Will Raiders and Chiefs Use the Packers' Defensive Player Prototypes?

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Will Raiders and Chiefs Use the Packers' Defensive Player Prototypes?
Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press
Ted Thompson's defense has been a problem, but his former pupil, John Schneider, has had success in Seattle.

The Oakland Raiders are in the midst of a massive rebuilding effort while their division rival, the Kansas City Chiefs, are trying to take the next step after a huge turnaround in 2013. The Chiefs are simultaneously trying to avoid taking a step back in 2014.

Fans of these bitter rivals may not like it, but the two teams share a lot the same scouting philosophies. Both the Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and the Chiefs general manager John Dorsey worked together for many years with the Green Bay Packers.

Both the two men have been heavily influenced by former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who now works only as a consultant for teams looking for front office talent. They both also worked for many years under current Packers general manager Ted Thompson.

The overriding philosophy of Wolf was to build through the draft and take the best player available. The entire blueprint of how to structure their scouting traces back to Wolf, including the type of measureables they're looking for in a player at the NFL Scouting Combine this weekend.

“You begin to build your board and then you begin to identify certain players that will unfold at certain slots,” Dorsey said via the Chiefs’ official website. “Then as you go through there, then you can determine who these players are that fit those criteria that you have set up.”

Outside of their performance in college, the Raiders and Chiefs are looking at other athletic criteria. In theory, that criteria should match the tape. In reality, there will be measurements and performances this weekend that will force these scouting staffs to go back to the tape to make sure they didn’t miss something.

Both teams selected a player with limited or questionable college tape in the draft last season. Part of the reason was certainly that their athleticism, size and personality fit a certain player prototype.

In the first part of this two-part series, we looked at the offensive prototypes. These prototypes were determined using the combine and pro day data of 145 draft picks dating back to 2005 when Thompson took over as general manager in Green Bay.

Although exceptions can and have been made, we determined that the Raiders and Chiefs are likely to draft running backs under 6’0” and around 220 pounds with 40-yard dash times around 4.5 seconds, offensive lineman 6’4” and over and between 300-320 pounds, quarterbacks between 6’2” and 6’3” with big hands around 220 pounds.

We also learned that height isn’t super important at the wide receiver position nor is their 40-yard dash time. The main difference between offensive tackles drafted and offensive guards was not their athleticism but the length of their arms and size of their hands.

Now, we’ll look at the generally more athletic defensive players to determine their prototypes. In this case, there are also different schemes involved. The Packers and Chiefs run a 3-4 and the Seahawks and Raiders a 4-3, so the prototypes at certain positions vary.  

 

Cornerbacks

John Froschauer/Associated Press
Richard Sherman fit the cornerback prototype for the Seahawks.

Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider also worked with Dorsey and McKenzie in Green Bay and his affinity for tall, physical cornerbacks has been well publicized. Schneider found 6’3” star cornerback Richard Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft.

As it turns out, the minimum height requirement seems to be 5’11” with the preference being that taller is better. Out of the 12 cornerbacks drafted by Thompson, Schneider and McKenzie (Dorsey hasn’t drafted one yet), nine have been 6’0” or taller. In addition, only one has been less than 185 pounds with nine at 190 pounds or more.

A 40-yard dash time in the 4.5-second range is also acceptable for a cornerback. The prototype is also a cornerback that can run a 3-cone drill in under 7.0 seconds and a short shuttle in under 4.3 seconds—only sixth-round pick Byron Maxwell wasn’t in that range.

One of the more interesting parts of the prototype was that cornerbacks needed to broad jump at least 10’0” as only two cornerbacks have been selected below that threshold. One of those two were within 1” (Casey Heyward), so this is clearly an area of emphasis. The sample is large enough to suggest it’s not just some coincidence.

Cornerback Prototype
Position HT WT Arm Hand 40 Bench Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
Proto (select) 71 185 31 9 4.57 12 33 119 7.1 4.3
Avg (all) 72 193 32 9.5 4.5 15 35.5 123 6.9 4.2

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

Every single cornerback drafted also had a vertical jump of at least 33”, but that’s also not considered a great number for the position. In this case, the cutoff probably means very little.

For most cornerbacks, a 33” vertical, 7.0-second 3-cone and 4.3-second short shuttle are not going to be a problem. Just about every cornerback at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine was able to hit these numbers, but a dozen didn’t have a broad jump of at least 10’0” last year. Of those the 20 that did, five didn’t meet the mark for at least 12 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and five more weren’t at least 5’11”.

Using this prototype, a field of 35 cornerbacks in 2013 was actually a field of 10 or fewer. Exceptions can be made to any prototype but expect the Chiefs and Raiders to eye cornerbacks that fit their prototype for height, weight and the broad jump.

 

Safeties

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor complement each other.

Perhaps one of the most interesting prototypes was the one at safety because the Seahawks and the Packers didn’t align like all of the other positions. The difference was so striking that they might even have very different athletic prototypes for the position.

