Last spring, I wrote a series on what to expect from the 2011 draft class. It's time to revisit those expectations and see how they did.
Then: "It's perfectly reasonable to expect Anthony Castonzo to start every game his rookie year. In fact, given the state of the Colts' line, anything less would be a legitimate disappointment. However, it's also entirely possible that Castonzo could start at right tackle not left. It is not at all unusual for a rookie lineman to start at the easier of the tackle positions."
Now: Castonzo started 12 games at left tackle. He missed four games with an ankle injury that hampered his progress.
Verdict: Met expectations. Even with a shortened offseason due to the lockout, Castonzo won the left tackle job. He started every game he was physically able to, and played the final half of the season on a bad ankle. It's difficult to evaluate him fairly because of the injury, but the projection of being a solid to good NFL tackle is still easily within reach.
Then: "Ijalana, like most second round tackles, is more of a risk, but could become the better player in time. A fair expectation for his rookie year is 16 games started at guard. A fair hope is that he winds up at one of the tackle spots before the year is up."
Now: Ijalana played in four games before blowing his knee against Tampa Bay.
Verdict: Failed to meet expectations. Ijalana never won a starting job, but seemed to be playing well for the few minutes of game time he got before going down with a season ending injury. Obviously, any grade on him is incomplete, but the Colts have to be frustrated not to get more of a bead on his actual development.
Then: "A fair expectation would be for him to make the team and manage to become a rotation player by the end of the year. A 20 tackle, 1 sack season would actually be superior to Quinn Pitcock's 'promising' rookie campaign. He needs only 12 tackles to have a top 10 rookie season for third round DTs since 2000. In other words, if he manages to show up in the stat sheet a couple of times and makes even one good play all year (a sack, a tackle for a loss), then he's had a good rookie year for where he was selected. The odds of him contributing in a meaningful way to the Colts in 2011 are very, very low. Again, that's not based on him as a player, just on the collective experience of 31 other players selected at a similar point in the draft. Any kind of regular meaningful contribution as a rotation player would constitute an outstanding rookie year for Nevis."
Now: He played in 5 games, collecting 9 tackles and a pass defended before being lost for the year to a back injury.
Verdict: Failed to meet expectations (due to injury). Nevis needed only 12 tackles and an impact play or two to be a top flight tackle for his draft position. He collected 9 tackles in just five games. He has achieved regular rotation status. Despite missing most of the season due to injury, he was well on his way to shattering all reasonable hopes for his rookie season. He came up short, but all in all, it looks like a good pick. The pity is that now that the Colts are altering their defense, he may not have a spot with the team. Some 4-3 team should be keen on trading for him.
Then: Almost all fourth round backs make their NFL team, so it's reasonable to expect Carter to play in all 16 games and pick up 75-100 carries, with around 400 yards and 3 or four touchdowns. If his yards per carry is anything close to 4, it would be a coup. However, because the yards he is asked to get will be particularly difficult ones, fans shouldn't worry if his YPC is lower than other backs. He needs to pick up 2 yards on 3rd and 1, not 5 yards on 1st and 10. In all, such numbers would actually be a remarkable season from a fourth round back (3rd or 4th best in recent years), but given the Colts stated plans for him, such expectations are reasonable, if not conservative.
Now: 101 carries, 377 yards, 2 TDs. He played in 16 games and started three.
Verdict: Met expectations. Carter wasn't that great on short yardage and his fumbles were a problem, but for a fourth round back, the Colts got almost EXACTLY what they should have expected. Delone Carter is what a fourth round back should look like. The expectations for Carter were a little higher than normal for his draft position, and he basically landed right on the numbers.
Then: The history of 6th round DBs is not illustrious. A fair expectation for Rucker is that he makes the team and contributes a dozen tackles over the course of the season. That would be a top 10 season for a 6th round rookie DB since 2004. There is very little chance he'll ever become a starter or a marquee player. The only 6th round DB since 2004 to make a Pro Bowl was Bethea. Rucker is the kind of player teams pick to shore up special teams and to create depth.
If he gives the Colts anything at all in 2011, he'll have exceeded expectations.
Now: Rucker played in 15 games, starting four. He contributed 23 tackles and two passes defended.
Verdict: Exceeded expectations. It doesn't take much to get value from a 6th round DB, and Rucker gave the Colts more than they could have asked for. That's not saying he played great, but his rookie season puts him solidly in the top 10 DBs taken in that range since 2004. He made the team and cracked the starting line up in a horrible secondary. It's not high praise, but it is praise. Most guys like him don't even make the team.
