Raiders, Chiefs Following Packers' Scouting Process Entering Scouting Combine

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Raiders, Chiefs Following Packers' Scouting Process Entering Scouting Combine
Associated Press
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie and Chiefs GM John Dorsey worked side by side in Green Bay for years.

The Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks have all hired a general manager who cut their teeth with the Green Bay Packers.

Seahawks’ general manager John Schneider left the Packers in 2010; Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie in 2012, and Chiefs general manager John Dorsey in 2013.

Working under Packers general manager Ted Thompson, McKenzie and Dorsey won a Super Bowl. Schneider had a big hand in building that team, but joined Seattle the offseason before. Schneider won a Super Bowl of his own this year, so clearly he knows what he’s doing.

How much McKenzie and Dorsey learned in Green Bay remains unknown to fans, but it’s probably safe to say they have a similar scouting process. How much weight to put on the combine is always an argument this time of year, but it’s undoubtedly part of this process to some degree.

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In general, teams want to see combine numbers confirm the tape. A performance at the combine can force a team to double-check their work or put a player on its radar that maybe wasn’t before. Only the medicals at the combine are likely to affect a grade significantly, but other small adjustments can be made.

The Packers have player prototypes for every position, whether they are aware of it or not. Most of these prototypes have also gone to Seattle with Schneider and followed McKenzie and Dorsey to Oakland and Kansas City, respectively. Raiders and Chiefs fans can use those prototypes to set soft rules about the type of players each team may target in the upcoming NFL draft.

Obviously, there are exceptions to the prototypes. Some of them also include very small sample sizes, so they may not be completely accurate. Thankfully, there is still a wealth of information about the combine available to give us some idea about how much weight the Raiders and Chiefs may put into athletic tests in glorified underwear.

As general managers, Thompson, Schneider, McKenzie and Dorsey have drafted 150 players since 2005. Thanks to NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com and various other reputable news sites, there exists combine and pro-day numbers for every player they drafted—some more than others.

To find a semi-accurate prototype, the height, weight, 40-yard dash, bench press, 20-yard short shuttle, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill, arm length and hand size of 145 players were analyzed. Excluded were a kicker (Mason Crosby), two fullbacks, one middle linebacker (Bobby Wagner) and one nose tackle (B.J. Raji) due to their small sample sizes.

You can see the complete list here with links to the sources for the data, which include combine and pro-day numbers when those are not available. Obviously, there is going to be some margin for error, but the draft is sort of like painting by numbers anyway.

 

The Quarterback

Elsa/Getty Images
Russell Wilson has a lot of people reevaluting their quarterback prototype.

Obviously, teams aren’t going to put too much stock into the measurables of a quarterback, but there are some exceptions. A greater emphasis on the athleticism of a running or mobile quarterbacks is one example. In addition, height and weight have been of great importance at the position.

While the Seahawks drafted 5’11” quarterback Russell Wilson, it should be noted that they did wait until the third round. If Schneider believed he was a franchise quarterback at the draft, there’s no way he would have waited to select him.

Quarterback Prototype
Type HT WT Arm Hand 40 Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
QB Prototype 74 220 31.00 10.00 5.0 28.0 110 7.4 4.4
QB Average 74 221 31.42 9.79 4.8 31.5 112 7.2 4.3

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

As Scott Kacsmar of ColdHardFootballFacts.com pointed out last year, Wilson may have changed the perception of height at the quarterback position. Until he was drafted, there wasn’t a quarterback under 6’2” on the list, but there were also none over 6’3”.

Perhaps the Packers prototype actually frowned upon tall quarterbacks. Brett Favre was also 6’2”, so there could be something to that theory. Maybe Schneider realized Wilson was going to have a chance to succeed for some of the same reason the prototype was less than 6’4”. It’s more likely that the Packers were never in position to select one of the taller quarterbacks whose tape they liked, so it never happened.

The question is, will the Raiders break out of this mold if Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is available when they draft at No. 5 overall? The prototype suggests they won’t, but Schneider’s success with Wilson will certainly force McKenzie to take a long look at him just like the rest of the league.

 

Running Back

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Eddie Lacy was an exception, but sometimes that's a good thing.

One of the more interesting prototype positions in running back. The Packers, Seahawks, Raiders and Chiefs have all drafted running backs in the last few years and they share many common traits.

