Neil’s NFL Daily: May 28, 2013

Neil Hornsby uses today's Daily to launch a new series on the problems of subset, or dartboard, scouting -- and he begins with the highs and lows of the ...

| 4 years ago

Neil’s NFL Daily: May 28, 2013

After a day off for Memorial Day (well, for the Daily if not for me as I enjoyed analyzing the 2007 encounter between Oakland and Miami) we return with a new mini series on what I call “Subset Scouting”. I’ll explain the philosophy in a minute, but first just a note about this time of year. While I try and keep abreast of roster moves — particularly elevations to the starting line-up — the stuff about players “looking good”, “clicking with their QB” and other such information, I avoid with the same diligence I do the constant emails I get about a Nigerian Prince who wants me to look after a couple of million dollars of his money. In fact, I’m sure when I hear Mark Sanchez’s accuracy is “sky high” (as was attributed to Marty Mornhinweg last week) it’s debatable which type of news is more accurate.


Tuesday, May 28th

Subset Scouting

If there’s one type of email guaranteed to get me grinning it’s the type that says “you said X player was poor in 2011 but last year you said he was good – will you now admit you were wrong?”. Some people have an inherent belief that players “have a level” and they rarely deviate from it. In my opinion much of this is driven by a culture both within the NFL and outside which hasn’t got the time (or inclination) to consider every piece of available data, and hence does a lot of extrapolation. Obviously, if the notion of players having a level holds then this is reasonable, but if you accept that players have both good and bad games then this becomes problematic.

Sam Monson did an excellent job of explaining this in his article called “Dartboard Scouting”. I’ve gone with the potentially less divisive term “Subset Scouting” but the principle remains the same — if I look at different games during the year, will I get substantially different results?

Over the course of the next few days I’ll look at different positions by taking a base subset of four games to understand just how much this concept matters, and who are the most and least consistent players in the league.


Wide Receivers

The table below shows the overall grade, together with those for the player’s best four games and worst four.


Top 20 Wide Receivers Ranked by Grade Differential

RankNameTeamOverall GradeSum Best Four GradesSum Worst Four GradesBest/Worst Difference
1Demaryius ThomasDEN25.618.5-7.025.5
2Victor CruzNYG6.012.7-10.723.4
3Dez BryantDAL4.812.0-8.220.2
4Calvin JohnsonDET26.316.6-3.520.1
5Steve L. SmithCAR11.812.6-6.619.2
6Cecil ShortsJAX2.29.3-9.719.0
7Andre JohnsonHST34.216.9-2.018.9
8Steve JohnsonBUF9.811.1-7.518.6
9Reggie WayneIND27.017.4-0.918.3
10Donnie AveryIND-10.35.9-11.817.7
11A.J. GreenCIN22.014.1-3.417.5
12Brian HartlineMIA7.210.5-6.717.2
13Lance MooreNO12.911.5-5.517.0
14Justin BlackmonJAX-3.78.1-8.516.6
15Larry FitzgeraldARZ1.58.0-8.416.4
16Roddy WhiteATL26.613.6-2.616.2
17Brandon MarshallCHI21.213.5-2.415.9
18Julio JonesATL18.311.0-4.815.8
19Denarius MooreOAK-1.29.0-6.715.7
20Brandon GibsonSL6.69.7-5.915.6

Beyond the most immediately obvious point — the worst four games for every player in this list is below the average for all NFL players — there are a number of interesting items to note.

— Many of the players on the list are rightly considered among the best in the league
— Only three players graded negatively overall
— Perhaps the most inconsistent of all is Victor Cruz, which may explain his difficulty in obtaining a new contract
— Beyond the off-field stupidity, we know Justin Blackmon can play when the occasion dictates.

Consistency Kings

Finally, a look at the 10 most consistent wide receivers. It’s a little rough and ready, but these are ranked by the standard deviation of grades.


Receivers Ranked by Consistency of Grades (minimum 700 yards)

RankNameTeamSnapsOverall GradeYardsSD
1Nate WashingtonTEN815-1.87460.60
2DeSean JacksonPHI7227.77090.89
3Josh GordonCLV8401.38051.05
4Dwayne BoweKC7578.18011.10
5Randall CobbGB6519.89541.17
6Malcom FloydSD87710.28141.20
7T.Y. HiltonIND682-1.98611.21
8Miles AustinDAL8887.79431.22
9Jordy NelsonGB6074.47451.23
10Sidney RiceSEA79710.47481.25

A quick word about DeSean Jackson, a player I’ve often seen as overrated. Given the standard of QB play his 46-reception, one-drop year may look mediocre but was (in my opinion at least) rounding into one of his better years before injury struck.


Other editions of Neil’s NFL Daily can be found HERE


Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil


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Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • Dr__P

    I suspect that the difference in improvement is most noted in young developing players. In Dez Bryant’s case 3 of 4 of his worst games were in the first half of the season, while 5 of his 6 best games were in the second half.

  • RevJ

    Stupid Sidney Rice stole my friend’s Iron Man mask and refused to return it at the Sasquatch! Music Festival.

    Consistently douching.