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2018 NFL Combine: Analyzing the athletic profiles of past Dave Gettleman draft picks

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Does Gettleman have a type when it comes to the draft?

NFL: New York Giants-GM Dave Gettleman Press Conference Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Combine opens this week and while there are some around the league who will call the event overrated, it is the one chance to get prospects together to partake in the same structured events. While on the field, scheme and teammates can become a factor in play, everyone runs the 40-yard dash the same.

This is important for evaluating the players, but can be just as important for evaluating the evaluators. For the first time in a while, the New York Giants have some new faces in that department. Dave Gettleman ran five drafts as the general manager of the Carolina Panthers, so to see if there are any patterns in what he looks for in prospects, we went back to see how his draft picks performed at the Combine.

We’re going to look at the results by percentile at each position — meaning, a player in the 60th percentile performed better than 60 percent of players at the same position. We’re also going to include SPARQ when applicable (since 2015), which is a composite athletic score which takes into account a number of the workouts and puts it into one number.

Before we dive into the specifics of Gettleman’s draft picks, let’s take a look at which events mean the most for each position. The below chart is courtesy of Brian Burke, the founder of Advanced Football Analytics and currently of ESPN Stats and Information.

These numbers correlate with Approximate Value (AV) over the first three years of a player’s career. Importance does vary by position, but the 40 does remain universal. In 11 of the 15 positions listed, the 40 has the highest correlation to the three-year AV total.

Now let’s look at the picks from Gettleman’s tenure in Carolina. The below table includes players who worked out at the combine.

2013-2017 Panthers Draft Picks (by percentile)

Year Player Position Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Player Position Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2013 A.J. Klein LB 148 32 87 75 76 41
2016 Beau Sandland TE 252 40 46 86 69.8 61 93 73 55 56
2014 Bene Benwikere CB 148 48 61 6 15 55 92 50 8
2015 Cameron Artis-Payne RB 174 35 43 9 39.1 61 52 76 36
2017 Christian McCaffrey RB 8 55 20 18 72.8 77 73 84 97 51
2017 Corn Elder CB 152 24 13 39 16.3 29
2017 Curtis Samuel WR 40 22 38 28 53.5 96 42 72 23 20
2015 Daryl Williams G 102 57 83 85 13.9 38 26 29 3
2016 Daryl Worley CB 77 81 89 96 55 7 63 45 34 54
2017 Deashon Hall DE 77 78 46 95 68 88 82 81 60
2015 Devin Funchess WR 41 91 97 89 70 4 62 84 41 5
2013 Edmund Kugbila G 108 46 65 91 48 74 3 64 71
2016 James Bradberry CB 62 81 96 96 93.4 48 69 54 53 38
2014 Kelvin Benjamin WR 28 96 98 98 18 42 16 3 11
2013 Kenjon Barner RB 182 19 11 9 61 79 64 74 57
2014 Kony Ealy DE 60 57 67 74 27 49 25 97 39
2015 Shaq Thompson LB 25 7 11 66 43.2 66 50 42 70 89
2017 Taylor Moton G 64 74 69 80 54.3 74 88 81 64 82
2014 Trai Turner G 92 20 41 74 98 50
2014 Tre Boston S 128 31 34 38 68 23 41 36 21
2014 Tyler Gaffney RB 204 55 66 27 70 37 76 93 64
2016 Vernon Butler DT 30 72 88 95 60.1 8 41 52 36 25
2016 Zack Sanchez CB 141 48 18 46 21.5 16 45
50.83 55.96 61.74 50.99 50.82 55.38 56.48 55.94 41.89

There’s not much of a focus on extreme athleticism here. Among the players with a qualified SPARQ score, the average is just 51 percent more athletic than the average player at his position. One place that does stand out is arm length — an average of the 62nd percentile.

Quickly — though it’s a much smaller sample — let’s take a look at the defensive draft picks of the Arizona Cardinals in the three seasons with James Bettcher as defensive coordinator. It’s likely Bettcher will — or at least should — have a major say in what type of players he’s looking for to fit his defensive scheme.

2015-2017 Cardinals defensive draft picks (by percentile)

Year Player Position Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Player Position Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2016 Brandon Williams CB 92 48 69 86 35.4 89 28 2 63 43
2017 Budda Baker S 36 6 10 18 35.9 88 17 15 84 82
2017 Haason Reddick LB 13 2 1 18 94.8 98 99 84 83 60
2016 Harlan Miller CB 205 65 11 46 4.7 7 28 45 1 3
2015 Markus Golden DE 58 9 29 2 5.2 34 24 8 23 16
2016 Robert Ndemdiche DT 29 48 20 70 91.7 92 96 97
29.67 23.33 40.00 44.62 68.00 48.67 41.83 50.80 40.80

It’s clear there’s an emphasis on speed, which makes sense if you’ve seen the Arizona defense over the past few seasons. There’s little regard for size — both height and weight for these players averaged below the 30th percentile — but there was a focus on 40-time. The group averaged in the 68th percentile, but four of the six were in the 88th percentile or better.

Now let’s quickly go through positions where multiple players have been picked, listed by relative importance for this year’s draft.

Guards (by percentile)

Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2013 CAR Edmund Kugbila 108 46 65 91 48 74 3 64 71
2014 CAR Trai Turner 92 20 41 74 98 50
2015 CAR Daryl Williams 102 57 83 85 13.9 38 26 29 3
2017 CAR Taylor Moton 64 74 69 80 54.3 74 88 81 64 82

We’ll start with a position that could be targeted early for the Giants this season — offensive guard. Gettleman selected four guards in the draft (it should also be noted he signed Andrew Norwell as an undrafted free agent).

