I’ve been content for the past few decades to accept the NFL Combine’s measurements and scores as a useful indication of a player’s talents and prospects, and in particular as a good indication of a player’s athleticism. Lately, however, the newest generation of NFL pundits and fans are creating new statistical and analytical approaches for our beloved game. Perhaps I need to start trying to catch up.
There is of course the NFL itself, with its “Next Gen Stats.” For example, the Next Gen folks have developed “an analytics-based draft model which evaluates and ranks players based on numerous factors, including college production and pre-draft measurables.” Next Gen has introduced such things as passer release times and the top speeds that players reach on any given play. They even have sensors throughout the stadium that track tags placed on players’ shoulder pads to chart individual movements.
Since it’s nearing draft time, you might want to check out Next Gen’s top-30 list of draft prospects (Here) – it’s a 10-minute video. To get an overall draft score, Next Gen compiles both an athletic score and a production score. Their top 5 draft prospects are: CB Eric Stokes, WR Ja’Marr Chase, RB Najee Harris, RB Travis Etienne, and (#1) TE Kyle Pitts.
Then there’s Football Outsiders, who offer up “revolutionary metrics that break down every single play of the NFL season.” They describe their “DVOA ratings” as “a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback.”
DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, if that helps you any. I have a hunch Football Outsiders has largely re-packaged and re-branded the passer rating formula that the NFL has been using since 1973 – the NCAA uses a similar, but different, formula for its quarterback ratings.
Suddenly, I’m hearing about “RAS,” as if I’m a dunce for not being intimately familiar with what that acronym stands for. I’m now somewhat enlightened: RAS, or Relative Athletic Score, is the brainchild of Kent Lee Platte, a lifelong Detroit Lions fan who says he has a passion for math and metrics. He’s spent the last five years trying to provide a metric that can gauge a player’s athletic abilities relative to the position he plays. Unlike Pro Football Focus, which charges handsomely for sharing its analytics and statistics, Platte has provided a web site that is free for anyone to use.
Platte incorporates data that is normally recorded during the annual NFL Combine session. He’s compiled such data on NFL players from 1987 to the present. To qualify for an RAS score, one must have at least six recorded metrics from any of the following list: height, weight, 40-yard dash, 20-yard split, 10-yard split, Bench Press repetitions, vertical jump, broad jump, short shuttle, and 3-Cone drill. I guess he now accepts similar Pro Day numbers, as the NFL Combine did not take place this year due to the pandemic.
When consulting the RAS web site, you can limit the printout, such as to players from a particular team, for all Pro Bowlers since 1987, for individual draft years since 1987 – and now to just the 2021 draft class. He rates players from zero to 10, and he also uses a color code: those with RAS scores of 8.00 or above have a green background, those from 5.00 to 8 are in yellow, and those scoring under 5 are in red.
According to Platte, “there’s still a long way to go, but this site is my first attempt at providing a public view of what data I have gathered and quantified so far.” I’d say he’s off to a good start, because any number of NFL and Packers’ sites are prominently referring to RAS in formulating their mock drafts.
In addition to producing an overall RAS score, the website has breakdowns for composite size (based on height, weight, and number of 225# bench presses), speed (40 yard dash, 20 yard split, and 10 yard split), explosion (vertical and broad jumps), and agility (20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill).
One can also limit the printouts to just one college, one draft year, or most importantly, for a single position. Platte, however, apparently isn’t sharing with us the exact formula he uses to convert the raw data into his relative athleticism scores. Maybe he’s just averaging out the four composite scores. Maybe he has different formulas for the various positions – which would be smart.
The RAS system is hardly revolutionary, but it’s a useful database, especially right now as the NFL draft is imminent.
Using the RAS Site
To check out the current college draft class, first bring up the web site: relativeathleticscores.com. Then select “2021 Draft Class.” The listing is from the highest to the lowest RAS scores. For a particular player, you can also link to the “Player Page,” which provides a player’s measurements and scores on which his RAS is based; it also depicts a player’s composite size, speed, explosion, and agility scores. Give it a try.
There appear to be 171 players with scores of 8 or above, 187 in the 5 to 8 range, and 261 with an RAS score under 5. This year, two players have perfect 10.0 scores: Northern Iowa tackle Spencer Brown and Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey .
Below are the RAS scores for several players in the 2021 draft class. This list consists of players, compiled by packers.com, who were most frequently included in the bottom third (picks 20-32) of the likely first round picks contained in more than a dozen “reputable” mock drafts. The list contains the player’s name, position, RAS, and overall 2021 draft class ranking, in order of their RAS scores.
Jaycee Horn, CB, 9.99, T3
Samuel Cosmi, OT, 9.99, T3
Quinn Meinerz, Center, 9.98, T7
Jamin Davis, LB, 9.94, 11
Jason Oweh, Edge, 9.92, 12
Jaelan Phillips, DE, 9.87, 21
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, 9.77, 29,
Teven Jenkins, OT, 9.74. T33
Ifeatu Melifonwa, CB, 9.69, T38
Greg Newsome, CB, 9.66, T42
Micah Parsons, LB, 9.59, T51
Eric Stokes, CB, 9.37, 67
Alijah Versa-Tucker, OL, 9.04. T88
Kadarius Toney WR, 9.00, 95
Levi Onwuzurike, DL, 8.73, T 114
Zaven Collins, LB, 8.72, 116
Elijah Moore, WR, 8.68, 118
Liam Eichenberg, OT, 8.56, 130
Azeez Ojulari, DE, 8.17, T158
Jalen Mayfield, OT, 4.9, 366
Nick Bolton, LB, 4.62, T380
Platte did not have sufficient raw data to create an RAS for cornerback Caleb Farley or tackle Christian Darrisaw
Following the 2021 draft, I’ll return to take a look at where the Packers’ draftees rank on the RAS scale.
Everyone seems to think that GM Brian Gutekunst highly values athleticism when picking draft choices. I agree that his first three draft picks generally bear that out, but will he continue to do so in his fourth season as general manager?
Assuming the Packers draft at number 29, will they land one of the 29 players with an RSA of 9.77 or higher? With the 62nd overall pick, will they select one of the 62 players with an RSA of 9.50 or higher? With the 92nd pick, will they select one of the 92 players with an RSA of 9.03 or higher?
The answer to these questions should give a solid indication of how much value Brian Gutekunst and his draft experts truly place on athleticism. This is especially so if Gutey tends to draft the best player s available at the time, as opposed to filling positions of the greatest need.