Welcome to "What to Expect 2013". For the next week or so, I'll be looking at the positions the Colts drafted relative to their historic counterparts.
The goal of this series is to set reasonable expectations for the new draft picks based how similarly drafted players in the past decade performed.
This allows us to create fair baselines by which to judge players. The purpose of this series is not to predict performance. As we start with defensive end/outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, keep in mind that the goal is not to say what he'll do. That's impossible.
This series will help us decide what's fair to expect out of him, so that next January we can appropriately evaluate the pick.
Werner was the 24th pick in the draft and will primarily serve as a pass rusher.
Since 2000, there have been 28 defensive ends/linebackers taken between picks 14 and 34 in the draft. Players like Tamba Hali, Luis Castillo and Kyle Vanden Bosch are among the notables.
Measuring these players in terms of games played and started, it's clear that a player drafted in this slot should play immediately. 23 of the 28 players played at least 14 games, and 18 played all 18 games. Just under half of them started at least 9 games on the season, and a quarter of them started 15 games or more.
These kinds of pass rushers were fairly productive right way. Ten of the 28 picked up at least 4.0 sacks in their rookie year. 24 posted at least 1.0 sacks. In terms of tackles, 30 or more would be in the top 10, while 20-30 would be the middle tier.
Seven of the 28 players taken in this range ended up having a season with at least 10 sacks in their career. Three went to Pro Bowls. Of the seven 10-sack players, five of them were in the top-10 in rookie year production, though Vanden Bosch never blossomed until his fourth year the league.
It's also instructive to look at Indianapolis pass rushers historically as well.
The Colts haven't drafted many pass rushers in the last decade, other than the three most notable: Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Jerry Hughes. Historically, Duane Bickett, Jon Hand, Donnell Thompson, and Bertrand Berry all qualify.
Also as a side note, there are two names that didn't make Phil B. Wilson's 'worst draft pick' list, but could have been well ahead of the Polian-era names he chose. Shane Curry was a second round pick in 1991, and played nine games and had one sack before being killed. It was fair to leave him off, but Blaise Winter was a second round pick with 15 games played and two sacks for the Colts before being cut. He should have been ahead of Tony Ugoh who was productive in 2007 before regressing.
Jerry Hughes aside, all of these guys ended up having hugely productive careers. We see that they played early, but their production was all over the board. Robert Mathis rarely started as a rookie, but did pick up sacks when he played.
Looking at his best available historical comps, it's possible to set a fair baseline for Werner. If he out-performs the baseline, it's fair to call the pick a year-one hit. If he fails to hit it, it's a year-one miss.
Werner has about a 25% chance of becoming a serious star pass rusher in his career. Those are pretty good odds. While a slow start to his career isn't doom, it does appear that good pass rushers show something early on.
Werner should see action in all 16 games, and he should end up starting at least half the time. We know he'll be in a rotation with Eric Walden, but if he can't take the bulk of the snaps away from him, it will be disappointing.
Werner's pass/fail line should be 4.0 sacks and 30 tackles. If he can produce at that level, he'll be in the top-10 in terms of productive pass rushers taken in the back-half of the first round since 2000.
If he does hit that target, the odds are very good he'll become a 10-sack player in his career. If he doesn't, it's not a career-death sentence, but it might be cause for concern.
Living down here in Orlando, I see a lot of Florida State games and there is a lot of coverage of them in the local paper.
On a team that has prided itself for years on a fast, athletic defense, Werner has played since the day he steped on campus. So despite what his combine workout showed (or didn't) I'm hopeful Werner will help the Colts immediately. I know he will work his but off to do so.
Thanks Nate. I'll keep 4 and 30 in mind.
On a different note what are your thoughts on Grigson's build from the trenches strategy? It seems to address the team's biggest problems and compliments his focus on skill players last year. As reasonable as it is, it seems pretty old school. With the pick of a OG rather than a relatively talented WR, do you think the Colts really are transitioning to a defense and running team?
Maybe I'm just being paranoid.
@hankster His strategy was to build offense first, and now the trenches. I would have preferred a safety or WR early, but I'm withholding judgment.
Like you, I fear the D/Running team.
