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. The goal is merely to fairly judge rookie seasons.
In the sixth round, the Colts took safety John Boyett out of Oregon. Boyett is coming off of a serious injury, having had surgery on both patellar tendons. His status for the season is still unclear.
For the purposes of this study, we'll assume he's healthy and ready to play, though obviously, the Colts took him knowing he may need time to heal.
There have been quite a few safeties taken in the sixth round since 2000. Most of them play extensively their rookie year, but only on special teams. It's possible to identify about 29 such players, but the actual number is higher. Many safeties are listed as defensive backs coming out of college, so draft searches don't always distinguish between corners and safeties.
Of the 29 players who definitively played safety in their rookie year, 24 played in at least 10 games and 16 played in at least 14 games. Starts were more rare, however. Only six started at least eight games.
It's clear that late-round safeties are meant to backups and special teams players. Only 11 players had at least 10 tackles, and only eight recorded an interception.
The clear gold standards for this group were Antoine Bethea who picked up 14 starts, 66 tackles and a pick in his rookie year along with Chris Harris of the Bears who had a sack, three picks and 48 tackles in 13 starts.
As it turns out, Round 6 is a fantastic time to pick up a productive safety. Many of the players taken in this position have gone on to lengthy careers as NFL starters. There were even two Pro Bowlers (Bethea and Yeremiah Bell).
Several recent Colts have shown up in this range including Von Hutchins, Al Afalava and Jason Doering.
Since 1984, Indy has had 21 rookie safeties. 16 played in at least 11 games, but only six picked up at least eight starts.
A fair expectation for a healthy Boyett is for him to make the club as a backup and play heavily on special teams.
Look for 16 games played, two starts if there are injuries and 10 tackles. That would place him will into the top-half of rookies at his position and draft range.
In the long run, however, the hopes that the Colts may have found a diamond in the rough are justified. While still well under 50/50, enough quality safeties are selected late that Boyett could fit the mold of a guy who slipped due to health, but has the talent to produce at the next level.
There was wisdom in taking him in the sixth round, and if his legs prove sound, he'll likely be a regular contributor in the future, regardless of his rookie year production.
Did he drop to the 6th round because of his injuries? If so, would it be interesting to compare him with others that were drafted a few rounds sooner?
I really like this pick and the Colt's fifth round (Hughes). Are both a gamble? Yes. Boyett has a lot of heart. If he can fight thru the injuries, I think this will be a great pick. Same with Hughes and his off field issues. If he truly has matured, he has a lot more talent than your average 5th rounder. Pagano has a knack for getting the best out of players so I think both of these picks have major potential.
@couchspud44 Agreed. I have a lot of faith in our organization to get the most out of guys, especially after what we've seen in the past year...definitely don't think that Bruce Arians was the glue holding it all together.
Boyett supposedly has great instincts and field intelligence -- and a high motor, plus he has played through injury. Success is predicated more by passion and will than physical attributes. I like the pick.
Unfortunately the reality is that because this is still a rebuilding team, we really don't know anything about anything. The lineup will change across the first 6 games, unless we get really lucky during camp and pre-season. I sure miss the days know that it's Bracket, and Saturday, and etc. etc. Hopefully we'll get back to those days soon. But for now, this is all just experimenting to find that core.
After reading Scott's piece on how drafting linemen is not a "safe pick" and how WR are overrated "hood ornaments" I'm a little confused what makes a good draft pick. Besides someone who is successful in the NFL, an unhelpful a priori argument, which doesn't help you evaluate picks before they play. But I guess that is the point of this series isn't it?
@hankster Kerry's assault on WRs is misplaced. They take a couple of years to develop.
Most of his stuff is about how ineffective they are in year one, which everyone knows. That's why you don't wait until you need one to draft one.
@Nate Dunlevy @hankster I missed the assault on WRs. My feeling on them (cause I always have two cents :) is that after top 10 pick talent, it becomes much more of a crapshoot. There's usually a WR every year who just stands out, but after that they seem like RBs, in that there is a ton of value in late round and undrafted WRs.
It's a bit mixed, I'm in a hurry, but to summarize, of the top 20 receivers in yards last year (using 21 cause i'm including james jones. Wasn't near the top in yards, but lead in TDs) it breaks down as follows:
Top 10 pick - 5
Rest of 1st round - 4
2nd round - 1
3rd round - 3
4th round - 3
5th round - 0
6th round - 0
7th round - 2
UDFA - 3
Obviously QB etc have a lot do with it, but as a quick break down it helps
I was feeling pretty good about Boyett until I read this: "Several recent Colts have shown up in this range including Von Hutchins, Al Afalava and Jason Doering"
haha, still a low risk, high reward pick and I definitely like it. But that sentence alone did wonders for tempering my expectations.
Love the pick too. Low risk, high reward if it works out. You make the assumption that he's healthy for this analysis. So if you went by his last healthy year at college, where would you think he would have been drafted? And, by extension, would you expect more from him? I know it's a moot point, but I think if he didn't have an injury history he may have gone as high as a late 3.
@smonroe If he had been a 3rd round pick, he could roughly be expected to play 16 games, start 6, get 20 tackles and a pick.
@Nate Dunlevy @smonroe I think this is the way to look at it--if you assume he's healthy, might as well assume he was healthy last year (it has no effect on his 2013 production, but DOES on his draft position). Based on his college production--leading tackler on a championship contender--late 3 sounds low to me. Don't recall his measurable offhand. And his did his 40 on crutches at the combine! (kidding). Six starts, 20 tackles, 1 pick... if he's healthy I bet he does more. A big "if" however.
I hesitate to use the immortal Demond "Bob" Sanders as a parallel, but he was a 1st rounder who fell in the draft due to injury concerns. When he was healthy, he was a force to be reckoned with. We didn't see enough of that--2 good seasons, and two spotty injury-riddled ones? I doubt Boyett has that ceiling, but it sounds like he'll track a parallel course at a lower level. If we get 32 starts and good (not great) play from him over four years, it was a very good 6th round selection.
This makes sense, as I do not believe in the past that safety was considered a "premium" position. As the game has evolved, I wonder if the value placed on safety play will increase and they will start being drafted accordingly.
Anyway, here is hoping that the Colts get as lucky with Boyett as they did with Bethea.
@DougEngland Some of that is the nature of the position. Guys who are too big for corner, too small for linebacker often get converted. Lots of safeties are older corners who have moved.
It's easy to find a guy to play the position, but if you can find a difference-maker, it's gold.
This allows teams to take CBs who weren't really elite in college and fit them to their scheme and produce really high quality safeties later in the draft.
I loved this pick.