Generally, the Seahawks favor safeties with strength, but the vertical leap and broad jump are less important. All but one of the safeties selected by the Packers had at least a 36.5” vertical and a 9’10” broad jump whereas the Seahawks only drafted one safety that met either one of those measurements, Winston Guy in the sixth round in 2012 who didn’t make the team.

All of the safeties drafted by the Seahawks bench-pressed 225 pounds at least 21 times but only one of the safeties selected by the Packers had more than 19 reps. The Seahawks' physical style was a success in 2013, but the Packers struggled.

Of course, there were some elements of the prototype the two teams agreed upon, which was that a safety should be at least 200 pounds and 5’10” or taller. Like the cornerbacks, they should also run under a 4.3-second short shuttle and the 3-cone drill under 7.1-seconds.

Safety Prototype
Position HT WT Arm Hand 40 Bench Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
GB Proto 70 197 30.25 8.9 4.6 16 35.0 118 7.1 4.3
SEA Proto NC NC NC NC NC 21 31.0 113 NC NC
Average 73 211 32 9 4.5 19 36.4 121 7.0 4.2

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

There is one huge exception to the 3-cone and short shuttle times—Seahawks cornerback Kam Chancellor, who had a 3-cone of 7.36 seconds and short shuttle of 4.41 seconds. Chancellor wasn’t drafted until the fifth round, so that could have been a big reason why.

Chancellor probably also wouldn’t be nearly as effective if he wasn’t surrounded by Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas. Thomas covers the entire back half of the secondary and Sherman locks down a side, allowing Chancellor to play in the box. Since Chancellor is also the largest safety any of the teams have drafted, it makes sense that he’d be used this way.  

The Raiders haven’t drafted a safety, but the Chiefs selected Sanders Commings in the 2013 NFL draft. Commings more closely fits the Seahawks’ prototype than the Packers’ prototype, with 23 bench reps and relatively short vertical and broad jumps. Commings hit the mark for the 3-cone and short shuttle perfectly at 7.1 and 4.3 seconds.

Some of the variation may be explained by the differences in free safety and strong safety but certainly not all of them. The Raiders need a free safety, so it will be interesting which prototype they follow should they take one in the 2014 NFL draft.

 

Interior Defensive Line

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Ted Thompson used a first-round pick on a 3-4 defensive end for the first time in 2013.

Since there are scheme variations involved, the only way to compare prototypes is to look at 3-4 defensive ends and 4-3 defensive tackles as one group and 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers as another group.

It’s probably not very surprising that the 3-4 defensive ends come in 21 pounds lighter than the 4-3 defensive tackles on average, but many of the other measureables are similar. What’s unique about this set of data is how random it is—there’s virtually no trend from early in the draft to late in the draft.

Unlike most of the prototypes, the athletic numbers for interior defensive players don’t trend downward as the draft progresses. This prototype also encompasses the vast majority of the players that are tested.

3-4 DE and 4-3 DT Prototypes
Position HT WT Arm Hand 40 Bench Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
3-4 DE Proto 75 270 32 9 5.1 24 30 104 7.6 4.6
3-4 DE Avg. 75 287 32.81 9.75 5.0 28 39.2 103 7.1 4.5
4-3 DT Proto 75 300 33 9.75 5.1 25 28 103 7.5 4.5
4-3 DT Avg. 75 308 33.25 9.95 5.0 27 29.3 109 7.4 4.6

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

What we can discern from this is that the athletic testing at the combine for 4-3 defensive tackles and 3-4 defensive ends isn’t that important. One exception might be bench press where the four teams have drafted mostly players that can bench press 225 pounds 25 times or more.

They also tend to prefer height, as 16 of the 19 players drafted were 6’3” or taller and arms close to or longer than 33”. The height factor could point away from the selection of certain prospects but exceptions are more likely to be made later in the draft. The Packers and Seahawks have also drafted shorter players in recent years in the first four rounds, so this is clearly not a rigid rule.

Raiders and Chiefs fans can pretty much ignore the combine events when it comes to interior defensive players because there is virtually nothing to glean from them based on a pretty large sample of players.

 

4-3 Defensive Ends & 3-4 Outside Linebackers

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Clay Matthews was one of three first-round picks the Packers have used on a 3-4 outside linebacker since 2005.

It makes some sense that timed and measured athleticism for interior players wouldn’t matter that much, but the same can’t be said for edge defenders. These defenders have to be able to chase, tackle, get to the quarterback, jump and slip through tiny gaps.  

As was the case with the interior players, 4-3 defensive ends came in just about 20 pounds heavier than their counterparts at 3-4 outside linebacker. There were other notable differences in their size as well, as the prototype for 4-3 ends was 6’3” just like the interior defensive players, but 3-4 outside linebackers could be shorter.

