Is Golson Too Small? Part II

In 2014, the draft selection of Dri Archer in the 3rd round polarized the Steelers fan base around the question of whether or not the Kent State Flash would have the necessary bulk to succeed in the NFL no matter how fast he is. This year's 3rd round selection, also drew some significant commentary as fans debated if it were worth it to add another receiver to an already deep WR corps, particularly one with a reputation for dropping passes at a staggering rate. The real object of controversy this year, though, is really another player who like Archer is criticized for being too small. Senquez Golson's selection in the 2nd round has been viewed by many as a wasted pick by some, and a reach by others who see Golson topping out as a good nickel CB.

Back in May, I wrote a fanpost addressing some of the common concerns related to Golson's height, and in the comments someone brought up that an additional point could be made by comparing the success rates of CB's drafted in the 1st and 2nd rounds. Well, it's the offseason and there's nothing else to do, so here it is. Since "success rate" is a subjective measure, I decided instead to look at the quantitative production primarily, but at the end I'll discuss success/failure.

If you didn't read part 1 (shame on you), I break down CB's into short (5'10 or less), average (5'11 or 6'0), and tall (6'1 or more), reflecting the normal distribution of height in the most productive CB's of the 2014 season. It just so happens that since 2010, 10 small corners and 10 tall corners have been drafted in the top 2 rounds, with 12 average sized corners. Admittedly, this is isn't a great sample size, but it's not irrelevant either. I added up the 2014 stats for all the players in each category and took the average for ease of comparison, and this is what came out.
































First of all, it seems that average sized CB's are under-represented in the early rounds of the draft. My earlier post showed that there are as many quality average sized CB's as tall and short CB's combined, and here we see that average sized CB's drafted in the top 2 rounds are on average significantly more productive than tall or short CB's.

The second thing that jumps out at me is that smaller CB's counter-intuitively seem to be better tacklers than larger CB's. Besides simply having more tackles, short CB's have more sacks and a lot more forced fumbles. This may be influenced by playing more in the slot, which would jive with the lower average games started.

Thirdly, it appears from this data that short CB's are on average less productive than average sized or tall CB's. Although, it is interesting that the much vaunted tall CB's do not have an edge over other CB's in any individual statistical category, and are actually less productive than average sized CB's on average.

Leaving the table above, I promised I would also look at a more subjective analysis of how many players in each group "make it." This has less to do with averages and more to do with the range. The same average can be obtained from a 50/50 split of superstars and flops or a perfect record of mediocrity. In the case of average size corners, the average happens to also reflect the mode. Excepting rookies like Gilbert, Dennard, and Roby, the least productive average sized corner would be Patrick Robinson with only 6 starts, but 32 tackles, 11PD, and 2 INT on the season. There don't appear to be any real failures in the ten selected corners, although if you look at all average sized corners drafted since 2010 Morris Claiborne would fit that bill. All the rest were full time starters in 2014.

Tall corners fared somewhat poorer. Stanley Jean-Baptiste was a rookie and a raw one at that, but after playing in 4 games and failing to record even a tackle fans are already wondering if he'll make the roster in 2015. Ras-I Dowling ended up being a wasted pick, although injuries are largely responsible for that. Chris Cook hasn't exactly been impressive since being drafted at the top of the 2nd round in 2010, he started 10 and 11 games in the last 2 years of his rookie contract but didn't exactly shine and was let go. Last year he played in 6 games for SF, with 6 tackles and 1 PD. Finally, Dre Kirkpatrick has only 5 career starts, but sees the field plenty with 30 game appearances in the past 2 years, and had 3 INT and 1 TD each of those years too; that's nice but as a 17th overall pick you'd like to see him starting by his 3rd year.

With that context, let's see how short CB's success rate compares. Rookies Verrett and Joyner showed good promise. A couple of the older players haven't developed as well as was probably hoped, though. Brandon Harris has a career 48 tackles after being drafted at the end of the 2nd round in 2011, and is probably out of the league at this point. Kyle Wilson has played in every game since he was drafted 29th overall in 2010, started 6 games each of his first 2 years and 15 as a 3rd year pro. With only 4 PD and 1 INT as a full time starter, the Jets demoted him back to the slot and he's now trying to make the Saints roster. Javier Arenas was a fairly productive slot corner for KC in his first three years, playing all but one game with 2 INT, 4 sacks, 3 FF, and 22 PD, starting 9 games in 2012. But his play has dropped off with the Cardinals and Falcons the past 2 years, registering only 21 tackles, a sack and a PD. The rest then, are productive starters. So, it seems that small CB's do have a noticeably more difficult time transitioning to the NFL than average sized CB's, but only marginally more difficult than tall corners (although tall corners have slightly more upside).

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