The NFL Draft Statistics Matter That Most for Tight End Prospects
In the previous article, I went through some key statistics for NFL Draft running back prospects. The series continues here, as I dive into the tight end position.
I’ve done a bunch of regression-tree analysis on draft prospects. Using statistical software, we can see where key thresholds lie for relevant statistics, and what probabilities for success look like based on those thresholds.
I took a look at 199 TEs since the 2003 NFL Draft who appeared in an NFL game and over 30 different statistics. Here is how well they project the likelihood of a player being a hit, which I defined as a 150 point PPR season within the first three years of said player’s career. The overall sample hit rate was 13 percent.
Contained in the table below is:
Statistic: the data point in question
Threshold: The key splitting point of the data with direction. For example >=12 rushing touchdowns would mean running backs with at least 12 touchdowns gave us the sample of greatest success.
Percent of Sample: The percentage of the overall sample meeting the threshold. In some cases (like final season kick return yards) there are so few players in-sample that there should be less confidence about the quality of the statistic or threshold.
Comments: Statistic explanation and/or formula if it is something you may not easily recognize.
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|Statistic||Threshold||Probability of Success||Percent of Sample||Comments|
|Receptions - Final Season||>=55||0.53||7.5%|
|NFL Draft Scout Rank||<3||0.52||12.6%|
|Receptions Per Game - Final Season||>=4.6||0.5||10.1%|
|Receptions Per Game - Career||>=3.4||0.39||14.1%|
|Receiving Yards Per Game - Final Season||>=51||0.38||17.1%|
|Receiving Touchdowns Per Team Pass Attempt - Final Season||>=0.021||0.36||7.0%||receiving touchdowns/team pass attempts|
|Receiving Yards Per Game - Career||>=39||0.33||22.6%|
|Receiving Yards Per Team Pass Attempt - Career||>=1.2||0.33||23.1%||receiving yards/team pass attempts|
|Receiving Touchdowns - Career||>=14||0.3||13.6%|
|Receiving Touchdowns Per Game - Career||>=0.4||0.3||20.1%|
|Market Share of Scrimmage Yards - Career||>=0.091||0.3||30.7%||(rushing + receiving yards)/(team rushing + receiving yards)|
|Receiving Yards Per Team Pass Attempt - Final Season||>=1.4||0.3||31.7%|
|Receiving Yards - Final Season||>=470||0.29||35.2%|
|Market Share of Receiving Yards - Final Season||>=0.17||0.28||41.7%||receiving yards/team receiving yards|
|Market Share of Scrimmage Yards - Final Season||>=0.1||0.28||39.7%|
|Receiving Touchdowns Per Game - Final Season||>=0.59||0.27||11.1%|
|Market Share of Receiving Yards - Career||>=0.14||0.26||42.2%|
|Dominator Rating - Final Season||>=0.22||0.26||27.1%||(market share of receiving yards + market share of receiving touchdowns)/2|
|Adjusted Dominator Rating - Career||>=0.15||0.26||41.2%||0.8*market share of receiving yards + 0.2*market share of receiving touchdowns|
|Adjusted Dominator Rating - Final Season||>=0.17||0.24||41.7%|
|Forty Yard Dash Time||<4.7||0.23||48.7%|
|Speed Score||>=101||0.23||45.2%||(Weight*200)/(Forty Time)^4|
|Market Share of Receiving Touchdowns - Career||>=0.17||0.23||39.7%||receiving touchdowns/team receiving touchdowns|
|Receiving Yards - Career||>=795||0.22||54.3%|
|Dominator Rating - Career||>=0.14||0.22||49.7%|
|Market Share of Scrimmage Touchdowns - Career||>=0.083||0.22||44.7%||(rushing + receiving touchdowns)/(team rushing + receiving touchdowns)|
|Receiving Touchdowns - Final Season||>=5||0.22||30.2%|
|Receptions - Career||>=59||0.2||60.8%|
|Market Share of Receiving Touchdowns - Final Season||>=0.22||0.2||41.7%|
|Market Share of Scrimmage Touchdowns - Final Season||>=0.085||0.19||53.8%|
|Receiving Touchdowns Per Team Pass Attempt - Career||>=0.007||0.19||60.8%|
|Yards Per Reception - Career||>=11||0.17||64.8%|
|Yards Per Reception - Final Season||>=11||0.16||67.8%|
Raw TE usage at the collegiate level appears to be predictive of NFL success. The first three production metrics in the table all deal with receptions.
This contrasts nicely with statistics involving market share. These statistics were key for wide receiver prospects, but not nearly as valuable for TEs. This likely has to do with TEs very rarely, if ever, being the go-to option in collegiate passing games.
As always, we have to respect what the scouts think about NFL Draft prospects. TEs ranked inside the top two at NFL Draft Scout have hit 52 percent of the time.
One interesting quirk in the data is that height shows up as valuable, but when under 75 inches. There were only 10 such TEs in the sample, a small number indicating that these players rarely get to see the field at all. When they do, it makes some sense that they are being deployed as receiving options. The three hits in the sample were Dustin Keller, Aaron Hernandez, and Jordan Reed.
Athleticism matters at TE. Both speed score and forty times were stronger indicators of success for TEs than WRs.