The big takeaway here is arm length — an average of the 83rd percentile, while all other events vary.

Linebacker (by percentile)

Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2013 CAR A.J. Klein 148 32 87 75 76 41
2015 CAR Shaq Thompson 25 7 11 66 43.2 66 50 42 70 89
2017 ARI Haason Reddick 13 2 1 18 94.8 98 99 84 83 60

Another position of interest should be linebacker, though there’s only three qualified players, including Haason Reddick in Arizona.

Gettleman’s selection of Shaq Thompson goes in the Reddick mold, though the Temple product was a far superior athlete — 95th percentile, per SPARQ. Still, it might not take much convincing for Bettcher to get Gettleman to bite on a versatile, undersized, uber-athletic linebacker in the upcoming draft — a reason I will continue to make the case for UCF’s Shaquem Griffin.

Running Back (by percentile)

Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2013 CAR Kenjon Barner 182 19 11 9 61 79 64 74 57
2014 CAR Tyler Gaffney 204 55 66 27 70 37 76 93 64
2015 CAR Cameron Artis-Payne 174 35 43 9 39.1 61 52 76 36
2017 CAR Christian McCaffrey 8 55 20 18 72.8 77 73 84 97 51

Running back could also be a position the Giants focus on, possibly in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft. Gettleman drafted four of those in his time with the Panthers.

A big focus here came on the vertical and 3-cone, both averaging to the 75th percentile. While the vertical jump showed zero correlation to running back production by Burke’s chart, the 3-cone was the third-most predictive event for the position behind the 40 and weight — two measures that combine for Speed Score.

We can also include Dalvin Cook here, the Minnesota Vikings’ first-round selection in 2017 with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Cook was in the 70th percentile in the 40, but was a terrible tester almost everywhere else and feel into just the sixth percentile of SPARQ. His brief showing during his rookie season showed that 40-time might be the more important measure.

Secondary

Cornerback is where we have the biggest sample of players — seven in total. Gettleman drafted five of them, three in the 2016 draft alone.

Cornerback (by percentile)

Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2014 CAR Bene Benwikere 148 48 61 6 15 55 92 50 8
2016 CAR James Bradberry 62 81 96 96 93.4 48 69 54 53 38
2016 CAR Daryl Worley 77 81 89 96 55 7 63 45 34 54
2016 CAR Zack Sanchez 141 48 18 46 21.5 16 45
2016 ARI Brandon Williams 92 48 69 86 35.4 89 28 2 63 43
2016 ARI Harlan Miller 205 65 11 46 4.7 7 28 45 1 3
2017 CAR Corn Elder 152 24 13 39 16.3 29

This is another position where arm length has been big. Two of Gettleman’s 2016 draft picks were in the 96th percentile in arm length, while Brandon Williams of the Cardinals was in the 86th percentile.

Safety (by percentile)

Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2014 CAR Tre Boston 128 31 34 38 68 23 41 36 21
2017 ARI Budda Baker 36 6 10 18 35.9 88 17 15 84 82

Only two safeties were taken between the two teams, both undersized players who ran fast — with Arizona’s Budda Baker falling in the more extreme of those traits.

Wide Receiver (by percentile)

Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2014 CAR Kelvin Benjamin 28 96 98 98 18 42 16 3 11
2015 CAR Devin Funchess 41 91 97 89 70 4 62 84 41 5
2017 CAR Curtis Samuel 40 22 38 28 53.5 96 42 72 23 20

Gettleman’s approach to wide receiver shifted at the end of his run with the Panthers. His picks of Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess clearly stressed size, but the Curtis Samuel selection — compounded with the pick of Christian McCaffrey — was all about speed.

It should be noted that Funchess was close to an in-between. While he was definitely big, he was much more athletic than Benjamin, noted by his 70th percentile SPARQ and 84th percentile vertical.

Defensive Line

It’s unlikely the Giants look to bolster the defensive line early in this draft, or at all, but it’s a position the team has been built around for some time.

Defensive Tackle (by percentile)

Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2016 CAR Vernon Butler 30 72 88 95 60.1 8 41 52 36 25
2016 ARI Robert Ndemdiche 29 48 20 70 91.7 92 96 97

Bettcher and Gettleman slightly differed in the build of defenders up the middle with their most recent picks — Gettleman’s first two selections as Panthers general manager were defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, but neither participated in the Combine. This is another place where Gettleman targeted arm length and Bettcher went with a crazy-good athlete.

Defensive End (by percentile)

Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
Year Team Player Pick Height Weight Arm Length SPARQ 40 Broad Vertical 3-Cone 20Y Shuttle
2014 CAR Kony Ealy 60 57 67 74 27 49 25 97 39
2015 ARI Markus Golden 58 9 29 2 5.2 34 24 8 23 16
2017 CAR Deashon Hall 77 78 46 95 68 88 82 81 60

At defensive end, arm length and 3-cone seem to be the key for Gettleman’s two selections. Surprisingly, Markus Golden was not much of an athlete during testing — just the fifth percentile of SPARQ and not above the 34th percentile in any singular event — but perhaps more surprisingly, it didn’t matter much. Bettcher got Golden to total 12.5 sacks in 2016.

Takeaways

Of course, there are no “rules” for the draft and what the new decision makers of the Giants will covet, but this could give us some clues. It’s safe to say arm length will be big for multiple positions and there could be a skew towards the undersized, but crazy-athletic on the defensive side of the ball.