Evaluations for draft prospects are much more than strictly "Player A does x and y but can't do z". As much as we'd like to simplify the process as such to make our evaluations as black and white as possible, this simply is not the way the NFL Draft evaluation process works. Even if you don't philosophically agree with this premise, you have to acknowledge the other variables teams look at when valuing a prospect.
One of those variables is what I score as "leadership". You can call it experience, leadership, whatever you'd like; but I track the starts, games played, team success and leadership (whether or not the player served as a team captain) and roll it into one component of a prospect's score: the Leadership score. During the course of the past week I've been collecting the data of all offensive players required to distribute approximately 160 leadership scores for offensive prospects in 2014. So what I'd like to do today is explore what players helped and hurt themselves with this component of my grading scale (which accounts for anywhere from 8% to 15% of a player's overall grade depending on the position).
- Helped: AJ McCarron (8.97), Tajh Boyd (8.57), Logan Thomas (8.13)
It really shouldn't serve as much of a shock that a player who won 36 of his 40 career starts and was a team captain for a back to back national championship team registers a nearly perfect score in a metric that measures team success, experience and leadership qualities. McCarron registered the highest leadership score of ANY prospect on the offensive side of the football. As you'll see this trend develop, players who were captains and experienced starters for successful programs are going to be well represented here. I was a bit more surprised to see Logan Thomas inside the top 5 for Quarterback scores though, but 40 starts and a .650 winning percentage were enough to bump him into the upper echelon of Leadership scores for Quarterbacks.
- Hurt: Johnny Manziel (6.70), Blake Bortles (6.90)
These two are names frequently thrown around as 1st round prospects...but it won't be due to their experience. The two average 27 starts between them, a respectable figure no doubt...but because of their youth and the structure at their teams, they were not captains. There is no black and white with captain-ship. Either you are (9.0 score) or you aren't (6.0 score). As Quarterbacks with limited starting experience compared to the rest of their counterparts (no one came within 7 of Aaron Murray's 51 starts) their scores were the only two in the 6's besides non-starter Kenny Guiton.
- Helped: James White (8.55), Tim Flanders (8.40), Zach Bauman (7.98)
While the Quarterback class was loaded with leadership scores in the high 7's, the running backs only registered 2 scores higher than an 8 and many in the low 7's and 6's. Not a lot of backs serve as captains, so it's not really a surprise. James White, Zach Bauman and Tim Flanders all played in more than 45 games for their seasons and each participated in the Senior All Star circuit. It's no coincidence that this level of experience led to a nice bump in their evaluation.
- Hurt: Kapri Bibbs (5.05), Tre Mason (6.08), James Wilder (5.67)
The leadership score for running backs is a bit of a double edged sword. These are 3 backs with a lot of upside, not a lot of starting experience and perhaps just as importantly not a lot of MILES. Wilder has 226 career carries, Mason has 318 and Bibbs has 281...all much more favorable numbers than Flanders' 999 and Bauman's 1003. (But this is a story for another day...) Regardless, these backs are all notable talents with limited game experience and are penalized as such.
- Helped: Sammy Watkins (8.64), Josh Huff (8.84), Matt Hazel (8.26)
Seeing seniors Josh Huff and Matt Hazel shouldn't be all that much of a surprise, but a pure junior like Sammy Watkins was a nice unexpected score. Watkins has logged 35 starts since blowing up as a pure freshman in 2011. Paired with being a team captain in 2013 and Watkins' team success really pushes him into the top tier....he certainly had a hand in all that success. Josh Huff and Matt Hazel also have 36 and 38 respective starts, so Watkins' talent has allowed him to close the gap and all 3 are in the higher end of the receiver leadership scores.
- Hurt: Kelvin Benjamin (6.17), Mike Evans (6.70), Allen Robinson (6.06)
Big bodied receivers who "win the catch point" were a consistent disappointment...but both Evans and Benjamin are raw route runners and I've maintained they'd have been better off returning to school. I think these scores are a reflection of a lack of development and teams selecting them need to treat carefully if they're expecting top rookie production. Benjamin's 14 starts are an obvious asterisk and while Evans and Robinson have 26 and 24 starts respectively, I only feel really comfortable with Robinson's routes vs. Evans'.
- Helped: Jacob Pedersen (8.04), Arthur Lynch (7.58), Alex Bayer (7.95)
This is another really young class. Pedersen, Lynch and Bayer were the ONLY Tight Ends to score above a 7.50 leadership score. All 3 served as captains for their teams and all represented with at least 2 seasons of starting (Lynch only logged 26 starts but played in 50 career games).
- Hurt: Jace Amaro (5.98), Eric Ebron (5.79), Richard Rodgers (3.22)
The class at TE is full of young stars....but they're not about to be drafted for their experience. Richard Rodgers' team has only won 1 of his starts at the collegiate level. None of these highly regarded players represented their team as a captain...that isn't a reflection on their character, but it IS a reflection on their experience.
- Helped: Charles Leno Jr. (8.69), Jack Mewhort (8.54), Zach Martin (8.35), Billy Turner (9.00), David Yankey (8.89), Bryan Stork (8.82)
Offensive linemen tend to carry the stigma as team enforcers...and as a result a lot of them carry the title of captain. Highlighted by the ONLY 9.00 score I've granted in leadership (as earned by Billy Turner of North Dakota State) the offensive line crop this year is LOADED with experienced prospects who have earned the right to represent their team as a captain.
- Hurt: Seantrel Henderson (6.20), Tiny Richardson (5.37), Antwan Lowery (5.65), Russell Bodine (6.94)
This collection of players were hurt by different circumstances. All were not team captains in 2013...but Henderson struggled with suspensions which kept him from getting valuable experience. Richardson started 2 full seasons but Tennessee's lack of success hurt his value, Lowery was beat out as a senior and missed an entire year of starting. These figures don't reflect the whole story...but they often highlight players who's backgrounds you'd be best served to look into.
Questions? Comments? You can reach me on Twitter at @NFLDraftTracker!