Some Fun Player Comparisons Using Athletic Traits

When I researched players leading up to the Draft, one theme arose repeatedly – the importance of athletic testing profiles in the process. Does a straight line 40 yd dash in shorts on a track translate to running non-linearly in pads and helmet on turf? Can an exceptional athlete with unrefined skills or instincts be "coached up" to be a great NFL player? Should poor testing disqualify a player who otherwise was productive and skilled in college?

Relative Athletic Score, or RAS, has become a staple of Draft discussion. If you have not yet checked it out, please go here:\

All known physical measurements and Combine testing results are compiled for every player drafted over the past 30 years and given an overall score that equates with a percentile ranking. 10.0 indicates the best size/testing profile ever at a position, 0.0 is the least athletic, and 5.0 indicates an average Draft-eligible athlete at his position.

How strongly do Combine measurements and tests correlate with the selections made by NFL teams? Can themes be found, where teams gravitate towards players with similar physical traits again and again? Well, the Cowboys are a good place to start. Can we discern patterns that indicate qualities the Cowboys value most highly?

One great feature included on the RAS Football site is "RAS Compare", where two players can be directly compared side-by-side. Just for fun, I generated numerous comparisons of the 2022 draft class with other past and present Cowboys.

Tyler Smith versus Tyron Smith

In the introductory Press Conference for Tyler Smith, Jerry Jones emphasized the "eerie" similarities he sees between Tyler and a young Tyron. Here is the RAS comparison:

Tyler is an 88th percentile athlete at Tackle, but a step below Tyron whose speed and arm length are unicorn traits. Still, similarities in frame, talent and athletic profile are pretty clear.

Tyler Smith versus Connor Williams

It seems that Dallas may have a target profile they like on the left side of the line. Smith is a heavier, slightly less bursty version of Connor Williams. Also note that when scored as a Guard, Tyler Smith is 96th percentile athlete versus 88th at Tackle:

Sam Williams versus Randy Gregory

Is this a theme? Are the Cowboys immediately plugging in new players who profile very similarly to those they just lost?

Sam Williams versus Micah Parsons

I noted during the Draft that Jerry’s comparison of Williams to Micah Parsons was unfair, because football is also a game of recognition, reaction, endurance and instincts – all of which are not scientifically measured by RAS. Note that the RAS formula is position-based. Williams is a DE who rushes the passer. Parsons is a weapon who plays multiple roles, but his score at DE suffers due to size. Still, the similarities in profile are clear – I would not be surprised if Jerry’s comments stemmed from comparing athletic test results.