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.
In this series of articles, I will compare the 2022 draft prospects to prior years and pick 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 draft. In this analysis, I will use some of our advanced stats for comparison but primarily rely on traditional stats to go back further and compare the 2022 prospects to draft classes since 2006.
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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.
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.
For draft position, I’m using an estimate based on the mock data collected at GrindingTheMocks.com. The college statistical metrics for PCA are career market shares for receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, best-season market shares for receiving yards, yards per route run and yards per reception.
I also included the most important workout metrics for NFL and draft position for wide receivers: weight, 40-yard dash time and vertical jump. I’m taking the best number from either the prospects' NFL Scouting Combine or pro-day performances. If the 40-yard dash time or vertical jump are missing, I estimate them based on historical modeling with weight and available other workout metrics.
2022 NFL Draft position rankings:
Top 10 players at every position
MOST COMPARABLE PLAYERS
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross participated only in the bench press at the NFL combine and disappointed draft observers with his pro-day results, recording a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, a 31.5-inch vertical and coming four inches short of 10 feet in the broad jump.
Concerns about his ability to play outside of the slot in the NFL seemed confirmed, and it has been reflected in his stock in recent mock drafts.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but after his sophomore season in 2019, some prominent draft analysts viewed the Clemson product as a top-10 pick, and he was ranked behind only Ja’Marr Chase among probable 2021 rookie wide receivers.
Unfortunately, bad injury luck and middling performance drove down Ross’ standing.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver was a medical redshirt after offseason surgery in 2020 to correct a congenital fusion in his spine, and his 2021 season was cut short with another surgery to fix a stress fracture in his foot.
After averaging over 20 yards per reception and leading college football in yards per route run as a freshman in 2018, Ross totaled fewer yards at a lower average per reception in his final two seasons.