample size were faster than that.
  • Explosive: explosiveness is usually measured through jumps, and the average vertical jump for tight ends is just under 33″. 8 of the 10 in this sample beat that, with an average of 34.3″.

This then gives us a rough profile of a tight end who would be targeted as a pass catcher in this offense. They should be under 260 pounds, run a sub 4.70 40, and have a 33″ or better vertical jump. These all make sense. The main purpose of a TE in this offense (at least for the U TE) is to be able to catch passes. They need to be athletic and able to challenge defenses down the field.

I’ll note these test results are not a way to say how good or bad a tight end will be, but simply if they match the physical characteristics of previous players who have excelled in this offense. Think of it as a way to identify what players are a priority for evaluation.

Now let’s look at which tight ends in the draft this year fit the profile. The table below shows all of the tight ends from the Combine, sorted by how many thresholds they hit. Misses are highlighted in red, while measurements that player did not provide are in purple.

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Some Thoughts on the First Round of the NFL Draft

| April 26th, 2019


It was just about the most boring evening of television I’ve ever endured. And yes, I endured it on the off-chance Ryan Pace made some ridiculous move back into the first round. Here are some thoughts on what transpired, starting in-division.

  • Packers added Rashan Gary (DL, Michigan) and Darnell Savage (S, Maryland). Like the latter player a lot. Don’t like the former, who comes into his rookie season with major injury concerns. Green Bay has been trying to rebuild their defense for a few years. Have they finally done it? (No.)
  • Vikings drafted a center. Yes, he’s supposedly the best center in the draft but he’s still a center. To quote Andrew Dannehy’s Twitter feed: “Sensible pick, but, again, doesn’t concern me. He’s not gonna block Mack, and they still don’t have anyone who can.”
  • Lions got their tight end. I look forward to T.J. Hockenson being an All-Pro tight end for the Colts in five years.

Tweet of the Night

The Bosa family – father and two sons – are the only such trio to all be drafted in the first round since the Mannings. The Mannings win the tiebreakers for not being open racists on social media.


More Thoughts

  • The biggest story of the night was the breaking news surrounding Tyreek Hill. And I don’t know how any team, after hearing Hill openly discuss abusing his son while threatening his girlfriend, could respond differently than the Chiefs. “Kansas City Chiefs GM Brett Veach announced the team has suspended wide receiver Tyreek Hill from all team activities pending an investigation.” is the first headline. His release is coming next. From a humanity standpoint, this is a good development. From a football standpoint, this is a huge development for the AFC.
  • Lou Riddick, unsurprisingly, had the best take when it came to the Raiders taking Clelin Ferrell to the Raiders at four: “If he’s productive, nobody will care where he was taken.” The rookie wage scale has changed everything…except the commentary surrounding the NFL Draft.

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Draft Prospect: Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State

| April 25th, 2019

Watch college football. See guys I like. Put them in my notes app on the phone. Tell you about them 6-8 months later. There’s a reason we don’t charge you to read this site, folks!


Video


Analysis

From Lance Zierlein at NFL.com:

Overview

Hill is an undersized but excitable runner with a go-go tempo that can work for and against him on any given series. He runs tough along the interior and has the vision and agility to slip tackles, but his lack of size and explosive top-end play speed could work against him. Hill might not have the skills needed to handle third-down duties, so he could be pigeon-holed as a try-hard backup with average upside.

Strengths
  • Consistent play and production in all three seasons
  • Feet have good life and runs with a wide base
  • Willing to keep runs play-side in search of daylight
  • Limber hips to balance and recover against contact
  • Fast decision-maker on the move
  • Able to slam on brakes for sudden cuts from a full sprint
  • Shifty in the open field
  • Tight, rapid spin move to rid himself of a tackle
  • Runs like his hair is on fire and fights hard against the tackle
  • Has access to sharp, lateral cuts to bounce the run wide
  • Outstanding ball security with just five career fumbles

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Draft Prospect: Gary Johnson, LB/SS, Texas

| April 24th, 2019

I watch college football. Sometimes I see a guy who makes me go, “Oh he’s interesting.” I make a note in my phone. I share those fellas with you. Make sense?


Video


Analysis

From Lance Zierlein at NFL.com:

Overview

Active inside linebacker with plenty of passion and aggression but a fundamental lack of NFL-caliber movement skills in space. Johnson is capable of handling downhill duties between the tackles but could struggle to match up with today’s space-oriented offensive attacks.

Strengths
  • Active, high-energy player and vocal leader
  • Aggressive demeanor is always on display
  • Key reader with quick response to guard movement
  • Patient to sift through moving bodies and find running back on the other side of it
  • Squares pads downhill to squeeze his run fits
  • Downhill mindset and takes shots in gaps to try and make a play
  • Solid tackle-for-loss total in high-flying conference
  • Core special teams member despite being full-time starter
Weaknesses
  • Marginal athlete with segmented, heavy movements in space
  • Short-strider lacking desired sideline-to-sideline range
  • Struggles to access desired lateral burst in his flow to the ball
  • Allows climbing guards to get into him first
  • Inconsistent playing off of blocks
  • Comes in hot and lacking body control as an open-field tackler
  • Could struggle to cover if matched up in space

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Zimmerman Podcast: Draft Analyst E.J. Snyder [AUDIO]

| April 19th, 2019


Highlights:
  • The schedule is out. Bill and E.J. discuss key games, oddities about the schedule and the misnomer of having a hard schedule based on last year’s strength of schedule and how little that really means.
  • Snyder, draft analyst from Windy City Gridiron, breaks down the running back prospects in detail, plus some key prospects to look out for at safety, corner, edge and tight end.
  • Bill and E.J. breakdown draft strategy – should Ryan Pace look to trade up or trade down? Should he take a running back at 87 regardless?
  • A full discussion on how to approach the kicker position.

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120 Comments

Draft Prospect: Zach Allen, DE, Boston College

| April 12th, 2019

For those of you who are new here, here’s how I handle the NFL Draft. I watch a bunch of college football and when players stand out to me, I put their name in the Notes app on my phone. I don’t do any research on them. Just put their names in there. Then, around now, I see if they’re actually in the draft and find out what professional scout-types think.


Video


Analysis

From Lance Zierlein at NFL.com:

Hard-charging defensive end who calls on initial quickness, play strength and outstanding instincts to counter his lack of length and athleticism. Allen’s toughness and ability to diagnose quickly could allow him to play early as a run defender, but limitations as a rusher could push him inside on passing downs. He has average starter’s potential and could be in consideration by odd or even fronts at defensive end.
Strengths
  • Relentless effort from snap to whistle
  • High football IQ with instant play diagnosis
  • Usually first off snap with good initial burst
  • Disruptive penetrator in the B-gap
  • Double digit tackles for loss in three straight seasons
  • NFL-ready play strength to handle himself at point of attack
  • Eyes work around blockers and stay peeled on backfield
  • Hands and upper-body power to stack-shed
  • Forward lean for momentum into bull rush
  • Hard press to outside edge before making inside charge
  • Base strength to power through redirect blocks
  • Attentive in looking to challenge throwing lane with 19 batted passes over three years
  • Experienced as a reduced rusher

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