@Nate Dunlevy @hankster I'd argue that the Receivers that were available are something to shrug at. I wasn't impressed with anyone in this years class, and that includes Tavon Austin. I think the move was prompted by the fact that the talent pool for the offensive skill positions in this years draft left something to be desired
I'm all for building a team to win in the trenches. Since we already have Andrew Luck, I put no real belief in the idea that the team will focus more on the run. It's total malarkey. Luck is going to put up ridiculous numbers. If we can add a threatening running game and defense to that, all the better I say.
1. I didn't actually say the 2005 Steelers were an example of run first, only that they were an example of winning with a run heavy offense, something I would consider different from a team like the 2011 NYG who won the Super Bowl barely running at all. Regardless of when the running occurred they were still a run heavy offense, there's no denying that. They didn't exactly dominate the regular season either, going 11-5 that year, and were 22nd in first quarter scoring.
They had some blow out wins to be sure, but even in their blowout losses they still ran more than they passed (in a 26-7 loss to the Colts that year they ran 25 times to 26 pass attempts). A 43/57 pass to run split cannot be explained away entirely as running with a lead, but even if it could that doesn't really negate the point, they still ran the ball a ton and won a Super Bowl. Ben had the fewest pass attempts of his career in 2005 on an 11-5 team (granted, he missed 4 games to injury).
The 2007 Pats, a much more dominant football team, only ran the ball 43% of the time and they were working with big leads all season long (+315 scoring differential compared to 2005 Steelers +131).
2. All I'm saying is you can score efficiently while still running more than passing. When those runs occurs is tangential to the crux of the argument. A run heavy offense is not NECESSARILY something to be afraid of, it just depends on how efficient it is and that usually requires an efficient passing attack to compliment it, which I anticipate the Colts will have, even if the total attempts get dramatically reduced.
3. Even if you remove ALL of Kaepernick's rush attempts, designed or not (25), from the 2012 playoffs, the 49ers still ran about as much as they passed (76/80), usually when playing from behind.
All I'm saying is that it's possible to win that way, not that it's ideal.
4. If that's true then consider me shocked. I get that NFL coaches are generally pretty stubborn in what they believe about how football should be played but remaining woefully ignorant about advances in your field seems like a fireable offense. I really hope Pep Hamilton, a smart guy by all accounts, is not one of those types of coaches.
Whatever the case, I think we will see a good Colts offense this year, much better than what we had last season, at least in terms of efficiency. Luck was a very efficient QB in a run heavy Stanford offense and won a lot of games (and established himself as a once in a generation prospect). If we get that same Luck who's offense was nearly flawless in the red zone at Stanford (compared to a Colts offense that struggled to punch it in last year), I will be ecstatic, regardless of how many times we run the ball.
@hankster @msteele32 Your concerns may be legitimate, I really don't know, but I have a really hard time believing that the Colts are going to hide a great QB like Luck behind a run heavy offensive scheme.
There would really be no precedent for that. The closest thing I can think of would be those mid-2000 Steelers teams that had very heavy run/pass splits and limited Big Ben's pass attempts to about 20 a game (consider that Luck threw it nearly twice that many times last year, 623 attempts or roughly 40 per game), but those teams were also very successful, going 15-1 in 2004 (Ben's rookie year) and winning the Super Bowl in 2005.
Those passing attempt numbers steadily increased as Big Ben gained experience, but even to this day Roethlesberger's passing attempts in a season have never approached what Luck did last year as a rookie (513 in 2011 was the most of his career). He still boasts a career record of 87-39. You don't have to throw 40 times a game to win.
@Colt_Following @msteele32 Ok after reading Scott's piece, it seem's I was partially wrong. The main thing running the ball is good for is holding on to a lead. I was wrong to criticize that aspect to the running game. That said passing is still the most important contributor to winning. Teams that relied on the run to score, not hold on the ball when ahead did not do well.
As I said above, I am scared the Colts are throwing away a winning philosophy (pass and stop the pass) that served them will for a decade simply because of the ignorant football traditionalists who dominate the media still think running the ball and stopping the run is the way to win.
My reason for citing NE, GB, NYG is that they featured passing attacks which allowed them to comeback and score quickly, thus negating the run first and play defense philosophy that traditional football assumes works. Trying to sit on a lead by running the ball and playing defense is very hard unless you the best defenses in the league. Too many teams can come back and score quickly to tie or win a game. That happened repeatedly in the playoffs. Sadly for Peyton Bronco's Ravens game epitomized it.
