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 developing college-to-pro projections, which are built on 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 PFF's advanced stats for comparison but primarily rely on traditional stats to go back further and compare the 2022 prospects to draft classes since 2006.
The comps below were derived from a two-step process. First, I converted 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 and 40-yard dash time. I’m taking the best number from either the prospects' NFL Scouting Combine or pro day performances. If the 40-yard dash time is missing, I estimate it based on historical modeling with weight and available other workout metrics.
MOST COMPARABLE PLAYERS
Jerome Ford is an older prospect, joining Alabama as a four-star recruit before transferring to Cincinnati for two years after his redshirt freshman season. Ford exploded for over 1,500 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns in 2021 with the Bearcats.
Ford put up decent testing numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, but his explosion drills were rather pedestrian (31-inch vertical and sub-10-foot broad jump). Ford’s draft stock has been hovering around the fourth or fifth round in recent mock drafts.