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Friend-of-the-program Matt Waldman had some thoughts on the topic of wide receiver size, and then asked if I could contribute with some data. Matt posted our joint effort on his Matt’s site, but I’m reproducing it below for the Football Perspective readers. On twitter, some asked if I could do a separate study on wide receivers and weight rather than height. I’ll put that on the to-do list.


 

Matt Waldman: Stats Ministers and Their Church

I’m a fan of applying analytics to football. Those who do it best possess rigorous statistical training or are disciplined about maintaining limits with its application. Brian Burke wrote that at its core, football analytics is no different than the classic scientific method. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are some bad scientists out there, who behave more like religious zealots than statisticians. I call them Stats Ministers. They claim objectivity when their methodology and fervor is anything but.

Stats Ministers scoff at the notion that anyone would see value in a wide receiver under a specific height and weight. They love to share how an overwhelming number of receivers above that specific height and weight mark make up the highest production tiers at the history of the position, but that narrow observation doesn’t prove the broader point that among top-tier prospects, taller wide receivers fare better than shorter ones. In fact, what the Stats Ministers ignore is that a disproportionately high number of the biggest busts were above a certain height and weight, too. Having a microphone does not mean one conducted thoughtful analysis: it could also mean one has a bully pulpit where a person with less knowledge and perspective of the subject will look at the correlation and come to the conclusion that it must be so.

However, correlation isn’t causation. Questioning why anyone would like a smaller wide receiver based on larger number of top wide receivers having size is an example of pointing to faulty ‘data backed’ points. Pointing to historical data can only get you so far: it’s not that different than the reasoning that led to Warren Moon going undrafted. That’s an extreme comparison, of course, but the structure of the argument is the same: there were very few black quarterbacks who had experienced any sort of success in the NFL, so why would Moon? Sometimes you have to shift eras to see in a clear light what “correlation isn’t causation” really looks like.

It was overwhelmingly obvious that Moon could play quarterback if you watched him. But if you’re prejudiced by past history rather than open to learning what to study on the field, then it isn’t overwhelmingly obvious. Data can help define the boundaries of risk, but when those wielding the data want to eliminate the search for the exceptional they’ve gone too far. Even as we see players get taller, stronger, and faster, wide receivers under 6’2″, 210 pounds aren’t the exception.

Analytics-minded individuals employed by NFL teams — who have backgrounds in statistics – don’t follow this line of thoughts. Those with whom I spoke acknowledged that there is an effective player archetype of the small, quick receiver. They recognize the large number of size of shorter/smaller receivers who have been impact players in the NFL that make the size argument moot: Isaac Bruce, Derrick Mason, Wes Welker, Marvin Harrison, DeSean Jackson, Torry Holt, Steve Smith, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Antonio Brown, Pierre Garcon, Victor Cruz, and Reggie Wayne are just a small sample of players who did not match this 6-2, 210-pound requirement.

This size/weight notion and discussion of “calibration” or what I think they actually mean–reverse regression–is also a classic statistical case of overfitting. There are too many variables and complexities to the game and the position to throw up two data points like height and weight and derive a predictive model on quality talent among receivers. The only fact about big/tall receivers is that they tend to have a large catch radius. Otherwise, there is no factual basis to assume that these players have more talent and skill.

The dangerous thing about this type of thinking is that many of these “Stats Ministers” were trained using perfect data sets in the classroom and their math is reliant on “high fit” equations. When they tackle a real world environment like football they still expect these lessons to help them when it won’t. However, there are plenty of people who are reading and buying into what they’re selling. I showed my argument above to Chase Stuart and asked him to share his thoughts. Here’s his analysis:

Chase Stuart: Analysis of the Big vs. Small WR Question

We should begin by first getting a sense of the distribution of height among wide receivers in the draft. The graph below shows the number of wide receivers selected in the first two rounds of each draft from 1970 to 2013 at each height (in inches):

wr draft ht

The distribution is somewhat like a bell curve, with the peak height being 6’1, and the curve being slightly skewed thereafter towards shorter players (more 6’0 receivers than 6’2, more 5’11 receivers than 6’3, and so on).

