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Henry Ruggs vs. Jerry Jeudy

Ruggs and Jeudy
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Here's a data dump of some content that didn't make it into the player comments section of Football Outsiders Almanac 2020.

With the help of Nathan Forster, I went back to compare Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy to other wide receiver teammate pairs in the Playmaker Score database. That means going back to 1997.

Ruggs was drafted ahead of Jeudy even though he was less productive in college. I was curious how often that had happened with teammates, that the more productive collegiate player was drafted later. (Obviously, Ruggs and Jeudy went only three picks apart... most of the other receiver pairs I'm going to mention here were picked with a much larger gap in between.)

The metrics we're using here are the metrics used in Playmaker Score. We're looking at receiving yards per team pass attempt in the player's peak year, and then receiving yards per season in the player's first five years in the NFL. Ruggs, for example, had 1.84 yards per team pass attempt in his peak year. Jeudy had 3.00 yards per team pass attempt in his peak year.

I don't think I learned anything about whether Jeudy is more likely to be a successful NFL player than Ruggs, but here's some data anyway.

The player who had a higher peak Yd/TA goes earlier in the draft 76% of the time.

When the player with the higher peak Yd/TA goes first, he ends up with a better first five years in the NFL 75% of the time.

When the player with the lower peak Yd/TA goes first, which is the case with Henry Ruggs III, he ends up with a better first five years in the NFL 63% of the time.

Jeudy and Ruggs are the fifth pair of WR teammates to go in the first round since 1997. The first pair also had the player with the lower Yd/TA go first, when Ike Hilliard of Florida (2.21) went seventh overall while Reidel Anthony (3.14) went 16th overall in 1997. Hilliard, drafted first, also ended up with the better NFL career. The other pairs of first-round wide receivers were:

  • 2001 Miami: Santana Moss (pick 16, 2.32 Yd/TA) and Reggie Wayne (pick 30, 2.22 Yd/TA)
  • 2007 LSU: Dwayne Bowe (pick 23, 2.69 Yd/TA) and Craig Davis (pick 30, 2.27 Yd/TA)
  • 2007 Ohio State: Ted Ginn (pick 9, 2.66 Yd/TA) and Anthony Gonzalez (pick 32, 2.16 Yd/TA)

Here's a look at the seven times that the receiver with a higher peak Yd/TA went later in the draft but had the more productive NFL career, which would be the situation if Jeudy outperforms Ruggs in the NFL:

  • 1998 Wisconsin: Donald Hayes (CAR, pick 4.106) over Tony Simmons (NE, 2.52)
  • 2000 Florida: Darrell Jackson (SEA, 3.80) over Travis Taylor (BAL, 1.10)
  • 2000 Texas A&M: Dante Hall (KC, 5.153) over Chris Cole (DEN, 3.70)
  • 2001 Ohio State: Ken-Yon Rambo (OAK, 7.229) over Reggie Germany (BUF, 7.214)
  • 2009 Penn State: Deon Butler (SEA, 3.91) over Derrick Williams (DET, 3.82)
  • 2010 Kansas: Dezmon Briscoe (CIN, 6.191) over Kerry Meier (ATL, 5.165)
  • 2017 Louisiana Tech: Trent Taylor (SF, 5.177) over Carlos Henderson (DEN, 3.82)

Finally, a weird one from recent years. In 2018, three different receivers were drafted out of Georgia. They were drafted in opposite order of their peak yards per team attempt: Mecole Hardman (KC, 2.56) and then Riley Ridley (CHI, 4.126), and finally Terry Godwin (CAR, 7.237). So far, draft order is clearly winning out over college production in determining the best NFL receiver out of this group.


8 comments, Last at 12 Aug 2020, 7:03am

1 So far, draft order is…

So far, draft order is clearly winning out over college production in determining the best NFL recevier out of this group.

Difficulty: Are teams just really good at draft identification?

Or are they biased towards higher picks?

5 I'm sure there is somewhat…

I'm sure there is somewhat of a bias towards giving higher picks more chances, sunk cost fallacy notwithstanding.

But there are some other rather obvious issues that would bias the results towards the NFL's draft evaluation, like injuries and off-the-field issues. One might expect "skill translation" to the NFL to feature as well, but the difference in predictive ability (roughly 60-40 when the worse performer is picked first) doesn't really seem to need it. Still, if you look at the last trio listed (Godwin, Ridley, Hardman), the are some obvious reasons why Godwin wasn't drafted ahead of his teammates. A player considered "soft" and "physically weak" and unable to play the slot in the NFL is going to have to be really exceptional in other areas to get picked very high. Combine that with a 40 time of 4.55... (compared to 4.33 for Hardman, who also happened to be considered extremely tough, initially played FB, could run the ball, return the ball, break tackles).

8 Mecole Hardman

I have only Watched Hardman - but I don't think, in his case, bias played into his effectiveness. In fact he was clearly the 4th Wide Receiver option on the team. For those saying he benefited from having Mahomes as QB ... yes but Mahomes has a high comfort level with Hill and Kelce and Reid's RBs are always a receiving threat. So Hardman actually got very few chances but made the most of them. Yes he also benefitted from the attention being paid Kelce, Watkins, Hill etc. but I think he is the best of the bunch and clearly the best fit for KC. He also had value as a return man ... going for a TD in a game where the offense was struggling and of course beginning the 24 playoff comeback vs. the Texans with a 50+ Yard KO Return.

2 Hardman, Ridley, and Godwin

I'm not sure we've  seen anything there with the exception that  Mahomesi way better than Trubisky, and the guys that are worse than Trubisky that Carolina trotted out there.

3 Still going Jeudy

Besides the Raiders recent track record of 1st round picks are...sketch...best. 

4 Ted Ginn wasn't drafted just…

Ted Ginn wasn't drafted just for his receiving chops, though. It was the whole Ginn family.. erhmm.. I mean, return skills.

Basically, I blame Devin Hester for the Dolphins wasting that pick on Ginn.

6 What I'm getting out of this…

What I'm getting out of this is that it's very difficult for a pair of WR from the same team to both make in in the NFL. Place your bets.

7 We have definitely seen this…

We have definitely seen this at other positions, and I think that there are three key factors:

1) opponents game plans always make it easier for someone and harder for someone else.  This is really difficult to extract, and leads to lots of scouts getting lesser players wrong by not compensating for position

2) coaching isn't equal, nor is a teams game planning, potentially biasing development

3) top high school players make up a large number of the top athletes  who go to the nfl.  And considering there will likely be more established upperclassmen on any team that limits snaps and touches for freshmen, high school senior have strong incentives to not sign to the same team as other top signers at their position.  (Changes in recruiting and transfer policies are making this point somewhat obsolete).