Debunking 4 draft myths for the 2016 class
Every draft season, specific narratives form that begin to be perceived as absolute truth, when in reality there is either gray area involved, or the narratives simply aren’t accurate.
Below is a look at four myths that have developed around the 2016 NFL draft class, and explanations for why they aren’t true.
Myth No. 1: Jared Goff is too small (and the second-best QB in this draft).
While most of the discussion about California’s Goff not being big enough (at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds) has subsided, there are still enough mentions of his lean frame that it’s worth noting some current NFL QBs who measure out very similarly:
- Eli Manning, Giants: 6-foot-4, 218 pounds
- Alex Smith, Chiefs: 6-foot-4, 217 pounds
- Derek Carr, Raiders: 6-foot-3, 215 pounds
- Aaron Rodgers, Packers: 6-foot-2, 225 pounds
- Jay Cutler, Bears: 6-foot-3, 220 pounds
- Matt Ryan, Falcons: 6-foot-4, 217 pounds
- Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins: 6-foot-4, 220 pounds
- Andy Dalton, Bengals: 6-foot-2, 216 pounds
None of those QBs are considered small, and Goff is roughly the same size as all of them before he even enters an NFL weight-training program. It wouldn’t be surprising for him to add another 10 pounds to his frame.
As for his hand size—just 9 inches when he was measured at the combine—our analysts do consider it something to monitor. But consider that the final player on that list, Dalton, was grading out as one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL in 2015 prior to his season-ending injury—in a cold-weather division, no less—despite having undersized hands of his own (9½ inches).
Meanwhile, the rest of our evaluation of Goff—both based on tape study and his performance in PFF grade and signature stats—gives him a sizable edge over Carson Wentz, the No. 15 player on our board. Wentz actually earned a slightly better per-snap grade than Goff this season, but that’s where his advantage in the numbers ends. Goff was PFF’s No. 2 quarterback in cumulative passing grade, a year after ranking sixth as a true sophomore, even ahead of eventual No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston. He excels passing to all levels of the field and under pressure, demonstrating the ability to make difficult throws. His ranking in accuracy rate, both deep and under pressure, dominated those of Wentz: 50 percent to 39, and 65 to 57, respectively.
Myth No. 2: Laquon Treadwell is the draft’s best wide receiver prospect.
It’s worth noting that there are a lot of good aspects of Treadwell’s game. He is a physical receiver who uses his strength well to get away from press coverage, make contested catches, and break tackles after the catch. But he doesn’t have the speed you’d expect from someone who has been considered by many, for quite some time, to be the best wide receiver in this draft class.
He really struggles with gaining separation from coverage, and that shows up in the PFF database as well. He ranked 29th in the 2016 class in wide receiver grades, and perhaps more importantly, just 23rd in yards per route run—PFF’s statistic that measures a receiver’s overall efficiency based on how much yardage he generates for every time he goes out for a pass pattern. It can capture both consistent production and big-play ability.
Among prospects who could potentially be taken in the first-round this year, and prospects who were taken in the first round last year (11 total), Treadwell posted the second-lowest yards per route run average (ahead of only the Colts’ Phillip Dorsett):
|Player||Year||YPRR||Rank in class|
|DeVante Parker, UL||2014||4.21||Not enough targets to qualify|
|Josh Doctson, TCU||2015||4.07||1|
|Corey Coleman, Baylor||2015||3.97||2|
|Amari Cooper, Bama||2014||3.97||1|
|Nelson Agholor, USC||2014||2.92||6|
|Will Fuller, Notre Dame||2015||2.88||8|
|Kevin White, WVU||2014||2.59||10|
|Michael Thomas, OSU||2015||2.54||Not enough targets to qualify|
|Breshad Perriman, UCF||2014||2.5||13|
|Laquon Treadwell, Miss||2015||2.42||23|
|Phillip Dorsett, Miami||2014||2.32||Not enough targets to qualify|
So, who do we like better than Treadwell? Who currently ranks as a late first-round or early second-round pick on the PFF draft board? Baylor’s Corey Coleman is our No. 1 receiver, given his explosiveness both to separate and create big plays deep and after the catch. TCU’s Josh Doctson is just behind him, for his gift of making difficult downfield catches, and we even have Oklahoma slot receiver Sterling Shepard ahead of Treadwell, despite Shepard being a Day 2 pick on most draft boards. He has underrated downfield ability as well.
For teams looking for a No. 1 receiver, Treadwell might not be the answer.
Myth No. 3: The Titans need a left tackle.
Tennessee is one of the draft’s most intriguing teams following their trade with the Rams to move back in the first round from the No. 1 pick to No. 15, given the number of picks they have in the first three rounds.
But contrary to popular belief, as they were repeatedly being linked to Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil when they had the top overall selection, they don’t need a left tackle. The Titans’ offensive line had plenty of struggles in 2015, but left tackle Taylor Lewan was the lone bright spot. He ranked No. 12 in PFF grades among tackles last season, and to this point, he has been the highest-graded tackles drafted in the first round the last two seasons (excluding Dallas’ Zack Martin, who has played guard for the Cowboys). Lewan allowed the third-most sacks among tackles last season, but the seventh-fewest total pressures—a sign that his pass-protection numbers were hurt a little bit by rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota being to blame for a large number of his own sacks.
What does this mean for Tennessee? It can stay put at No. 15 and take Michigan State’s Jack Conklin to be the team’s run-blocking mauler at right tackle (if the Titans think he can make the transition from left tackle) if he’s available, but they are also fine to take the best available wide receiver or defensive player at No. 15, not needing to trade up for Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is likely to be off the board within the first 14 picks, and get multiple linemen on Day 2 at either guard or right tackle.
The bottom line: The Titans already have cornerstones at two key positions in QB Mariota and LT Lewan, and they are freed up to get a third at any position with the No. 15 overall pick. They have a lot of opportunity on Day 2 to address the rest of their O-line.
Myth No. 4: Ohio State LB Darron Lee is a first-round pick.
Lee has been lumped in with UCLA’s Myles Jack as a move linebacker for the new pass-heavy NFL, with his elite coverage skills making up for the fact that he isn’t the size of prototypical LBs of years past.
The problem is that the data doesn’t bear this narrative out. We like him as a player, and realize he was asked to do a lot in Ohio State’s defense, which could have had an impact on his numbers. But his grades in 2015 weren’t close to what Jack produced in 2014 (he missed most of 2015 due to injury):
|Player||Overall grade rank||Run||Rush||Coverage|
Perhaps most concerning is that his tackling efficiency rate in coverage (measuring the frequency with which he got pass-catchers on the ground, based on the number of opportunities he had to do so) ranked fourth-worst in the class. Add in the fact that the narrative about his struggling to take on bigger blockers in the run game is backed up by the data—he ranked fourth-worst among LBs in run-stop percentage—and it makes him a Day 2 prospect on the PFF draft board, not a first-round pick as he is being projected elsewhere.