Now, let’s look at the number of WRs who have made three Pro Bowls since 1970:

wr pro bowl ht

The most common height for a wide receiver who has made three Pro Bowls since the AFL-NFL merger is 72 inches. And while Harold Jackson is the only wide receiver right at 5’10 to make the list, players at 71 and 69 inches are pretty well represented, too. I suppose it’s easy to forget smaller receivers, so here’s the list of wide receivers 6′0 or shorter with 3 pro bowls:

Mel Gray
Mark Duper
Mark Clayton
Gary Clark
Steve Smith
Wes Welker
Harold Jackson
Charlie Joiner
Cliff Branch
Lynn Swann
Steve Largent
Stanley Morgan
Henry Ellard
Anthony Carter
Anthony Miller
Paul Warfield
Drew Pearson
Wes Chandler
Irving Fryar
Tim Brown
Sterling Sharpe
Isaac Bruce
Rod Smith
Marvin Harrison
Hines Ward
Donald Driver
Torry Holt
Reggie Wayne
DeSean Jackson

Recent history

Now, let’s turn to players drafted since 2000. This next graph shows how many wide receivers were selected in the first two rounds of drafts from ’00 to ’13, based on height:

As you can see, the draft is skewing towards taller wide receivers in recent years. Part of that is because nearly all positions are getting bigger and taller (and faster), but the real question concerns whether this trend is overvaluing tall wide receivers.

It’s too early to grade receivers from the 2012 or 2013 classes, so let’s look at all receivers drafted in the first round between 2000 and 2011. There were 21 receivers drafted who were 6’3 or taller, compared to just 14 receivers drafted who stood six feet tall or shorter. On average, these taller receivers were drafted with the 13th pick in the draft, while the set of short receivers were selected, on average, with the 21st pick.

So we would expect the taller receivers to be better players, since they were drafted eight spots higher. But that wasn’t really the case. Both sets of players produced nearly identical receiving yards averages:

TypeRookieYear 2Year 3
Short535669709
Tall567676720

Taller wide receivers have fared ever so slightly better than shorter receivers. But once you factor in draft position, that edge disappears. If you look at the ten highest drafted “short” receivers, they still were drafted later (on average, 17th overall) than the average “tall” receiver. But their three-year receiving yards line is better, reading 563-694-790. In other words, I don’t see evidence to indicate that shorter receivers, once taking draft position into account, are worse than taller receivers. If anything, the evidence points the other way, suggesting that talent evaluators are more comfortable “reaching” for a taller player who isn’t quite as good. Players like Santana Moss, Lee Evans, Percy Harvin, and Jeremy Maclin were very productive shorter picks; for some reason, it’s easy for some folks to forget the success of those shorter receivers, and also forget the failures of taller players like Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, Jonathan Baldwin, Sylvester Morris, David Terrell, Michael Jenkins, Reggie Williams, and Matt Jones.

But that’s just one way of answering the question. What I did next was run a regression using draft value using the values from my Draft Value Chart and height to predict success. If the draft was truly efficient — i.e., if height was properly being incorporated into a player’s draft position–then adding height to the regression would be useless. But if height was being improperly valued by NFL decision makers, the regression would tell us that, too.

To measure success, I used True Receiving Yards by players in their first five seasons. I jointly developed True Receiving Yards with Neil Paine (now of 538 fame), and you can read the background about it here and here.

The basic explanation is that TRY adjusts receiver numbers for era and combines receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns into one number, and adjusts for the volume of each team’s passing attack. The end result is one number that looks like receiving yards: Antonio Brown, AJ Green, Josh Gordon, Calvin Johnson, Anquan Boldin, and Demaryius Thomas all had between 1100 and 1200 TRY last year.

First, I had to isolate a sample of receivers to analyze. I decided to take 20 years of NFL drafts, looking at all players drafted between 1990 and 2009 who played in an NFL game, and their number of TRYs in their first five seasons. (Note: As will become clear at the end of this post, I have little reason to think this is an issue. But technically, I should note that I am only looking at drafted wide receivers who actually played in an NFL game. So if, for example, height is disproportionately linked to players who are drafted but fail to make it to an NFL game, that would be important to know but would be ignored in this analysis.)

To give you a sense of what type of players TRY likes, here are the top 10 leaders (in order) in True Receiving Yards accumulated during their first five seasons among players drafted between 1990 and 2009:

Randy Moss
Torry Holt
Marvin Harrison
Larry Fitzgerald
Chad Johnson
Calvin Johnson
Keyshawn Johnson
Anquan Boldin
Herman Moore
Andre Johnson

First, I ran a regression using Draft Pick Value as my sole input and True Receiving Yards as my output. The best-fit formula was:

TRY through five years = 348 + 131.3 * Draft Pick Value

That doesn’t mean much in the abstract, so let’s use an example. Keyshawn Johnson was the first pick in the draft, which gives him a draft value of 34.6. This formula projected Johnson to have 4,890 TRY through five years. In reality, he had 4,838. The R^2 in the regression was 0.60, which is pretty strong: It means draft pick is pretty strongly tied to wide receiver production, a sign that the market is pretty efficient.