Perhaps the most striking is their preference for size—greater than 220 pounds and under 6’0”. Eddie Lacy, Christine Michael, Knile Davis, Robert Turbin and Latavius Murray are all notable selections for their size. Murray’s 6’2” height and the fact that he came from a small school was probably deemed less than optimal, which is why he went in the sixth round and not earlier. 

Only two of 12 selections were less than 218 pounds, Brandon Jackson and Johnathan Franklin. Size matters, but what doesn’t seem to matter to the prototype is speed.

It makes sense that speed wouldn’t be as important when size is a consideration. It’s actually more impressive when a 220-pound running back can run a 4.5-second 40-yard dash than a 205-pound running back running it in 4.45 seconds.

Bench press was also important, as all five drafted in the second or third round were able to do at least 20 reps of 225 pounds. Murray and Turbin were also able to put up more than 20.

Running Back Prototype
Type HT WT Arm Hand 40 Bench Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
Proto (select) 70-72 220 30 9.38 4.54 20 33.5 114 7.2 4.3
Avg. (all) 71 224 31.14 9.36 4.5 22 34.9 119 7.1 4.3

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

Given the prototype, the Raiders selection of Murray in the sixth round last year makes perfect sense. The Chiefs’ selection of Davis also makes sense, but with a notable exceptions—his hand size and his 40-yard dash time.

The 40-yard dash time was impressive for his size, vaulting him to the top of Football Outsiders’ speed score metric last year (via ESPN Insider, subscription required). It could be that speed was just too hard for Kansas City's front office to pass up once it got the third round, especially with a huge need for a backup to Jamaal Charles.

Davis ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any running back the four general managers have drafted, and he has the smallest hands of the eight running backs with an available hand measurement. The hand size is notable because Davis fumbled three times on 88 touches as a rookie and had the same problem in college.

The Packers may have made some similar exceptions for Lacy, as his workout numbers were near the bottom in the 3-cone, short shuttle, broad jump and vertical jump. Clearly, the Packers trusted their evaluation of Lacy enough to override some of the concerns about his athleticism.

Given his success as a rookie, it’s hard to argue whether the Packers did the right thing—Lacy won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award. It’s too early to tell how Davis will develop, but his fumbling issue and 3.5 yards per carry during his rookie year wasn’t inspiring.

 

Wide Receiver

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Chiefs don't need to discount short receivers thanks to the success of Randall Cobb.

The Packers and Seahawks have had odd success with wide receivers under 6’0” in the second round. Greg Jennings, Golden Tate and Randall Cobb were drafted between 52 and 64 overall, and all are under than 6’0” in stature.

The Chiefs don’t have a pick in the second round, having traded the 56th pick to the 49ers for Alex Smith. In the 16 combined drafts between Thompson, Schneider, McKenzie and Dorsey, they have never taken a wide receiver in the first round.

Notable is the fact that the Seahawks traded a first-round and third-round draft pick to the Minnesota Vikings for wide receiver Percy Harvin. Considering the plethora of second-round selections used wide receivers, it’s clear that it’s a position of value to these general managers.

Type HT WT Arm Hand 40 Bench Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
Proto (select) 70 190 31 9.25 4.5 15 33.5 115 7.1 4.35
Avg (all) 73 205 31.56 9.72 4.5 18 36.0 122 7.0 4.3

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

Chiefs fans don’t need to discount Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU or Brandin Cooks of Oregon State due to their size, but if all things are equal, size might matter. Jordy Nelson was the earliest receiver drafted at 36th overall and he’s 6’3”.

The Chiefs and Raiders need a wide receiver, so this prototype could be particularly useful. Anything less than 4.5 in the 40-yard dash is sufficient, so fans shouldn't put a lot of stock in their straight-line speed during the combine.

The vertical jump is normally considered one of the more important measurements for wide receivers, but Nelson had the lowest and second-round bust Terrence Murphy, also selected by Green Bay, had the highest of the receivers taken in the 2005 draft. Cobb’s vertical was also on the lower end of the spectrum.

All of the receivers drafted in the second and third round had a 7.1-second or better 3-cone drill and a 4.35-second or better short shuttle. It will be interesting to see if the taller receivers in this class can all achieve this, as it can be difficult for taller receivers to get fast times in these agility tests.

