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We can’t really make any similarity comparisons for Trent Richardson until he runs, but what we can do is make some assumptions and look at two alternate scenarios.
If you watch Trent Richardson play and see him run away from SEC d-backs (not the easiest thing to do) you sort of assume that he would have to be able to run in the 4.4s. But he is a very big back, so that might be asking a lot. What happens then if we assume that Richardson runs a 4.5? The following is a list of guys who have similar size, speed and college stats (final year only).
That’s not the most impressive list of names ever assembled, but it is worth remembering that people thought enough of Knowshon Moreno coming out of college to make him the #12 pick in his draft. To calibrate your expectations it might also be worth watching some highlight reels of these guys and see if they looked impressive against college competition (hint: they did).
But we’re also not done yet. What happens if we assume that Richardson can run a 4.4?
Then he looks a little more similar to a more dynamic group. AP is obviously the standout here, but I think Ryan Mathews is very good and Mendenhall has been pretty good running behind a terrible offensive line.
As @RumfordJohnny points out, because Richardson is coming off of knee surgery, it may be the case that we won’t really have a good sense as to how fast he really is. He could run a 4.5 coming off of knee surgery, whereas healthy he might be capable of being in the 4.4 range.
A comparison between North Carolina’s Dwight Jones and former Central Florida wide receiver Brandon Marshall illustrates why you have to remember what you’re comparing. A lot of the comparisons I see will compare a college player with an NFL player. But that is not an apples to apples comparison. It would be an apples to apples comparison if made between the college player and the NFL player when they were playing in college. There’s a difference.
I will make a wager with you that if you go through about the top 5-7 players at each position in the draft draft, you could, without much looking, find a comparison for all of them with a successful pro player. Most of the time the comparison isn’t just with a successful pro, it’s with a pro bowl player. I just read one comparison that likened Mohamed Sanu to Hakeem Nicks. It’s possible that they will have similar pro careers, but they did not have similar college careers.
But that is how player comparisons go. Often the comparison is a best case scenario. But to see whether the best case is realistic, let’s look at the 2007 wide receiver class that included Calvin Johnson. Three of the top seven wide receivers have less than 10 career touchdowns. This is a class that has played five seasons now.
Ted Ginn Jr.
San Jose St.
Johnnie Lee Higgins
If you go back and look at the 2006 class of wide receivers, only two of the top eight wide receivers drafted (Santonio Holmes and Greg Jennings) have more than 10 career touchdowns. The 2008 draft class has now played four seasons and only two out of the top 13 wide receivers have more than 10 career touchdowns.
The reason this is important is because NFL draft comparisons often suffer from survivor bias. Only successful players remain in the minds of the comparers. Comparisons are rarely made with players who might have been more similar, but didn’t pan out.
Dwight Jones and Brandon Marshall are similar size, speed, and also had similar stats in their last year of college. They may or may not have similar pro careers, as there are a lot of variables in play there, but going into their pro careers they look like reasonable approximations of each other. It’s worth noting that people aren’t high on Dwight Jones, but people weren’t high on Brandon Marshall either. Marshall was a fourth round pick.
I think Stephen Hill probably has a lot of draft gurus scratching their heads. I’ve heard people say he reminds them of Demaryius Thomas or Calvin Johnson, which I think only illustrates that people can’t help but match patterns.
Finding real comparables for Hill is tough, but there are three names that are sort of in the same ballpark. Hill is similar to Kenny Britt, Jon Baldwin and Julio Jones on various measures. These are all big guys who can all “jump out of the gym” and their big bodies don’t slow them down at all. They also don’t flash based solely on stats in college. Julio Jones caught more touchdowns in an injury-impacted season with the Falcons than he did in his last year at Alabama, which is odd. This is the point where people typically point to the Alabama running game for the reason that Jones didn’t catch a lot of touchdowns – even though Alabama did throw a number of touchdowns, Jones just didn’t garner the lion’s share of them. They were spread around.