Then I re-ran the formula using draft pick value *and* height as my inputs. As it turns out, the height variable was completely meaningless. The R^2 remained at 0.60, and the coefficient on the height variable was not close to significant (p=0.53) despite a large sample of 543 players.

In other words, NFL GMs were properly valuing height in the draft during this period.

In case you’re curious, the 15 biggest “overachievers” as far as TRY relative to draft position were, in order: Marques Colston, Santana Moss, Brandon Marshall, Darrell Jackson, Terrell Owens, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Freeman, Chad Johnson, Coles, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings, Chris Chambers, Marvin Harrison, Hines Ward, and Steve Johnson.

In this sample, about 50% of the players were taller than 6-0, and only about 30% of the receivers were 5-11 or shorter. We shouldn’t necessarily expect to see a bunch of short overachievers, but I’m convinced that height was properly valued by NFL teams in the draft at least over this 20-year period. There may be fewer star receivers who are short, but that’s only because there are fewer star receiver prospects who are short. Once an NFL team puts a high grade on a short prospect, that’s pretty much all we need to know.

Of the 33 players drafted in the top 15, just one-third of them were six feet or shorter. As a group, there were a couple of big overachievers (Torry Holt, Lee Evans), some other players who did very well (Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, and Donte Stallworth), and a few big busts (Desmond Howard, Ted Ginn, Troy Edwards, and Peter Warrick). Ike Hilliard and Mike Pritchard round out the group. But I see nothing to indicate that short receivers who are highly drafted do any worse than tall receivers who are highly drafted. It’s just that usually, the taller receiver is drafted earlier.
wr draft 2000 2013 ht

Waldman: Why the Exceptional is Valuable

Chase’s analysis echoes what I have heard from those with NFL analytics backgrounds: There are too many variables to consider with raw stats to indicate that big receivers are inherently better than small receivers and there are viable archetypes of the effective small receiver.

What concerns me about the attempts to pigeonhole player evaluation into narrower physical parameters is that if taken too far one might as well replace the word “talent” in the phrase “talent evaluation” and use “athletic” or “physical” in its place. I may be wrong, but I get the sense that some of these Stats Ministers–intentionally or otherwise–dislike the exceptional when it comes to human nature. They’re seeking a way to make scouting a plain of square holes where the square pegs fit neatly into each place.

The problem with this philosophy is that once a concept, strategy, or view becomes the “right way” it evolves into the standard convention. Once it becomes conventional, it’s considered “safe.” However this is not true in the arena of competition. If you’re seeking the conventional, you’ve limited the possibilities of finding and creating environments for the exceptional to grow.

Many players who didn’t match the ideal size for their positions and had success were difference makers on winning teams–often Super Bowl Champions. I’d argue that exceptions to the rule that succeed are often drivers of excellence:

  • Russell Wilson didn’t meet the faulty “data backed” physical prototypes for quarterback and picking this exception to the rule in the third round earned them exceptional savings to acquire or keep other players for a Super Bowl run.
  • Rod Smith was too short, too slow, a rookie at 25, and not even drafted. But like a lot of his peers I mentioned above, his production was a huge factor for his team becoming a contender. The fact he was the exception to the rule freed Denver to acquire other pieces to the puzzle.
  • Joe Montana was too small, threw a wobbly ball, and was a third-round pick who was more of a point guard than full-fledged pocket passer, but he was just the type of player Bill Walsh was seeking in an offense that changed the entire course of the game. But at the time, the west coast offense was the exception to the rule that turned the league upside down.
  • Buddy Ryan and the Bears drafted a bunch of defenders that didn’t meet physical prototypes for traditional roles in a 4-3, but the 46 defense took Chicago to Super Bowl dominance.
  • Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, and Marques Colston were exceptions to the rule. The Saints offense has been the driver for this team’s playoff and Super Bowl appearances.

I could name more, but the point isn’t to list every player. Why should I? Players who become top starters in the NFL are by very definition the exception to the rule. The only thing height gives a wide receiver is potential position on a target due to wing span, but it doesn’t help hand-eye coordination, body position, route running, comfort with physical contact, and understanding of a defense.

