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 going back to 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 best-season market share of team total yards, market share of team touchdowns, rushing attempts per game and market share of team receptions.
I also included the most important workout metrics for NFL and draft position for running backs: 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.
MOST COMPARABLE PLAYERS
His 10-yard split, which I found is more important than the full 40-yard dash, was the second-fastest of the entire class, at 1.50 seconds.
White’s draft stock has improved since the combine, with the Georgia product showing up in several expert mock drafts in the late second or early third round. If he ends up a Day 2 pick, his chance of NFL success improves dramatically.
White’s college career arc doesn’t factor into the pure numbers-based comps, but it’s important to understand his story.
He was a five-star recruit and No. 1 running back entering college at the University of Georgia after winning the National Player of the Year Award in high school. He totaled over 2,300 yards in 11 games as a senior, but he only caught seven passes.
White tore his ACL in the playoffs of his high school senior year and again during summer camp before his freshman season. After redshirting as a freshman, he totaled 428, 816 and 931 scrimmage yards the next three seasons, playing in a crowded backfield with fellow 2022 prospect James Cook.
White led the Bulldogs in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2020 and 2021, though never dominated the backfield.