Understanding Athleticism

LSU held its Pro Day today and things did not go well for WR Jarvis Landry. He was slow, stiff and showed no explosion. While the numbers don’t lie, this doesn’t mesh with what you see on tape, where Landry was a star receiver.

What gives?

We see this every year. Some players play better than they test. Rip a guy for a crappy Pro Day or Combine and you’ll get stories about Terrell Suggs, Joe Haden and Anquan Boldin. They didn’t test well, but have been NFL stars.

Unfortunately there are also plenty of guys who didn’t test well that were exposed as marginal athletes. They did not go on to NFL glory.

Trying to figure out which players are the exception is very tricky, to put it mildly. I believed in Boldin back in 2003. I didn’t care that he ran more than 4.7 at the Combine. I had watched him play for 3 years and Boldin’s game wasn’t built on speed. He was tough, physical and even athletic. But he wasn’t fast.

I was nervous about Haden. CB is a speed position. The fact he wasn’t huge and lacked ideal size kinda bugged me. He’s turned out better than I expected.

I don’t specifically remember my thoughts on Suggs.

Landry had a pretty miserable day.

6-0, 196
30.5 VJ
4.59 SS
7.59 3-cone

Those last 2 times are awful. They wouldn’t be special for offensive linemen, let alone a medium-sized WR.

Watch Landry in a game and you see some impressive plays, but also his physical limitations.

It gets to be tough to make a case for Landry. He’s not big. He’s not coming off a major injury. He was a good college player, but not a dominant force. I’m afraid his workouts are showing who he is and that means he won’t be a Top 75 pick.

Landry can still find a role in the NFL and he can become a good pro, but he’s far from a lock to start, let alone become a star receiver.

Go back to the previous trio for a minute. Suggs set sack records. Boldin was a dominant player on an elite team. Haden was an elite CB in the best conference in all of college football.

Landry was a good college player, but not on that level. He only started 12 games in 3 years. He was 77-1193-10 in 2013. Those are good numbers, but nothing special. Landry is good on tape, but not special. And now we see a bad workout. This is not a good trend.

Mike Mayock loves Landry. Why? Mayock sees toughness and skills and brains on tape. Landry is the kind of player you want to like. But right now the evidence is piling up and the verdict isn’t good. He’ll be in for a slide during the draft, especially when you consider what a deep draft this is.

Each case has to be studied like this. How did a player’s workouts compare to his game tape? Don’t think about results. Numbers can be deceiving. Watch the tape. See if a player exhibits NFL type athleticism on tape. Not everyone tests well. Was the player dominant in college? How did he fare in big games or against big competition?

The flip side of this can be true as well. OL Wesley Johnson had a strong showing at the Combine. Casual fans might have said “Hey, this guy is an athletic OL.”

Put on the game tape and you see something very different. His feet are terrible. Johnson did training to get ready for the Combine and mastered the drills. He then did very well on them in Indy. The game tape is nothing like that.

We’ve seen this before. Lydon Murtha was an OL for Nebraska. He had a good workout at the Combine. I hadn’t been impressed by his game tape, but thought the workout meant I needed to go back and re-watch him. I still wasn’t impressed. Murtha was a 7th round pick and started 4 games in his short career.

Athletic drills are a tool for quantifying athletic ability, but they can be flawed. The drills must be kept in context. If they don’t match the game tape, you must figure out which of the two is wrong. NFL teams struggle with this each year so don’t expect to be perfect as you decipher the info and come to a conclusion.

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4 Responses to Understanding Athleticism

  1. Pingback: Iggles Blitz » Blog Archive » Eagles Draft Nuggets

  2. James says:

    He’s a slightly smaller Jason Avant who was a fourth round pick.

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