Joe ESQ: Joe Responds to Reditt Criticism, Says Trent Richardson, Chris Rainey, Andrew Luck are Overrated
by: Joe ESQ (usually right)
When my last post regarding Mel Kiper and Todd McShay was posted on Reddit, there was quite a bit of negative feedback. About one-third of that negative feedback was justifiable; the other two-thirds was asinine. I address all the complaints here.
Before I do so though, it is worth noting that the main argument was that the most important factor in judging prospects should be college performance, not combine numbers. None of the comments really got into that issue or disproved it in any way. I know what people usually say in response– that good results in college don’t equal good results in the NFL. While that’s entirely true, the same could be said for combine numbers. Just as success in college doesn’t equal NFL success, success at the combine doesn’t equal NFL success. So why is college performance a better indicator than the combine? Because it works much better in the negative. Shitty college players don’t make good NFL players (I’m sure people have examples they’d use to dispute this. I don’t think there are any, and I’d be happy to debate the issue). Shitty combine guys sometimes do.
Sam Bradford Seemingly Escaped Criticism After Having the Worst Year of Any Starting NFL QB
Now to the complaints, of which there were primarily three. Two were nitpicking about rather irrelevant details, and therefore aren’t that important. The first was the allegation that McShay in fact rated Clausen behind Bradford. While I don’t believe that’s necessarily true (these guys’ lists change every week, so finding one that lists Bradford higher than Clausen doesn’t mean that Bradford was rated higher by McShay around draft time. For example, one of the links posted had Jake Locker rated ahead of them both. Since Locker wasn’t in the draft, we have to assume that list was extremely old and wasn’t an accurate portrayal of McShay’s opinion at the time of the draft. I’m pretty sure I remember hearing McShay say he loved Clausen a day or two prior to the draft.), it’s pretty irrelevant. The point was that Clausen was a lousy college football player, and his lousiness in that area outweighed any positive combine numbers or physical attributes. Kiper and McShay obviously didn’t agree because they both had him ranked first or second, when based on college performance alone he wouldn’t have been in the top 5.
The second complaint was that I had no right saying that Colt McCoy’s Texas team would have beaten Alabama had he not gotten hurt. It’s true that I can’t know that, just like it’s true that nobody can know whether Alabama would have won had he not gotten hurt. Although I shouldn’t have put that in the post, this detail wasn’t particularly important. It didn’t have much bearing on the point of the post. My comment was based on the fact that Texas had all the momentum when McCoy got hurt, and Gilbert looked like a deer in headlights until he finally settled down in the third quarter when Texas was already down by 3 TDs (one of which came on a horrible pick-six from Gilbert). Based on that, I do believe Texas would have won that game, but admittedly no one will ever know.
The legitimate criticism of my previous post is that I’m basing my analysis on the result. Anybody could find two examples like Clausen and McCoy two years after the fact to impeach McShay/Kiper, right? Although the owner of this site can verify that those arguments were made at the time of the draft, there is no way for you to know that, and that’s why I’m giving examples about this year’s prospects.
Good Looking Loser says: Yes, Joe did say that before the draft.
Below I give my take regarding running backs in this year’s draft, in which I’m entirely confident that both Kiper and McShay are wrong. Below that I list a couple of legitimate concerns about Andrew Luck (who I’m high on as a prospect) that you would think guys like Kiper/McShay would at least mention. Regardless of where McShay/Kiper rank players, this type of analysis I think is much more valuable than subjective statements about physical attributes (i.e. he’s “poised and accurate”) and combine numbers.
McShay/Kiper agree that Trent Richardson is the No. 1 running back in this class. Based on what I’ve heard from them, it appears that nobody else is even close. I think, based on what I saw last season, they are completely wrong. Lamar Miller from Miami will be a better pro than Richardson, and it won’t even be close. Here’s why:
For as good as Alabama was this year, they didn’t exactly face a murderer’s row of defenses. Kent State, N. Texas and Georgia Southern weren’t on their level. Arkansas, Auburn, UF and Ole Miss each gave up 40 points at least once to teams other than Alabama. Vandy’s defense was decent, but not extraordinary. Bama’s remaining opponents, LSU (2x), Penn State and Mississippi State, had legit defenses. LSU and Penn State had two of the best defenses in all of college football. For that reason, it’s important how Richardson performed against them because they’re much more similar to what he’ll see in the NFL than Alabama’s other opponents. Facing defenses like Auburn or Ole Miss doesn’t tell you much regardless of how many yards a back gained.
In analyzing those performances, it’s important to look at the circumstances surrounding Richardson. Although his offense didn’t have much of a passing game, he ran behind an excellent offensive line. Additionally, Alabama’s defense kept the opposing offense off the field, which probably was beneficial to Richardson because it helped tire out Alabama’s opponent’s defense. So how did he play under those circumstances? Not particularly well.
In the national title game, Richardson had 20 carries for 96 yards (4.8 per carry). Those are good numbers, but not when you consider that 34 came on a late TD after the game was essentially over. Prior to that, Richardson had 62 yards on 19 carries, roughly 3 yards per carry, and his offense struggled to put points on the board. Further, as the commentators noted during the game, Alabama removed Richardson and put in his backup Lacy when they moved into LSU territory. It’s hard to tell whether or not that worked (excluding that late TD, Lacy averaged almost 1 yard more per carry than Richardson, but Alabama couldn’t score). Regardless, the fact that Nick Saban thought he was better off with Lacy than Richardson at that point is pretty telling.