I have no problem with the WCO and I would be very happy with a more efficient offense. As you accurately pointed out, that was the biggest problem with the Colt's offense under Arians.
I'm just a little worried that the Colts are trying to focus on the running game as since many are convinced that the lack of a running game lead to their "lack of success" or "failure to win the big one". Which is total b.s. created by traditionalist media b.s. going on about the importance of running and stopping the run. The Colt's under Manning were very successful even if they didn't win many SB's.
You're right, we agree more than we disagree, and yes, I still found some comments to make. How well you know me. Four points (two quibbles, an agreement and and a point ceded):
1. 2005 Steelers are the perfect example of why run/pass ratios have to be viewed in context. You cite them as classic examples that run-first worked.
However, in that postseason, they thrived on building leads with the pass, then sitting on the ball in the second half. They passed more than they ran in the first and second quarters of each playoff game, and had a 58-42 run Pass/Run ration in the first half of the four playoff games.
They followed a pass-first formula to big leads, and then sat thanks to a particularly sound defense. They are not a good example that there are "many ways to win.".
There are many ways to close out a game once you have a lead, but first half passing leads to winning.
2. yes, efficiency trumps everything. That's always the right point.
3. The trick with QB rushes and SF is that you'd have to tease out designed QB runs from scrambles. I'll be the first to admit that running QBs could tilt the whole thing. I don't know if we have data to draw any conclusions about what this new wrinkle will do to game theory.
4. "unless we’re to assume that NFL coaches know less about advanced stats than your average football fan"
Actually, if you talk to Burke or Schatz, they'll tell you that's true. A few coaches are up with latest trends, but many simply refuse to accept any analytics.
I was addressing Hankster's assertion that scoring quickly is the key to winning; my point is that the key to winning isn't scoring quickly but rather scoring efficiently. Sometimes they’re one in the same but often they are not.
There is certainly more than one way to win in the NFL (the 2005 Steelers won a championship while running the ball 57% of the time, the split was even more dramatic in the playoffs, 96 pass attempts to 142 rush attempts, or roughly 40%/60%) but I didn’t say that they are all equal, nor was that really the crux of my point.
Clearly passing efficiently and stopping the pass is the best way to win, I never suggested otherwise, only that it’s possible to win other ways as long as you score efficiently. My entire argument is that scoring efficiency > everything. Passing the ball is currently the most efficient way to score, but it’s not the only way and isn’t always efficient by default. The Colts passed a ton last year (60% of the time), but they weren’t efficient. They were very lucky to win 11 games. That efficiency will need to greatly improve if they wish to contend for Super Bowls.
Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco were the most run heavy teams in the league last year, all of them had solid seasons, all of them made the playoffs, and all of them were in the top 12 in yards per point (they were also all in the top 6 in passer rating). They were also 11th, 10th, and 5th in fourth quarter scoring respectively, somewhat damaging the assumption that a bulk of their runs came while sitting on a lead in the 4th quarter, or at the very least suggesting they were still scoring even while running with a lead (i.e. running while still scoring efficiently).
Balance, as I’m defining it (pass/run ratio), assumes a certain amount of running with the lead and passing to catch up, but even so, the 49ers are an example of a team that runs even when behind, and does so successfully.
In last year’s playoffs the 49ers averaged 218 rushing ypg vs. 255 passing yards. They had a run to pass ratio of 43/31 to GBs 16/39 in a game that was 31-24 entering the 4th quarter. The following week, in a game they were down 17-0, the 49ers ran the ball 29 times to only 21 pass attempts, coming back to win 28-24, while Atlanta threw it 42 times and ran it only 23. Even the Super Bowl, a game in which they were trailing 28-6 at one point, they still ran it more times than they threw it, 29/28, and nearly pulled off the comeback. It’s true that Kaepernick ran the ball quite a bit in the playoffs, but even if you remove QB rushes from the above totals (though I don’t know why you would), the 49ers still ran more than they passed in the playoffs. It’s just one example, but my point is you can win at a high level running the ball, though I understand it isn’t the most efficient method statistically and doesn’t work for the majority of teams.