There are also smaller players with good arm length, leaping ability, quickness, and strength to earn similar, if not better position on a target. Even when the smaller receivers lack the same caliber of physical measurements as the bigger players, if they possess all of the other traits of a good receiver that these big athletes lack then size doesn’t matter.

There are legitimate archetypes for smaller, quick receivers with change of direction. However, there are social biases with these correlations that filter out players from the earliest stages of the game. These biases include the idea that the vast majority of these types of players are in the highest levels of football so anything different should be discouraged at the high school and college level–think white wide receivers, running backs, and cornerbacks as examples.

Players who succeed in defying these social biases and also possess the skill and persistence to overcome them. I’ve shown this video before, but physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson makes a strong point against “data backed” arguments of this nature when he answered a question posed about the small number of female and black scientists in the world. Harvard President Lawrence Summers hazarded a guess that it was genetics. Tyson’s answer is a great example why correlation isn’t causation.

The greatest irony about this specific crowd of data zealots is that they are often the first to complain about coaching tendencies that have same biases.

Maybe rookie receivers with the dimensions of Paul Richardson – or for that matter Jeremy Gallon or Odell Beckham – don’t become productive fantasy options or football players as often as bigger players based on correlating data. However, pointing to past history and scoffing at the wisdom of making an investment is like stating that it was a fact in the 15th century that dragons lie at the edge of the flat world we live in.

If you’re going to avoid investing in a player–or encourage others to do so–use good reasoning. Looking at the data is helpful, but the NFL isn’t a perfect data set. There are some data analysts writing about football that derive ideas reliant on a lot of highly fit equations that don’t work in a real world situation. However, they expect perfection and it’s not going to happen. They also behave as if data only tells the truth–and when that data lacks a fit, context, or proper application, it’s a little scary.

I want to see analytics succeed in the NFL, but like film study it’s not the answer. These two areas–when executed well–can contribute to the answer. However, the NFL–beyond some individual cases–hasn’t made significant advances in either area.

I suppose when you have a monopoly in the marketplace combined with a socialistic system for spreading the wealth owners don’t have significant motivation to become innovative with player evaluation. If they did, they’d be spending more money on making these processes rather than cycling through coaches and GMs every 3-5 years.

{ 20 comments }
  • Ben June 12, 2014, 3:29 am

    Great point about how the NFL isn’t really set up to be efficient in the last paragraph there. Coming from a Cowboys fan yes this is annoying.

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart June 12, 2014, 11:35 am

      Thanks, Ben.

      Reply
  • ubrab June 12, 2014, 4:01 am

    While I like the article, I struggle to find any example of “Stats ministers” advocating a mandatory size for WRs? Just using this draft class as an example I don’t recall reading anyone saying that Cooks or Beckham Jr were too small?

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart June 12, 2014, 11:37 am

      Thanks ubrab…. I think it really depends on the circles of people with whom you interact. I’m closer to your end of the spectrum, but as I saw on twitter yesterday after Matt posted this article, there are lots of people who are advocating for size for WRs. I had seen a bit of it with height (especially in regards to Sammy Watkins), but there are lots of folks out there who believe weight is a significant variable for receivers. Frankly, I hadn’t heard of that before yesterday, and I’m skeptical, but I will look into it just because now I’m curious.

      Reply
      • Arif June 12, 2014, 1:06 pm

        I’m curious about weight after seeing that discussion, for sure. Would you run your test on weight and BMI? That surprised me.

        Reply
        • Chase Stuart June 12, 2014, 2:32 pm

          Perhaps. The more I think about this weight issue, though, I think it might get pretty complicated. I could see me having to run a number of tests just on weight alone. Now duping that out for BMI wouldn’t be much added work, I suppose, but it may make the post a bit unwieldy. We’ll see: I also have had limited time to blog of late, although I guess you may not notice it from the content on the site :) (much of it was done weeks ago)

          Reply
      • ubrab June 12, 2014, 9:23 pm

        I see what you mean: There is a clear new trend regarding a love for “big” WRs, but I saw height becoming more a general preference rather than an absolute requirement.
        In fact myself, a few months ago, I had a personal opinion that “tall WRs” were in general being drafted too high/had a higher chance of failing in the NFL, because I had in mind the very recent failures of Limas Sweed, Malcolm Kelly, James Hardy, Baldwin, etc. Turns out my own “study” had the same conclusion than yours: I was wrong.