Richardson’s performance in those other three games against quality defenses was similar. Richardson averaged between 3.9 and 4.3 yards per carry, while his teammate Lacy performed much better. Stats certainly don’t mean everything, but watching the games didn’t provide much reason for optimism with regard to Richardson. He’s strong and can break tackles, but at least against LSU and Penn. St. he wasn’t quick enough to make those broken tackles count. The contact that didn’t bring him down, but which he wasn’t able to avoid, slowed him up enough to allow other tackles to stop him as soon as he got away from the initial tackler. There’s no reason to believe that will be any different in the NFL.
Lamar Miller’s aggregate stats aren’t as good as Richardson’s. He didn’t rush for as many yards or win as many awards. His offensive line at Miami wasn’t particularly good, he was injured for a few games and wasn’t as consistent as Richardson. There were times though, unlike Richardson, where Miller absolutely dominated quality defenses. Ohio State had a pretty good defense this year. Miller rushed for 184 yards on over seven yards a carry in a dominant win for Miami in a game in which they couldn’t throw the ball. Virginia Tech’s defense was good too; it controlled Denard Robinson and Co. in the Sugar Bowl. Miller ran for 166 yards, more than 9 per carry, as Miami staged a furious comeback in Blacksburg. That included a 30-yard TD on a 2nd and goal that gave Miami the lead with only a few minutes left. Miller showed not only the strength to run between the tackles, but also the speed to get to the corner and/or take it all the way even against fast defenses at crucial junctures. Simply put, Miller at his best against the best competition was better than Richardson.
A third running back, who shouldn’t even be mentioned when talking about the draft, is Chris Rainey from Florida. We’ve been hearing about him since the combine last week. One of the mainstream media guys said he would be third or fourth round pick. Based on his college performance, Rainey shouldn’t even be considered for the 7th round. The guy simply can’t play football. UF was desperate for anything they could get on offense over the last two years. They completely struggled, unable to run or pass the ball with any consistency. When Rainey returned from suspension, was he able to help? No. He couldn’t do anything other than running fast in a straight line. He couldn’t break tackles. He couldn’t juke tacklers. He couldn’t even run good routes or catch the ball. If his great speed/athleticism couldn’t help him in college, why would it help him in the pros?
Andrew Luck - Several commentators have said that Luck is the best quarterback prospect we’ve seen in some time. He’s been called a can’t-miss prospect. Luck had an excellent college career and I personally think he’ll make a great pro (although I think Robert Griffin will be better), but he’s not worthy of the distinction of being the best QB prospect in over a decade or a can’t-miss prospect. Below are my concerns about Andrew Luck, which I haven’t heard any of the “experts” mention, but which should be mentioned.
Concerns about Luck
Overall, Luck’s college career has to be considered a success. He had Stanford in the top 10 two years in a row. He led a proficient offense that put up a lot of points. His TD/INT ratio was excellent. It wasn’t all positive though. He had a number of negative moments, like when he threw away a game to rival Cal with a horrible interception in the final minute, when his offense got shut out in the second half against Oregon, when he couldn’t take his team for the game-winning score against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl*. In addition to those negatives, there are legitimate concerns about some of the contributors to his success; concerns that so-called experts should at least address.
At Stanford, Luck ran Jim Harbaugh’s offense. Luck played two years for him and then one for his former offensive coordinator. While Harbaugh does run a pro style offense that usually translates well to the NFL, isn’t it possible that the format of Harbaugh’s offense makes quarterbacks look better than they really are? Look at Alex Smith. We saw him for seven years in the NFL under several different coaches, and he was terrible the entire time. In one year in Harbaugh’s offense, he suddenly looked like a pro bowler. Who knows why that happened—it could have been the simplicity of his offense or tips/habits given to him by Harbaugh. For our purposes, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that with Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith is great. Without Harbaugh, Alex Smith is terrible. How do we know the same isn’t true with Andrew Luck?
Another concern about Luck is that he played on an offense with a great running game. People sometimes point to that as a positive; i.e. his stats aren’t as good as they could have been because he didn’t throw the ball much. I think it’s the opposite: a good running game usually makes the game easier for a QB, not harder. Defenses had to account for their running game. They couldn’t drop six guys back into coverage. They were susceptible to play action. That did make it easier for him to hit some deep balls and probably helped with his TD/INT ratio. In situations where defenses knew he was throwing the ball, Luck performed fairly well, not great. He led Stanford to a quick score at the end of the first half against Oregon this year. He drove USC down the field following a pick-6 (even though they ended up running it in for the tying TD). He had the horrible game-sealing pick against Cal.
* People justifiably blame that on play-calling. Stanford went conservative, which was the coach’s decision. The only counter to this is the fact that the media always talks about how much Luck knows about the game, pointing out that he had the ability to call his own plays. As such, he could have called a play action instead of a run in that situation and gone for the win.
The views of Joe ESQ do not necessarily reflect the views of Good Looking Loser.
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