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Who are the analytics stars of the NFL draft?

By Matthew Coller

As teams prepare for the NFL draft, one element of the game that has only come into the equation recently is the use of analytics. Not only are franchises looking at data that comes from the NFL Combine, but they are digging inside players’ statistical production as well.

Lucky for us, some of the data that teams are using to make decisions is also available publicly. The website Relative Athletic Scores takes player measurements and puts them on a 0 to 10 scale compared to their position group. A final score is then produced which is also on a 0 to 10 score to show overall athleticism for a draft prospect.

In order to find the analytics darlings of this year’s draft, we take the athletic scores and combine them with players who have impressive numbers via Pro Football Focus’s draft guide. Here are 10 players who stand out both athletically and in their on-field production:

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Defensive end, Lorenzo Carter

Athletic score: 10.0

Key stats: Created a pressure, hit or sack on 15.5 percent of pass rush snaps, fifth best in the class

Carter will remind some of Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Carter ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and ranked in the 98th percentile of broad jump. His sack totals were solid at 9.5 sacks over the last two years, but Pro Football Focus’s data reveals that he was causing havoc in the backfield more often than most of his peers.

Tackle, Kolton Miller

Athletic score: 9.99

Key stats: Allowed four sacks in three years as a starter

It will be fascinating to see where Miller gets drafted in late April. Some pundits believe his athleticism is so exceptional that the 6-foot-9 UCLA lineman will be in the top half of the first round, while others do not believe his tape is good enough to justify a high pick. Miller was among the elites in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Questions about his tape might be fair, but his overall play by PFF’s grades was solid as he ranked 17th in the class in Pass Block Efficiency.

Tight end, Mike Gesicki

Athletic score: 9.97

Key stats: Caught 75 percent of contested targets (9-for-12), best in the nation among tight ends

Everyone wants a mismatch tight end. Well, Gesicki is that and then some. Not only did he destroy the Combine by running a 4.5 40-yard dash, he also jumped 41 inches, which could explain his ability to win contested balls in his direction.

Center, Frank Ragnow

Athletic score: 9.85

Key stats: PFF’s highest graded center in 2016 & 2017

For a player whose size and strength stood out on tape, it was his athleticism that surprised at the Combine. Ragnow ranked in the 99th percentile among centers in the 20-yard split and 90th in 40-yard dash. Per PFF’s data, he ranked as the No. 2 center in Pass Blocking Efficiency and No. 1 in Run Block Success.

Wide receiver, Courtland Sutton

Athletic score: 9.78

Key stats: Caught 574 yards on deep (20-plus yard) passes in 2016, 13th-best in the nation

After an outstanding Combine, there is a chance Sutton could be the first receiver off the board. He doesn’t have blazing speed at 4.54, but every other box is checked from his quickness in 3-Cone drill to his strength in the bench press. PFF reports that Sutton caught all the deep throws that were deemed “catchable.”

Wide receiver, DJ Chark

Athletic score: 9.92

Key stats: Ranked 6th in the nation with 572 yards on deep passes in 2017

At 4.3 40-yard dash dash put Chark on the map as a potential deep threat, especially with a 6-foot-3 frame and above average arm length. His athletic profile compares favorably to Cordarrelle Patterson. Considering the LSU product averaged 21.8 yards per completion, it’s pretty clear how often and successful the Tigers were going downfield to their blazing-fast receiver.

Linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch

Athletic score: 9.97

Key stats: Led all FBS inside linebackers in both run-stops (57) and run-stop percentage (15.9 percent)

The Boise State star has the size of a defensive end and the speed of a linebacker. His wingspan (96th percentile) and jumping ability (98th percentile) give him a chance to be great in coverage against mismatch tight ends. PFF graded him as one of the best run stoppers and cover linebackers in the draft.

Defensive tackle, Taven Bryan

Athletic score: 9.90

Key stats: Created pressure on 9.7 percent of pass rush snaps, 10th best in the draft class

Bryan is one of the most intriguing players in the draft because he only picked up 4.0 sacks last year and just 5.5 in his entire college career. Yet he was 10th in Pass Rush Productivity, adding seven QB hits and 20 hurries. He crushed the jumping drills at the Combine, scoring in the 98th percentile in the broad jump and 97th in the vertical, while scoring well above average in the bench press and 40-yard dash.

Cornerback, Denzel Ward

Athletic score: 9.70

Key stats: Allowed an NFL passer rating of 52.9 when targeted in 2017, with two interceptions and twelve pass breakups from 57 targets

Ward’s closest comparison athletically per Mockdraftable is Saints star Marshon Lattimore. His 4.32 40-yard dash and 136 inch broad jump should quiet any worries about his 5-foot-10 frame. And on the field, when teams threw at the Buckeyes’ star, they had no chance. Only 35 percent of throws at him were completed.

Quarterback, Kyle Lauletta

Athletic score: 8.36

Key stats: Completed 40-of-52 passes (76.9 percent) at the intermediate (10-19 yard) level in between the numbers.

Lauletta has gone under the radar with all the talk focused on the top five quarterbacks, but his athleticism stands out above any of the potential top pick quarterbacks. Richmond’s QB was outstanding when throwing intermediate routes. However, his deep ball left much to be desired.

Had Lamar Jackson run the 40 and in Baker Mayfield was a little taller, both would stand out from the pack. Mayfield’s analytics are off the charts, ranking No. 1 in Adjusted Completion Percentage and deep pass Adjusted Completion Percentage.

The post Who are the analytics stars of the NFL draft? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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