        As a side note, I think Kelvin Benjamin was one of the most overrated WR of this draft class( he is NOT an athletic freak). Matt, based on his rookie portfolio(buy it, it’s good), tends to agree.

        Reply
        • Chase Stuart June 12, 2014, 11:54 pm

          Good stuff.

          Reply
  • Ben Cook June 12, 2014, 10:02 am

    Nicely done! I like the simple regression model and the clear reasoning.

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart June 12, 2014, 11:35 am

      Thanks!

      Reply
  • reilly June 12, 2014, 12:04 pm

    I always enjoy your work, Chase, but this article raises some concerns for me, mostly from Matt Waldman’s end of the discussion.

    While I personally think that height is a somewhat overrated factor, I do think there are things we find in larger (not necessarily taller, but perhaps heavier and more powerful) receivers that do have significant value in predicting future success. Saying that there is “no factual basis” to support the idea that big receivers bring anything more to the table than “a large catch radius” strikes me as a bit ridiculous. This isn’t to say that small receivers aren’t valuable, but I’m just saying that they almost need to be evaluated as a separate position, with different paths to the same destination based on different measurable physical skills. They may not be as big, but they often compensate for this in other areas that we can also measure. Do we really think that Calvin Johnson and DeSean Jackson are interchangeable simply because they are both listed as wide receivers? Of course not. Much like a comparison of Jimmy Graham to Heath Miller, they are practically playing different positions.

    While I largely agree with both of you about the height issue, I would worry about this article being seen as a validation of the general criticism of using better physical/measurable traits as useful predictors of success. Much of what Matt goes on to say regarding “pigeonholing” prospects, and “seeking the conventional, you’ve limited the possibilities of finding and creating environments for the exceptional to grow”, is dangerously close to cheerleading the cause of pursuing outliers, who are by their very nature extremely unpredictable and hard to identify. People will often point to players like Anquan Boldin and Wes Welker as reasons to ignore what the numbers can tell us, but most people don’t realize how rare such occurrences really are, and I would be wary of encouraging people to think such outcomes are realistic to expect.

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart June 12, 2014, 2:28 pm

      Thanks for the comment, reilly. I don’t want to speak for Matt, but some thoughts I have:

      There’s always some tension between some of these issues. If you tell an NFL GM that x% of all 2nd round picks are busts and therefore there’s an X% chance that his 2nd round pick will be a bust, you’ll probably get a response back like “well, I feel very confident about this player” or “I don’t care about league averages.” Talent evaluators, rightly or wrongly (which is why we get the averages we get) believe that they are mostly above-average. Some are, and some are not, of course. But I think in Matt’s role, and in creating products like the Rookie Scouting Portfolio, there is a sense of ignoring what “average” means and believing what you see on film. Matt was one of the people highest on Russell Wilson, and that worked out. Matt has made his share of mistakes, I’m sure, where he was really confident, too. But I think part of scouting involves trusting your own decisions, whether they are outliers are not.

      Frankly, that’s a pretty different role than the one I occupy. I think that teams should be cautious and guard against their own optimism, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want my scouts to think they’r ethe best and can identify those outliers who are hard to identify. I think there’s a difference between expecting, in the aggregate, a bunch of outliers to exist, and saying for any one player that you think he’s going to be a big outlier.

      Anyway, just my 0.02. I don’t want to speak for Matt or for you, but hopefully that made some sense.

      Reply
      • Chase Stuart June 12, 2014, 2:42 pm

        Thinking about this a bit more, and again not to speak for Matt, but I think the context needs to be considered. If some folks are saying “WR X isn’t going to be very good, he’s too short, and short WRs aren’t very good” that’s kind of silly, and it’s perfectly reasonable to acknowledge that there are going to be outliers, and just because a WR is short doesn’t mean he’s not going to be very good.

        My take, as you can probably tell, is that I think the draft has been pretty efficient.

        Reply
        • reilly June 12, 2014, 5:26 pm

          I hope I didn’t come off as being overly argumentative, because I really do enjoy your work. I just felt a little bit wary about having the questionable value of height used as as a possible means of dismissing measurable factors in general. I would completely agree with you that height has been a largely overblown trait with many prospects, beyond just wide receivers.

          Context, as you say, does matter. Ignoring someone just for being shorter than average, is obviously a bad idea. I wouldn’t even consider successful small receivers to be outliers, they’re just a different kind of receiver, that probably generally succeeds due to different strengths than the larger receivers. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and some of those ways can probably be broken down fairly objectively.

