Comparing current NFL draft prospects to those of years past is standard procedure in draft evaluation, though most comparisons are built on the memory recall and subjective opinion of the particular evaluator.
This continues the series of articles comparing 2021 draft prospects to prior years and picking out the most similar comps with a clearly delineated and quantifiable method.
PFF data scientist Eric Eager has done tremendous work building college-to-pro projections, which are built off the robust college data we’ve collected since 2014 and have been applied to exercises like building an “Analytics” Mock. In this analysis, I will use some of our advanced stats for comparison but primarily rely on traditional stats to go back further to compare the 2021 prospects to draft classes going back to 2006.
Without the NFL scouting combine this season, the important measurables like weight and 40-yard dash will be reported through the various pro days that will be taking place over the next few weeks.
The comps below were derived from a two-step process. First, I converted all the most statistically relevant stats and measurables to percentiles based on the thousands of prospects who have entered the NFL since 2006 at each position. Then, I filtered the total universe of past prospects by those who had draft positions, weight and 40 times within a 10th percentile in either direction of Amon-Ra St. Brown. For undrafted players, I assigned a numerical draft position of 300.
The rest of the matching features were transformed by principal component analysis (PCA). I found the closest statistically comparable players by the euclidean distance between the players' principle components, listed in the top 10 below.
The metrics for PCA are career market shares for receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, best-season market shares for receiving yards and touchdowns, yards per route run, and yards per reception.
For St. Brown's draft position, I’m using an estimate based on the mock data collected at GrindingTheMocks.com. For the weight and 40 time, I’m using the numbers from his pro day, with a 0.03-second penalty added to the 40 time to reflect the uncertainty of pro-day timed measurements.
Most comparable players
St. Brown’s 4.51-second 40-yard dash was solid at 197 pounds, while his vertical and broad jumps at 39 inches and 10-feet 7-inches, respectively, were excellent (83rd and 85th percentiles). Plus, he ran a 6.81-second three-cone drill (75th).
St. Brown wasn’t a downfield threat in college, but these measurables hint that he can make big plays at the pro level.
AMON-RA ST. BROWN IS SHOWING OFF
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 14, 2020
Fellow USC grads top the list of St. Brown’s comps, including Robert Woods, whose career didn’t really take off until his second contract with the now-Los Angeles Rams. The rest of St. Brown’s comps are fairly uninspiring. He is younger coming out of school after his junior year, but his career and max market share numbers are solidly good, not great. St. Brown's efficiency metrics aren’t particularly strong, either.