Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 tidbits

I've been slowly working my way through the latest FO almanac over the past week. Here are a couple nuggets about Scarlet Knights in the pros to whet your appetites - beyond the trivial (Ray Rice is really good, Brian Leonard is a great receiver out of the backfield, etc...)

  • Jeremy Zuttah's performance as left guard is more nuanced than has been reported. Zeus's play was knocked at times last year, and the Bucs signed veteran backup Keydrick Vincent to provide some competition. That's not exactly a vote of no confidence, but was clearly intended to induce some spark and competition.

    According to FOA 2010, the Bucs had their most rushing success last year (in fact, one of the best results in the NFL) when running at the defensive left tackle. The OL writeup in the TB chapter calls him one of the best pass blocking guards in the league last year, but one of the worst run blockers. That somewhat jibes with the scouting book on Jeremy. He's really athletic, and there's even been some talk of him dabbling at LT. If Donald Penn holds out of training camp, it might not be too outlandish to see Zuttah swing outside. He's got everything you'd want there except for ideal height, which admittedly is a major drawback.

    He'd probably be best off being able to get downfield as a puller at right guard, or utilizing his smarts at center, but unfortunately the Bucs already have two Pro Bowl caliber players at those positions in Davin Joseph and Jeff Faine. Zuttah is one of the team's better linemen, and offers fantastic multi-positional versatility, but may not have the hard-nosed disposition to get dirty in the trenches.
  • FO's game charting data makes it very easy to quantify the play of a skill position player like Kenny Britt, and I'm absolutely delighted to see that the data confirms my analysis of his play from the naked eye. Britt did his best work as a deep threat on first down, struggling on shorter/intermediate routes and third downs. He caught 56% of his passes for 16.7 yards per catch, and 4.4 yards after catches. Kenny's route distribution was as follows: 20% Short, 51% Mid, 20% Deep, and 10% Bomb. Britt doesn't run 20%+ bombs like a Vincent Jackson, but he's roughly being used as expected considering his college career.

    The obvious point of comparison is with Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks. While Nicks ran for a similar 16.8 yards per catch, that stat belies the fact that 8.8 of his yards came after the catch, double Britt's total. Quite simply, Britt runs deeper routes and gets his yards through the air, while Nicks stays closer in, catches a higher percentage of passes (64%), and does his work after the catch. He ran 40% Short routes, 34% Mid, 13% Deep, and 13% Bomb.

    Even though Nicks is a good player, that Short total is a clear example of why his production hides the fact that he is a possession receiver. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but anyone trying to posit Nicks as another Plaxico Burress is being dishonest. (Note: as always, all context-dependent caveats apply.)
  •  

    Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 is at its best when getting knee deep in its trademark quantitative analysis. It's still rough at points when trying to be more conventional. There's a cringe-inducing line in the SackSEER chapter (a new system for projecting NFL sacks based on college production and Combine workouts) citing a player's college biography in support or a point that really comes off as a stretch.

    Of course there's always considerable guesswork when it comes to projecting rookies to the next level, but most of FO's prose on this subject comes off as the same third-hand cliches that can be found across the media spectrum. With all due respect, it's not fair to have it both ways. Football Outsiders generates a wealth of statistical analysis, but at the same time sneaking in traditional scouting tropes through the back door. They're used either as filler, or to hand wave away any questions that aren't yet adequately addressed by a project that's still very much a work in progress.

    They're not guilty of being actively disingenuous, but that can be frustrating for any impatient sorts (ahem) having difficulty waiting out future progress on the topic. Still, I've done my part in purchasing the 2010 almanac, and at $12 usd, the electronic edition is a compelling buy.

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