Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

21 Oct 2009

Gaines Adams And Similarity Scores

by Vince Verhei

The trade of Gaines Adams from Tampa Bay to Chicago is a good excuse to publicly unveil the first version of our Similarity Scores for defensive players. If you're not familiar with Similarity Scores, the methodology for our offensive versions can be found here. Our model for defensive players works on a similar concept, comparing players in 22 total categories. The most predictive of these turn out to be Total Plays, Total Successes, and Total Defeats; these statistics are not only consistent from year to year, they're also predictive of other stats. The least predictive statistic, by far, was interceptions, which don't even predict future interceptions very well. (If you want to know how many interceptions a player will have in a given year, don't look at his interceptions the year before, look at his passes defensed – they're a better predictor.)

With that out of the way, here are the 10 most similar players to Gaines Adams over the first two years of his career:

Top 10 Players Most Similar To Gaines Adams
Name Year Team
Chike Okeafor 2002 SF
Chike Okeafor 2003 SEA
Aaron Schobel 2002 BUF
Shaun Ellis 2002 NYJ
Tony Bryant 2001 OAK
Alex Brown 2003 CHI
Lance Johnstone 2002 MIN
Steve Foley 2000 CIN
Peter Boulware 2000 BAL
Jevon Kearse 2004 PHI

Aside from Tony Bryant (who started only nine games after 2001) and Jevon Kearse (who was entering the decline phase of his career in 2004), that's a reasonably solid, if unspectacular, group of players. Seven of the other comps were regular starters for three or more seasons afterwards, and the eighth, Lance Johnstone, had 28.5 sacks from 2003-05 with the Vikings despite starting only two games. The realistic worst-case scenario for Adams is that he'll start 14 games or more for the next four or five seasons. That's a valuable player.

One note is that two of those players (Steve Foley and Peter Boulware) were outside linebackers, and Okeafor would switch to outside linebacker later in his career. Adams is actually five pounds lighter than Okeafor, and he may be better suited to playing outside linebacker in a 3-4. Failing that, it may be in the Bears' best interest to split him out wide and tell him only to rush the passer, as the Colts do with Dwight Freeney. If we look at the top 40 or so comparisons to Adams, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's name starts popping up several times, and there's also an appearance by a young John Abraham. Those are two players even smaller than Adams who were pass-rushing terrors out of 4-3 sets.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 21 Oct 2009

6 comments, Last at 23 Oct 2009, 9:37am by Asher


by oiler (not verified) :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 4:16pm

Stats just don't tell the story with Gaines.

He's not stout enough to talked about in the same sentence as Freeney. He cannot cover anyone effectively enough to be a 3-4 OLB. And he's such a liability on first and second down as a 4-3 rush end, it could be argued he makes players around him worse.

Perhaps Rod Marinelli can work his magic with Gaines. But this was a good move for the Bucs. The only better move would maybe have been trading for Marinelli instead of trading away Adams.

by BucNasty :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 4:53pm

You mean you haven't been impressed with our D-line this year?

I agree with the sentiment that Adams could be better in a 3-4. He should never be asked to cover anyone man-to-man, but I mentioned his success dropping back in zone blitzes in the other thread. I think the real problem with him is the lack of either knowledge, motivation, or both of the work it takes to truly be great in this league. Maybe the Bears can a light a fire under him that the Bucs couldn't.

by JasonG (not verified) :: Wed, 10/21/2009 - 5:38pm

The Bears played the Packers whose protection problems are well-noted. They played the Lions. Enough said. Pittsburgh's not well known for protecting Ben. And that "success" was with Lovie calling for a blitz FIFTY percent of the time. So I was pretty skeptical the Dline was really that improved. Then they played the Falcons. Did Ryan even get touched in all those dropbacks? They have protected him well all season, so it's not a huge shame, but were you really at all impressed with the Dline after that game because I sure wasn't? They pretty much look like the old line, stout against the run, arguably average rushing the passer.

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 10/22/2009 - 1:26pm

I thought he was talking about the Bucs' DL, but if you're piling on the Bears, then you didn't say enough about the Lions game.

In the first half, the Bears got a decent amount of pressure at first and then basically couldn't get through; blitzes were occasionally effective and the four-man rush was pretty much nothing. 9.6 YPA, 1 sack in 25 dropbacks (I think; 1 scramble and 1 sack), 4/8 on third downs.

Sure, the Bears made the game look like what we expected in the second half, but it should have been cause for concern that they played down to Detroit's level for 30 minutes. (Against the pass, at least; against the run, the Bears gave up four gains of 11-17 yards, including Stafford's scramble, but shut down Detroit on the other 13 runs, so that was quite a bit better.) Even against Detroit, in the first half, they were (usually) stout against the run and (barely) average rushing the passer.

by Asher (not verified) :: Fri, 10/23/2009 - 9:37am

You're *$#&ing High! Were you watching the same game as everyone else? Let me put it this way, the Lions finished the game with a different QB than the one they started with. Ogunleye had 2.5 sacks alone. Brown had one. I think Marinelli even got one in there.

by AB (not verified) :: Thu, 10/22/2009 - 4:43am

If he matches the average performance of the players on that list then Chicago have got a very good deal.