Final Verdict: The Colts top three picks missed 27 games. It's hard to accurate judge a draft class when guys go out with contact injuries. As much as people criticize the Colts for having injuries, there isn't any way to prevent blown knees and ankles. Nevis and Castonzo had never been hurt in their lives, and both expressed dismay and frustration at having promising campaigns cut short. Ijalana remains an enigma.
Carter and Rucker are adequate third day pickups. Neither is likely to become a star, but it's reasonable to expect both to have decent NFL careers. They met and exceeded all fair expectations for their draft slots.
Question: You noted that you don't think Nevis has a place on the upcoming roster. My guess is that it would be based on the presumption that there will be a migration to a 3-4. Given that, is there a reason you don't see Nevis contributing as a 3-4 DE? Personally, I'd imagine he could play "5-tech", but I'm also willing to listen to some other opinions on the matter.
@AJ_ He's not long enough to play that spot. The protoype for that position is a taller, longer-armed guy that can clog up some space. Nevis is more about shooting gaps and being aggressive. Different role entirely. Which sucks, because he did seem really promising.
That is really good and unbiased. Solid draft IMO. We will see what the top 3 picks become and if Drake stays around but all five made the team and contributed before injury. Ijalana looked damn good in the TB game before the injury. He has that Tarik Glenn type of size and mauling style. Hopefully he becomes a really good starter on a line in dire need
This is the kind of analysis every single football fan should be exposed to and forced to read so that those of us who already do that can have intelligent discourse on the draft. Nothing earth shattering here Nate but plain and on point as it should be.
@psvirsky Thanks. I think it should be a required project for every blog. It really helps to see that Carter was actually good for his draft slot. People just don't realize how bad most draft picks are.
@Nate Dunlevy@psvirsky I have to disagree about part of your assessment of Carter. Of 51 RB's with 100 or more carries, Carter ranked 29th in success rate according to Football Outsiders. To put it in perspective Don Brown ranked 49th. Considering how horridly telegraphed some of Carter's runs were he must have been doing pretty decently. Near the end of the season he was touching the ball 6 or less times a game and almost always running between the tackles. Defenses saw it coming from a mile away and converting any 3rd and shorts was impressive with Clyde's terrible OC job. Get rid of the fumbles and the kid has some potential (though probably not much.)
@SouthernColt@Nate Dunlevy Since I'm getting all these replies too, can I come in to this, moderate, and end the discussion? What it boils down to (I think) is that Nate thinks Carter is not great. He might be mediocre, average of even a good RB, but he's not great. SC thinks that at the very least, his short yardage running ability is great. You guys disagree and obviously that's okay. Moreover, in a year or two we'll find out more about how good Carter is and maybe by then with extra evidence you guys can come back and agree.
But for now, this thread should probably die. You guys disagree, and that's that.
@Nate Dunlevy@psvirsky Jesus, I know what the difference is between success rate and DVOA. That's just insulting. I was saying on the list of the top 10 DVOA leaders in those situations those players had the success rates of 43% and 50%. I believe their DVOAs were closer to 25%. Yes, they were at the bottom of the list but they were still in the top 10. Only 3 players were above 70% I believe.
If you want to say that he wasn't great on 3rd or 4th down, fine. As a former DT who stuffed many a run, I seriously think you underestimate how hard it is to punch it in when a decent D knows it's exactly what you're about to do but that's arguable and I can see why somebody would say 50% isn't great. However, if you want to boil it down to just third and 1s or 4th and 1s you're going to see a significant drop in success rate anyhow, regardless of the player. You said short yardage though and I took issue there because it's not explicitly true.
I've made it pretty clear I think he's generally a mediocre player at best so you can claim that I'm being pedantic if you choose to. Considering your claims on your old site about how horrible he was etc I don't think it isn't an unreasonable complaint though. Saying he was OK because players drafted at his position aren't usually much is a backhanded compliment at best. The holocaust "wasn't great." I still contend that in the context of this team, this season, and our other RBs: yes, 50% on 3rd or 4th down carries is great. Even if it doesn't hold up against the best in the league or even league averages, and I'm not sure that it doesn't based on the stats I've seen, the Colts have been pretty awful running between the tackles for a couple seasons.