On the flip side, if you’re throwing the ball a lot you’re probably losing. Efficiency trumps volume. If a team approaches 70% pass/run ratio then they either aren’t passing efficiently, or they’re running up the score, or they have the worst defense in the history of football (and then some). The top 6 teams in pass/run ratio didn’t make the playoffs (DET, DAL, ARI, NO, JAX, and OAK), in fact that list includes 4 of the 6 worst teams in the NFL last year. Yes, those teams had no choice because they were losing and desperate to catch up (thus backdooring the argument that passing is the best way to win), but like I’ve said, efficiency is key. If those teams had been able to score efficiently in the first half (whether by running or passing) they wouldn’t have been desperately trying to catch up.
Scott Kaszmar’s article last year on the evolution of the pass/run ratio certainly makes a compelling argument for pass first (http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/content/chff-super-study-the-evolution-nfl-pass-run-ratio/15992/), and I agree with it, but nothing is ever that simple. Advanced NFL Stats did a study on pass/run ratio as well and came to similar conclusions as Scott (http://www.advancednflstats.com/2010/01/run-pass-balance-historical-analysis.html), but acknowledged that the fact that pass to run ratios haven’t increased at the rate statistics would suggest they should might betray other factors, a Z correlation; unless we’re to assume that NFL coaches know less about advanced stats than your average football fan (which I suppose is a possibility, though one I find unlikely).
Whatever the case, I’m not arguing for run first being the best way to win, I’m saying you can win running first, but only if you score efficiently and that usually involves an efficient quarterback, which Andrew Luck presumably will be in Pep Hamilton’s WCO. In an ideal world you are running the ball 30+ times because you’re winning and protecting a lead based on your efficient passing (by Scott's own numbers teams throwing 35 times or more only win about 30% of the time), thus achieving a near 50/50 pass to run ratio (the sweet spot for SB champs in the 2000s seems to be about 55/45), i.e. balance.
Fundamentally I think we agree, though I’m sure there’s something in here you can find to disagree with.
@Nate Dunlevy @Colt_Following @hankster @msteele32 I want the Colts offense to go back to what it was at its height like in '04. it was, as you mentioned, a team that passed more than it ran (I mean, why wouldn't you when Manning threw 49 TD's) but still had the ability to run when needed which gave the threat of play action and opened up huge holes for our WR's
I fundamentally disagree.
You win with efficient passing and pass defense. It's really the only way and has been the only way for 30 plus years. Some would argue that except for the 1970s, that's been the only formula since the inception of the league.
How you measure the running game affects things like "top teams had top running games". Numbers show that teams that win run more often because they bleed the clock in the second half, but leads are almost always built on efficient passing.
There's little evidence that "balance" leads to winning.
I'm not lamenting the end of Arians' offense, persae, but that doesn't mean that a run-centric team is a good idea.
My ideal offense would be 65-70% passing. The closer to 50% runs a team gets while the game is in doubt, the less efficient it is and the worse the offense will perform.
I think there's a significant difference between scoring quickly and scoring efficiently. Efficient scoring is all about maximizing possessions. The 3 teams you mentioned (NE, GB, and NYG) were all in the top 5 in yards per point, which is not the same thing as time per point, those same teams ranked 12th, 14th, and 23rd in time of possession respectively.
The Colts, who we know threw the ball as much as anyone and went for a lot of chunk yardage, were 24th in yards per point. Of the 12 playoff teams, 11 of them populate the top 15 in yards per point (some of them did it rushing, some did it passing, some a combination, but all of them were efficient), the Colts were by far the worst of any playoff team. The bottom 4 teams in YPP? KC, Phi, Oak, and Jax; the teams with the top 4 picks in the draft. Scoring efficiently is a major key to winning.
Some of the NFL's elite teams had great rushing numbers last season, SF, SEA, and NE were all top 10 rushing teams, and SB champ Baltimore was 11th. Granted, you had teams like Buffalo and Kansas City in the top 10 as well, but if you look at passing teams the story isn't so much different, NO, DET, and DAL were the top 3 teams in passing yards last season, none of them made the playoffs. Passing isn't enough, it has to be efficient passing and it helps if it's complimented by a good running game (NE was the only team to rank in the top 10 in both).