          When it comes to the issue of the draft being efficient…my feelings run in several different directions. On the one hand, yes, highly drafted players tend to outproduce their more lowly drafted peers. On the other hand, teams seem quite committed to giving opportunities to highly drafted players, almost regardless of their performance, at least through their rookie contract, which can inflate their production. So, it kind of creates a chicken or the egg problem for us, as to whether highly drafted players are as consistently dominant as they appear to be, or whether they are propped up by teams to appear that way. The degree to which biases related to where a player was drafted might exist are difficult to gauge, but they undoubtedly exist. Maybe the draft is only efficient in terms of teams showing a commitment to pursuing their pre-existing notions about what they believe certain players are capable of doing. The prestige of being a former 1st round pick has gotten many disappointing players numerous second chances, most likely at someone else’s expense. Look at how little commitment Chip Kelly showed towards Nick Foles last year, for example, as opposed to Mike Vick. It’s a tricky and probably futile question to ask though.

          Reply
          • Chase Stuart June 12, 2014, 11:56 pm

            That’s quite alright, reilly.

            My take on measurable factors is that for the most part, they are already being incorporated into market value. That’s why I’m skeptical of this weight idea, but again, I will give it some investigation with an open eye.

            Untangling that issue is pretty tricky. One thing that does seem pretty clear: teams that release first round picks because they’re bad (I’m not talking about players whose contracts expire or DeSean Jackson-like situations) almost never do anything with another team. Those players seem to always get new chances, and you can probably count on one hand the number that do well. Hey, that’s probably fodder for a future post.

            Reply
  • Tim Truemper June 12, 2014, 12:42 pm

    More sophisticated measurables than mere height and weight are needed. One that was examined by Chase in prior postings was the height to weight ratio of RB’s, how that has changed over time and appears to predict current success for RB’s now (though to a limited degree). Jonathan Bales has examined certain physical measurables like arm length for particular positions and examined its efficacy as a predictor of pro football success. I remember the Gil Brandt era of actuarial scouting for the Cowboys in which they had their formula for position success based on multiple data points, then all “run through the computer. Would be interesting to know what they actually computed. I would not be surprised that it was just a crude additive model without empirically verified weighting of the different factors.

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart June 12, 2014, 2:30 pm

      While I wholeheartedly agree with you, there are corners of the world that feel we don’t need more sophisticated measurables. I think if you google Sammy Watkins height/too short/bust or some combination thereof, you’ll find those corners :)

      Reply
      • J June 13, 2014, 11:37 pm

        I tried googling all of those, and did not find any of those corners. In the first two pages of results for “Sammy Watkins bust”, you only find 3 or 4 links that even examine the possibility of him being a bust. None of them mention height as a reason. In fact, many of the links you find when you perform those searches commend him for his height.

        The only corners of the world that I know of that have even discussed it are more concerned about Watkins because of “more sophisticated measurables.”

        But I’d love to see a list of articles that have criticized him for his height while not expressing other larger concerns, if you can find them.

        Reply
  • Dan June 14, 2014, 1:34 am

    There are a few different hypotheses about WR size that seem plausible enough for it to be interesting to look at the data:

    H1: If they are equal on other aspects of (physical & mental) ability, a bigger WR prospect will probably have a better career than a smaller WR prospect.
    H2: NFL teams undervalue WR size, so a bigger WR prospect will probably have a better career than a smaller WR prospect drafted at the same spot.
    H3: Bigger WR prospects are more likely to have exceptional NFL careers (they tend to have a higher ceiling than smaller WR prospects).
    H4: Bigger WR prospects tend to have more fantasy value than smaller WR prospects, holding constant where they are drafted.
    H5: Smaller WR prospects are more dependent on their QB than bigger WR prospects: the dropoff in production as QB quality declines is greater for smaller WRs than for bigger WRs.

    I believe that these are all distinct – for any pair of hypotheses, you could imagine one being true and the other being false.

    For all of these, “bigger” could be defined in terms of height, weight, or BMI.

    It looks like this analysis focuses on H2 (expected NFL production, controlling for draft spot), with “bigger” based on height.

    Reply
  • JWL June 14, 2014, 7:27 am

    I did not like Sylvester Morris being lumped in with those busts. He was a failure, sure, but only because he got injured. The other guys in that sentence do not have excuses. Morris was good when he played.

    Reply

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