However, the prototype requires the 3-4 outside linebackers to have more vertical leaping ability. This makes sense considering the need to deflect passes at the line of scrimmage—it all fits the conventional thinking at the position.

This prototype may also be skewed a bit because there were three 3-4 outside linebackers drafted in the first round and only one defensive end. That defensive end was Bruce Irvin, who moved to 4-3 outside linebacker in 2013.

It appears as though speed is a lot more important at 3-4 outside linebacker than it is at 4-3 defensive end, which makes sense, but the gap would likely be smaller if the Seahawks or Raiders had used earlier picks on their defensive ends.

4-3 DE and 3-4 OLB Prototypes
Position HT WT Arm Hand 40 Bench Vert Broad 3 Cone 20-Shuttle
4-3 DE Proto 75 260 33 10 5.0 20 30 111 7.2 4.4
4-3 DE Avg. 75 270 33 10 4.8 21 30.6 115 7.1 4.4
3-4 OLB Proto 73 232 - - 4.7 20 35.5 115 7.1 4.4
3-4 OLB Avg. 75 247 32 10 4.7 26 35.0 117 7.0 4.3

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

There are some similarities between the two prototypes such as needing 33” arms and doing at least 20 bench reps. Also, a 4.4-second short shuttle and a 3-cone under 7.2 seconds seems to be universal for both profiles. Packers’ 2012 first-round pick Nick Perry was an exception for his short shuttle and his 3-cone time, but his 40–yard dash time, broad jump and bench press were all very impressive.

The Raiders need a defensive end and the Chiefs could be looking for an outside linebacker, so these prototypes could be helpful. All of the players drafted in the first round except for Perry had a 3-cone time under 7.0 seconds and a short shuttle time under 4.2 seconds.

Three of the four drafted in the first round also had a broad jump over 10’0” with the exception being A.J. Hawk, who was eventually moved to inside linebacker. There is not a lot of data to go on, but it seems that 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends drafted early need to fit this more specific athletic prototype.

Last season, there wasn’t a single defensive end that fit this more specific profile of a first-round pick without at least one exception. It could be why the Raiders decided to trade down and not select Dion Jordan and why the Seahawks decided to trade their first round-pick for Percy Harvin and signed multiple defensive ends in free agency.

 

4-3 Outside Linebackers & 3-4 Inside Linebackers

Al Bello/Getty Images
The Raiders thought highly enough of Sio Moore to select him with the 66th overall pick in 2013.

Bobby Wagner is the only middle linebacker that has been drafted, so it’s impossible to create a profile for that position. Additionally, 3-4 inside linebackers are rarely drafted early and there aren’t that many of them considering how long the Packers have played the 3-4 defense.

The inside linebackers that have been drafted have all been athletically limited with an average broad jump of just 9’4” and vertical of 32.5”. The Chiefs have Derrick Johnson and drafted Nico Johnson last season, so they are pretty much set at the position.

4-3 OLB and 3-4 ILB Prototypes
Position HT WT Arm Hand 40 Bench Vert Broad 3 Cone
ILB Prototype 72 240 32.00 9.25 4.7 20 30.0 110 7.3 4.5
ILB Average 73 245 32.44 9.63 4.8 25 32.3 112 7.3 4.5
4-3 OLB Prototype 74 240 32.00 9.00 4.7 20 37.0 120 7.0 4.5
4-3 OLB Average 74 241 32.65 9.60 4.6 25 36.6 123 7.0 4.3

NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, NFLCombineResults.com

The Raiders could use another 4-3 outside linebacker, for which it was possible to piece together an athletic profile. The Seahawks have drafted four outside linebackers and the Raiders three in just the last few years but none earlier than the Raiders did when they selected Sio Moore in the third round in 2013.

The Seahawks drafted K.J. Wright with the 99th overall selection in 2011, so there is at least one quality player in the group. The Seahawks also drafted Malcolm Smith in the seventh round and he blossomed into a nice player last year.

Neither Moore nor Wright fit the prototype for the time on their 3-cone drill, but both have exceptionally long arms at nearly 34”. Moore also had a shocking 29 reps of 225 pounds with those long arms, so making exceptions for his height and 3-cone time made sense.  

 

Conclusion

After going through this exercise for nearly 150 players, a few things became quite clear. An athletic prototype for every position exists, but the Wolf-taught general managers emphasize some measurables more than others depending on the position. Exceptions are made but typically only one unless the player balances out a deficiency in one area with proficiency in another.

When multiple exceptions are made, it’s usually in the last two or three rounds of the draft. The prototypes at most positions are relatively easy for most players at their position to achieve—suggesting that game tape is very important to the evaluation.

In some cases, these athletic prototypes can help narrow down a much larger field of players into a smaller field. In others, the prototype that can be created from past combine and pro day numbers is either limited or unimportant.

There is a lot of danger in putting too much stock into the combine, but that doesn’t mean the tests are worthless.

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