 

Tight End

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press
The Chiefs could check all the boxes when they drafted tight end Travis Kelce last year.

Given that the Chiefs and Raiders both spent draft picks on tight ends last season, the odds are probably against one of these two teams selecting one this season. The Seahawks also spent a draft pick on a tight end last year.

Tight End Prototype
Type HT WT Arm Hand 40 Bench Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
Proto (select) 76 240 32.50 10.00 4.8 20 30.0 111 7.3 4.5
Avg. (all) 76 260 33.13 10.00 4.7 21 34.2 117 7.1 4.4
Travis Kelce 77 255 33.75 9.62 4.61 NA 35 124 7.09 4.42
Nick Kasa 78 269 32.88 9.13 4.71 22 31.5 113 7.18 4.45
Mychal Rivera 75 242 32.63 10.25 4.81 17 31 112 7.17 4.43
Luke Willson 77 251 NA NA 4.52 23 38 122 7.04 4.28
Jermichael Finley 77 236 NA NA 4.82 20 27.5 116 7.15 4.38

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

Of the three selected in last year’s draft, only Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera didn’t completely fit the prototype. Rivera missed the height prototype by an inch and the bench press by three reps.

In hindsight, the best tight end drafted among the three teams was Jermichael Finley, who fit the prototype nearly perfectly. Finley’s vertical was a bit below the mark, but as was the case with the wide receivers, the prototype may be willing to overlook a deficiency in this area.

 

Offensive Line

Stephen Brashear/Associated Press
Menelik Watson has the prototypical height, weight, arm length and hand size to play tackle for the Raiders.

The Packers prototype seems to value offensive tackles and guards very similarly as far as the athleticism required, but it typically puts the players with longer arms on the outside. This jives with the common thinking around the league regarding offensive tackles even though arm length may have no correlation with performance.

Big hands also seem to be important, as the tackle with the smallest hand measurement is disappointing first-rounder Bryan Bulaga. All four teams have selected a tackle in the first 50 picks with hands 10 3/8” or larger in the last four years.

Offensive Line Prototypes
Type HT WT Arm Hand 40 Bench Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
C/G Proto 76 300-320 32 9.5 NA 21 29 100 NA 4.6
C/G Avg 76 308 33 10 5.2 26 30.2 105 7.6 4.6
OT Proto 76 300-320 34 9.5 5.3 20 25 97 8.0 4.8
OT Avg 77 313 34 10 5.2 26 27.5 103 7.7 4.7

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

There also seems to be a strict adherence to a certain size requirement for all offensive linemen. Only two offensive lineman significantly over 320 pounds have been selected and both were in the seventh round. Only one significantly under 300 pounds was drafted. No offensive linemen shorter than 6’4” have been drafted by the four general managers from the Packers scouting tree.

A good reason for this is the usage of the zone-blocking scheme by both the Packers and Seahawks. The Raiders put an emphasis on the power scheme last season to try to jump start Darren McFadden, but aren’t tied to it now. The Chiefs used a mixture of man and zone-blocking last season. For versatility, both teams are likely to adhere to the prototype going forward.

Both teams will be looking for a guard this offseason pending free agency. With such a strict prototype, it would be a surprise if either made an exception for one of the shorter or bigger guards. Keep in mind that a tackle with shorter arms could find a home at guard for either of these two teams.

 

Conclusion

It’s clear that the Raiders and Chiefs are using the same process that there general managers learned in Green Bay, but just like the Packers, they are willing to overlook certain athletic measureables if their tape suggests they should.

There does appear to be a baseline level of athleticism and size for most positions on offense, and this also doesn’t seem to change from early in the draft to late in the draft. Averages from Rounds 1 to 4 and Rounds 5 to 7 vary little from each other.  Either the player meets their requirements, or they don’t.

Just like most teams, these front offices will gamble on athleticism later in the draft—usually the fifth round or later. The idea behind that philosophy is that the coaches can teach an athlete how to play football. It pays offs at times, but it’s usually very risky and is a big reason the Raiders haven’t been the playoffs since 2002.

Part 2 will look at the prototype of the defensive players, which is interesting because there are different schemes involved. In addition, Schneider has in just a few years built one of the better defenses we’ve seen in a long time, due in large part to great drafting.

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