Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The History Books Tell it / They Tell it So Well

This is not Mark Bradley’s strongest effort. Bradley is, by nature, an optimist and wants to think that a major move by the Falcons is going to pan out. Thus, in his column yesterday, he started grasping at straws, like this one:

Before we leave the NFL draft, we need ask a simple question: Were you the Falcons, would you rather have had the second-best-at-worst receiver in this class or the eighth-best defensive end? Because the rationale for trading up to take Julio Jones lies therein.

Gee, if only it were so simple. The Falcons were not choosing simply between taking Julio Jones or one of the defensive ends who would have been available with the #27 pick. No, they were choosing between those two options, only with four additional picks, including a first-rounder and a second-rounder behind door number two. One can just as easily make a simplistic argument in the other direction by saying that the Falcons made the wrong decision in a choice between one player or five. Bradley also assumes without evidence that the Falcons are going to have a late first-round pick in next year’s Draft. He is overrating a team that was outgained on a per-play basis and then lost by 863 points in its first playoff game.

And then this argument by Bradley ignores all recent evidence:

Julio Jones will start as a rookie. That’s a given. It’s all but a given he won’t be a bust. He’s too gifted and too focused. Jones was a high school star and played college football at the highest level, so he’s accustomed to the pursuit of excellence.

I told myself that I wasn’t going to be condescending to a columnist whose work I’ve enjoyed since I was in middle school, but I can’t help myself. Mark, in case you haven’t been watching the NFL for the past decade, wide receivers have a disturbingly high bust rate. Here is the list of wide receivers who have gone in the top ten spots in the Draft since 2000:

Darius Heyward-Bey
Michael Crabtree
Calvin Johnson
Ted Ginn
Braylon Edwards
Troy Williamson
Mike Williams
Larry Fitzgerald
Roy Williams
Reggie Williams
Charles Rogers
Andre Johnson
David Terrell
Koren Robinson
Peter Warrick
Plaxico Burress
Travis Taylor

By my informal count, the number of busts (Ginn, Williamson, Mike Williams, Reggie Williams, Charles Rogers, David Terrell, Koren Robinson, Peter Warrick, and Travis Taylor) outnumber the stars (Calvin Johnson, Fitzgerald, and Andre Johnson) who have been taken in similar positions. (Neither Crabtree, nor Heyward-Bey are off to starts in their careers that indicate that they will be anything other than busts, but for the sake of argument, I’ll give them grades of incomplete.) If the recent past is a guide, then it is three times more likely that Jones will be a bust than it is that he will be the player that Bradley describes.

If Bradley is thinking clearly, then he will counter with some variation of the following: “Michael, none of the busts on your list had a quarterback throwing to them with anything close to Matt Ryan’s ability. Most of your busts are the victim of circumstance.” That may be true, but there are two problems with this argument. First of all, if their lack of success was a function of teammates, then one would expect one or more of those receivers to have flourished when they moved to different teams. The only guy who could possibly be described in that manner is Mike Williams. Second, if wide receivers are simply a function of their quarterbacks, then it makes no sense to invest five good picks into one receiver. Rather, you would simply bide your time and wait for the chance to take your version of Desean Jackson, Mike Wallace, or Wes Welker later in the Draft. You know, like the good teams do.


Anonymous said...

This Bradley post permanently the logical fallacy detectors of my brain.

Anonymous said...

This Bradley post permanently "damaged" the logical fallacy detectors of my brain.

steve said...

"High school star who played college football at the highest level" doesn't seem like the most rigorous of filters.

Unknown said...

While I agree with your general premise, Bradley didn't say that Jones wasn't going to be a bust because he's a WR, rather, he references his talent and his focus. I know, I know...these aren't exactly stringent qualifiers for guys going in the top ten picks of the draft, but nonetheless, the point you make in reference to Julio being three times more likely to be a bust than a star just isn't what I thought Bradley was getting at with his article.

MuDawgfan said...

Koren Robinson

Oh lord, I remember him. A spectacular bust.

heyooooo said...

your article does nothing to support your position. you didnt even consider the bust rate of players taken outside of the top 10. how about some real cost benefit analysis using the bust rates of picks given up vs what was gained.
i believe that would be devastating to your proposition. which is why the bengals and cardinals(if offered and i see no reason why they wouldn't have been) didnt accept this deal.

Glory, Glory to Old Georgianham said...

FWIW, Jonathan Chait is stealing your twitter material. Or do all Michigan fans think alike?


Adam said...

Considering they could have gotten 5 4-star receivers instead of 1 5-star receiver, the Falcons made a horrendous mistake. The probability of just 1 of your 5 "mediocre" receivers succeeding is much higher than Julio Jones being the savior of ATL.