Note from Josh Norris - Some NFL teams use a formula or threshold based system like Force Players to enhance their decisions. For an expanded conversation, listen to Justis Mosqueda on my podcast.
Since 2011, I have been developing a filter system to attempt to separate the booms from the busts in the NFL draft at the position best labeled as “EDGE.” My eyes were first opened to looking at the combine metrics of 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers when a poster named “Waldo56” put up some interesting data on Football's Future, a large football forum.
From there came the inspiration of the concept now known as “Force Players” after a rebranding from “Math Rushers.” Without giving the formula away, I can say it's loosely based on Waldo's data and it seems to be pretty close to Football Outsiders' SackSEER concept.
Here are what the first round splits look like over the past decade (2005 being the first year of collected data I could find my hands on):
In blue are the edge rushers known as “Force Players,” and in red are those who failed to pass through the filter. They are in order of per-year AV, which is Pro Football Reference's judgment of a player's career contribution.
In short, 62 percent of first round pressure creators pass through the filter, becoming Force Players. The average AV of a Force Player is 5.84. Of those 38 percent who don't pass through the filter? 3.03.
If you throw out Aldon Smith's combine performance, on the case that he was recovering from an injured leg and sticks out like a sore thumb next to the names of Gaines Adams, Quinton Coples and Whitney Mercilus, the non-Force Players' AV drops to 2.85. Essentially, when you're drafting a Force Player, you're getting twice the value, at least in the eyes of Pro Football Reference. You yourself can judge with your eyes and see which list you would rather pick from.
This trend continues in the second and third rounds, when the filter rate drops from 62 percent passing to 25 percent and 24 percent respectively, but Force Players are averaging 85 percent and 84 percent higher AV's than non-Force Players. Even then, I would suggest throwing Justin Tuck's data from the set, as he too was recovering from an injury during his draft process and stuck out like a sore thumb.
In the third round, the Force Players' AV average is 3.85. In the first round, the non-Force Players' AV average is 2.85. The data would suggest that if you deem a player worthy of a third round pick and he passes certain athletic thresholds, that he'd be better on average than players deemed as first rounders who don't.
Considering the value different between a first and third round pick, yielding a 35 percent AV improvement by selecting a player two rounds later seems like a huge advantage.
For future reference, here are this year's players who pass through the filter.
|Vic Beasley, Clemson||Randy Gregory, Nebraska|
|Alvin Dupree, Kentucky||Owa Odighizuwa, UCLA|
|Preston Smith, Miss St||Danielle Hunter, LSU|
|Frank Clark, Michigan||Shaquille Riddick, WVU|
|Marcus Rush, Michigan State||Davis Tull, UT-Chattanooga|
Not all of them will be first rounders, or even third rounders, but late round players with these thresholds have hit before. For example, Cameron Wake, who spent time in Canada after a short stint in the NFL after his Penn State career, was a player who passed, and should have been able to flag down teams who were looking for a practice squad pass rusher if nothing else. Even the CFL's current sack leader, John Chick, passed through the filter.