@SouthernColt@Nate Dunlevy@psvirsky I didn't create the standard. I I'm going with the football outsiders definition of power running. I'm sorry I used 'short yardage' as a shortcut. I should have been more precise.
DVOA is not the same as success rate. 43% and 50% are no the same thing as a 50% success rate.
Again, you are way bent out of shape that I called someone "not great" who is very clearly "not great".
Are you saying Delone Carter is great in short yardage? Do you have any real statistical evidence that he is great? You don't even have true league averages.
You think Delone Carter is a great short yardage back despite no set of complete numbers to compare him to.
I don't even think he's bad. Just "not great". That's in part because he failed half the time they needed a yard on 3rd or 4th down. I don't see how anyone in the world would call that "great".
Honestly, this is the weirdest criticism of all time.
@Nate Dunlevy@psvirsky I stated it's what I had available as a baseline from another article on the subject. It's not an exact comparison and I never claimed it was. True short yardage? Basing that definition on down is pure stupidity in this context. It's not obvious that picking up 3rd and 1 is harder than picking up 2nd and 3, especially when you discredit a touchdown from the 2 yard-line against a stacked box. Because it's also obvious that goal line plays are just so easy? Why equate a fourth down conversion with a third down conversion if that's the case? Furthermore, call 50% meh. What's your basis for that? The top 10 DVOA leaders on 3rd and 4th down for 2010 contained Jamaal Charles and Bush at 43% and 50%. I was discussing his ability to move the chains when we needed 3 yards or less which was in fact, quite effective. Probably the most effective we've had on the ground since 06. You can circlejerk about what down it is all you want. Short yardage is short yardage.
1. All I said was "not great"
2. I just went through all the gamebooks and counted up that he was 7 of 12 on third and fourth down and fumbled on one of his conversions. Meaning that in what's considered true short yardage (3rd and 4th down conversions), he was only 50%.
The Colts line was actually middle of the pack in most run blocking stats, so he gets no extra credit there.
He was "not great". That's not a dubious statement. It's an obvious one.
He was great on 2nd and short. I don't know what league average is, but he converted almost every time he saw the ball. Maybe that is great, maybe it's expected. I'm not sure.
Your mistake is that you took his success rate on all downs (which includes at least one first and goal), and compared it to success rates on 3rd and 4th downs. That's a major screwup. It's obviously easier to succeed at 2nd and short than 3rd and short (as Carter so perfectly illustrates).
Is 50% in short yardage great? No. Is it awful? I don't think so. It's just sort of meh.
You need to calm down and realize that the words I used were not insulting to him and they weren't dubious.
If you were interested in facts, you wouldn't be comparing his 2nd down rate to other backs 3rd and 4th down rates.
@Nate Dunlevy@psvirsky Reading it once was enough. The only slack I expect you to cut him is to not make dubious claims. Whether you attempted to be tactful or hide your disdain is irrelevant to me. I'm interested in facts. Carter touched the ball 22 times this season with 3 yds or less needed to convert. He got the job done 16 times: a 73% success rate. Not only did he move the chains but on 12 of those plays he picked up more than the yardage needed, sometimes 3 or 4 times over. How that's anything short of great for a rookie playing on a 2-14 team with a battered O-Line and an incompetent OC is beyond me. I don't have short yardage stats handy from this past season to compare but looking at 3rd and 4th down success rates from 2010, Carter's rate would put him in at 2nd behind only Lousaka Polite who converted an absurd 88%.
I did cut him slack. The only criticism I made of him here was that he 'wasn't great' in short yardage. I didn't mention any of my other criticisms of him. It's true, I don't like him, but if you notice I didn't say that in this piece.
Read my exact words again. There's not one negative word about Carter.
How much more slack can I cut him?
@Nate Dunlevy@psvirsky My point wasn't that 29th is awesome. It's clearly not. When you consider that the margin was entirely between 34% and 61% I'd say anything less than 50% probably isn't even good for a short yardage back. I think the disconnect though is that he's a rookie and he still did significantly better than our other backs who were in the bottom 3. If you consider how bad Carter's DVOA was and take a cursory glance at some play-by-plays this season he was more likely to pick up 2 yards on 3rd and 1 than 5 yards on 1st and 10. When you add in the context that the defense knew exactly what the play was as soon as he stepped on the field and he didn't even get the benefit of a fullback I think some slack needs to be cut.