2014 NFL Draft: The Holy Grail of Tight End Scouting

The analytics era is taking the NFL by storm as stat nerds continue to nudge their head into NFL front offices across the league, but with good reason. There is something to drafting players with more context, instead of the good old days of chewing tobacco and relying on your past experiences with prospects in a dimly lit scouting room. And while tape study will always be the foundation of scouting prospects, adding more information to draft with more clarity is god sent. That’s why when I stumbled upon a forum post about Waldo’s scouting methods when it comes to outside linebackers on Draft Mecca, it intrigued me. So much in fact that I decided to borrow and tweak his methods to other positions to see what the results might be.

The results were profound. By using these formulas below…

“Mass = weight/height
Explosive Power = (vert+3.5*broad)*(weight/height)/3000
Speed 10 = 100*(1-(10 Split/(0.0114*(weight/height)+1.1785)))
Speed 40 = 100*(1-(40 time/(0.0397*(weight/height)+3.092)))
Speed Avg = (Speed 10 + Speed 40)/2
Agility = 100*(1-(3 Cone/(0.0573*(weight/height)+4.8403)))
Twitch = Shuttle – 2*10 yd split – (1.60 – 10 yd split)”

…that were created by Waldo, there were some very intriguing correlations at various positions other than outside linebacker.

But before I show you the results with tight ends specifically, let me define a few terms.

Explosive Power Score: Uses the vertical jump and broad jump of a player with their density to determine how powerful their lower body is out of their stance. The higher the number, the more explosive the player is.

Speed 10 Score: Determines whether a player’s 10 yard split is positive or negative compared to the mean determined by mass density.

Speed 40 Score: Determines whether a player’s 40 yard dash is positive or negative compared to the mean determined by mass density.

Speed Average: The average of the Speed 10 and Speed 40 score.

Agility Score: Determines whether a player’s 3-Cone is positive or negative compared to the mean determined by mass density.

Twitch Score: Determines how sudden a player is in by subtracting the short shuttle by the 10 yard split times two with an additional modifier to reward players who are fast. The lower the number, the more quick twitch the player should have on tape.

With the scores explained, it’s time to possibly blow your mind a little bit.

The first place to look at with tight ends is the explosive score. After compiling all the combine numbers with a few Pro Day numbers sprinkled in from every tight from 2006-2013, here is an exciting development.

Tight ends who scored a .96 explosive score starting with Chris Gragg have not busted yet, and there are two Pro Bowlers in that group in Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham. Not too shabby.

TE Explosive score

Below a .96 explosive score, you start to see busts, but there is a correlation between a twitch rate of .94 or lower with a .90 explosive score. That’s where Owen Daniels and Jordan Cameron join us.

TE explosive power 2

If you take a positive agility score and .90 or higher explosive score into account, then you end up with only two busts in Tim Day and Schuylar Oordt.

tight ends exp 3

And anything above -.007, 40 speed score with an explosive score of .90 or better, gives you only three busts in the previously mentioned Tim Day, Schuylar Oordt and T.J. Williams. This is also the group where Rob Gronkowski comes into the fold.

Tight ends exp 4

There is also a correlation when you take a tight end with a 3-Cone of 7.04 or lower and adjust for highest explosive score, which gives you this.


Pretty cool, but the coolest metric is when you just use the 40 speed score without any other metrics to augment.

Speed score 1

Every tight end from 2006-2013 who put up a 40 speed score of .0176 or higher is still in the NFL in some capacity with three Pro Bowlers. That’s amazing. FYI, A.C. Leonard attended the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine and scored a .0479, 40 speed score and also had the highest explosive score of 1.037. I’m just saying.

Source: hbcuscouting.com

Now this doesn’t mean that A.C. Leonard is bust proof, or that these metrics are an exact science, because anything can happen. And you should not throw film work out the door, because not every tight end who put up a good speed or explosive score is a Pro Bowler. However, these metrics should give you more confidence in your evaluations of a prospect, and maybe even cause you to go back to reexamine what you may have missed if a prospect tested badly. All in the name of sharpening your scouting prowess and believing more in what you see. I will continue to crunch numbers for the other position groups and will post my findings in the future, but at least for now, ponder the possibilities these metrics could reveal.

James Cobern is the lead writer for All Pro Football Source and can be contacted at james_cobern@yahoo.com and follow him on twitter @Jmcobern1