The bottom of the league in rushing is littered with a lot of bad teams. The lowest ranked playoff team was 29th, Atlanta, but then you don't find another playoff team until 22 with Indianapolis. Min, Sea, SF, and Was are all playoff teams that ranked in the bottom 12 in passing yards. Current SB favorite Seattle was 27th.
I guess what I'm saying is there are a lot of factors that correlate to winning, balance and efficiency are key as well as forcing turnovers and protecting the ball on offense (the Colts were the only playoff team with a TO differential worse than -1, we were -12). Passer rating is still a fantastic measure of wins/losses (and has been long before the gaudy passing numbers of the past decade) and that's all about efficiency.
The WCO is an efficient scoring system, it may not specialize in chunk plays the way Arians' system did but in my mind that's a good thing, it's all about getting the next 1st down. 3rd down conversion rate and red zone efficiency (another stat the Colts were by far the worst of any playoff team at 21st) are crucial to maximizing possessions, whether that possession takes 4 plays or 14 isn't that important, so long as you score points.
Our offense was not a model of efficiency in 2012, in fact, looking at the numbers it's kind of amazing we even made the playoffs, so I think if you're lamenting the departure of the pass happy, chunk yardage system that Arians takes with him you might not be seeing the whole picture.
@msteele32 @Nate Dunlevy I would like to agree. But, I don't know. As awesome as Luck was in college the Cardinal still ran a lot and often played to control possession. Now if the Colts are using the run to set up play action great. If they are running to "control the clock" that's a recipe for losing.
Controlling the clock might beat weaker teams, but look what the Giants, Patriots, Packers ect did to team that tried to "grind out the game" last year. Scoring and scoring quickly wins. Look and the Ravens, they finally gave up on the run game (Flaco also had abnormal month) and focused on scoring quickly. Same goes for the Niners.
Great realistic article, that said, I don't think your arguments will find that much opposition on this blog. For the carpet chewers over at that other Colts blog, its another matter. Prediction, by week 4-6, Brad Wells will be willing to declare Werner a bust.
I was surprised Werner was available to the the Colts at 24. I was not aware his mediocre combine lowered his draft value so much. Mayock had him this week as the 26 best player, but before the combine a top ten. I had thought it might have been best for the Colts to trade down, pick up a Margus Hunt (a combine stud with a less impressive college film resume) and a extra late 3rd round pick for a WR. But I am happy with this pick.
What sells me on this pick is the high level of college competition Werner faced and his game film. An added pulse is that Werner can play both OLB and if necessary move inside on passing downs. Also think the comparisons to Jared Allen are interesting. Allen went to Idaho State and was a fourth rounder, had awesome college highlights and a so-so combine.
I am glad the Colts did not use a first round pick or even 3rd round on an overvalued WR or one with injury or off field issues. Today in the fourth round there are still some attractive WRs available.
To be fair to Hughes, Werner doesn't have the same level of starters in front of him and should see more playing time. If you had to pick our rotation right now, what would be your guess?
I would be very happy if he hits those targets you suggested. I hope he gets there. I had a roller coaster of reactions to this selection yesterday. First was, "WTF!" Then was, "OK, Grigson knows better than me, this guy has great numbers and might be good." Then I watched tape and was down to, "Meh, not that impressed."
He has some very good qualities, some disturbing tendencies, and some very real athletic limitations that most of us rabbled about all day yesterday. He seems like a good guy and a hard worker and those things are important so I hope he works out.
@bradicus18 It seems to me that Grigson and Co. are very focused on building a team with a unified mentality. They want guys that exemplify a very particular mindset, a nastiness on the field. As a soon to be PhD student in sports psychology, I for one am a strong believer that team chemistry is dramatically underrated in sports. Any of us who have played team sports can attest that there's just a different level of performance you can reach when playing for a purpose with people you care about and who care as much about winning as you do. Jared Allen I think is a good example, average physical gifts, incredible competitive fire (Allen did a middling 13 reps of 225 at the combine, hell, I could probably bang that out; he was a half sack from breaking the NFL record for sacks in a season).
That mentality was a theme we saw mentioned again and again in the guys the Colts chose in the draft.