Great Expectations? Hardly – Part I
As an admittedly optimistic fan, I caught myself daydreaming the other day, picturing an 8-deep draft class of solid contributors, a few Pro Bowlers, and maybe even an All-Pro for good measure…
- Travis Frederick will be an arm-breaking, nose-tackle-eating monster.
- Gavin Escobar will catch ally-oop passes over the goalpost as an unstoppable red zone force.
- Terrance Williams will carry over his 18.9 average yards per catch and soon make Miles Austin obsolete.
- J.J. Wilcox will continue to blossom into an athletic starting safety.
- B.W. Webb will be the starting slot corner by week 1.
- Joseph Randle will be a DeMarco Murray mirror.
- DeVonte Holloman will develop into a perfect SAM fit for Kiffin’s defense.
- Heck, even Brandon Magee will pull a Darren Woodson and become the next ASU linebacker to turn into a Hall of Fame safety!
At this time of the year, in the immediate afterglow of the draft, I’m likely not alone in such musings. At least until rookie minicamp, each and every one of each and every team’s draft picks, from no. 1 Eric Fisher down to no. 254 Justice ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ Cunningham, are brimming with potential and it is the natural inclination of many fans to imagine the highest of ceilings for these young men.
But are these realistic expectations? Sadly, no.
We only need look to recent experience to tell us otherwise. Did any of the following thoughts cross your mind just one short year ago?
- Break out your maps! It’s time to chart a new course to Claiborne Island!
- Tyrone Crawford is criminally underrated; his combine metrics are off the charts!
- Kyle Wilber is going to make Almost Anthony Spencer obsolete!
- Who is that heat-seeking missile running rampant on the red turf of Eastern Washington? Matt Johnson, our newest All Pro safety, that’s who!
- Danny Coale is always open!
- James Hanna and his 4.46 forty are going to cause matchup nightmares for opposing defenses!
- Dirty Caleb McSurdy is solid RKG depth and will turn into a special teams demon!
- Don’t forget our 8th round pick, Ronald Leary, who may just push for a starting job!
- Oh, and Adrian Hamilton is the steal of the century!
Hmmm…. so how did that all turn out again?
Maybe that’s unfair, though. After all, the recent past is a story still being told and the ending may yet see some of these dreams come true (watch, it turns out to be the Hamilton one). So let’s look further back, and see how ‘ancient history’ can help us set more realistic expectations.
Recently I was checking out the ‘Harvard Draft Value Chart,’ which assigns value based on an advanced metric known as Career Approximate Value Over Average, or CAVOA. Rather than read whatever poor recap I could come up with, you should check out the very interesting explanation here:
What the Harvard chart attempts to do is establish comparative value for each draft pick using historical performance-based data. In short, the analysis determined that the “standard draft pick had a mean Career Approximate Value of 15.03.” The chart then shows value over this average. So to find the expected CAV of a draft pick slot, you simply multiply 15.03 by the value of the slot expressed as a percentage.
Based on their draft positions, here are the expected CAVs for Dallas’ incoming class:
(Round.Pick) Player: eCAV
(1.31) Travis Frederick: 30.5
(2.17) Gavin Escobar: 22.3
(3.12) Terrance Williams: 17.5
(3.18) J.J. Wilcox: 16.6
(4.17) B.W. Webb 12.9
(5.18) Joseph Randle: 9.9
(6.17) DeVonte Holloman 7.6
So based on historical data, these values represent realistic expectations. But at a glance, they likely don’t mean much to most of us. So how about some comps to help us out?
Here are some relatively recent or noteworthy Centers with Weighted CAV (wCAV) near 30.5:
Tight Ends with wCAV around 22.3:
Wide Receivers with wCAV around 17.5:
Defensive Backs with wCAV around 16.6:
Stuart Schweigert (15), Jacques Reeves (16), Steve Israel (16), Myron Bell (16), Mike Doss (17), Shawn Wooden (18), Domonique Foxworth (18), Atari Bigby (18), Michael Boulware (18), Will Allen – yes our Will Allen (18)
Defensive Backs with wCAV around 12.9:
Tom Holmoe (10), Rich Coady (10), Rod McSwain (11), Drew Coleman (11), Solomon Wilcots (12), Charlie Peprah (12), Reynaldo Hill (12), Marlin Jackson (13), Corey Ivy (13), Sean Lumpkin (13), Sean Considine (14)
Running Backs with wCAV around 9.9:
Artose Pinner (8), Irving Spikes (8), D.J. Dozier (8), Skip Hicks (8), Ben Tate (9), Jonathan Wells (10), Vai Sikahema (10), Curtis Enis (10), J.J. Arrington (11), Vaughn Hebron (11), Trung Canidate (11), Ki-Jana Carter (12)
Linebackers with wCAV around 7.6:
Zak DeOssie (6), Tommy Hendricks (6), K.D. Williams (8), Andy Katzenmoyer (9), Jack Squirek (9), Brian Bosworth (11)
I’m remembering now why I hated history class. The lessons of history are often sobering. Pick a player from each list and you end up with a group of players that we can realistically expect our current draft class to resemble.
Now, of course, an average is an average, so Travis Frederick could certainly beat that average (Damien Woody 50) or fall below it (Matt Lehr 18). Same with any of these draftees. However, it is FAR more likely that any of them will be a bust than it is he will be a superstar.
So, while there’s nothing wrong with wishing greatness upon these young men, the wet blanket of historical expectations suggests they may not attain it.
To drive the point home, here is a fake draft class featuring only former Cowboys whose actual CAV matches the expected CAV of the current class:
Mike Connelly, C (wCAV 30)
Martellus Bennett, TE (22)
Laurent Robinson, WR (16)
Keith Davis, DB (16)
Kenneth Gant, DB (11)
Sherman Williams, RB (10)
Markus Steele, LB (7)
Now, would you be happy with this draft class?