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Just The Sports: 2011-05-01

Just The Sports

Friday, May 06, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Philip Rivers' Big Pass Plays Will Continue With New Target, Vincent Brown

For three straight years San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has led the NFL in yards per pass attempt, and his reign at the top of that passing category will no doubt continue with the drafting of former San Diego State wide receiver, Vincent Brown, in the third round. Of course, Rivers will only be able to benefit from Brown's big play ability if Brown is able to replicate what he did in college football, especially his last two seasons.

Over Brown's collegiate career, he provided a decent amount of value to his San Diego State quarterbacks, but he was not overly impressive in his production by any means.

After Brown's wide receiving statistics, which include his receptions, passes on which he was targeted, and receptions, were removed from San Diego State's quarterbacks' passing statistics, the quarterbacks experienced a .9 percent decrease in completion percentage (from 57.0 percent to 56.5 percent), a 5.5 percent decrease in yards per pass attempt (from 7.3 to 6.9), a 4.7 percent increase in yards per completion (from 12.8 to 12.2), and an 8.3 percent decrease in touchdown percentage (from 4.8 percent to 4.4 percent).

Brown's career numbers are not as impressive as some of the top wide receivers taken in the draft like Jonathan Baldwin, Aldrick Robinson, Torrey Smith, A.J. Green, or Leonard Hankerson, but the Chargers are not interested in what Brown did over his whole career. They want him to do for them what he did over his last two seasons at San Diego State.

Over his last two seasons, which included 20 games, once Brown's wide receiving statistics are removed from San Diego State's quarterbacks' passing statistics, the quarterbacks underwent a 2.3 percent decrease in completion percentage (from 56.8 percent to 55.5 percent), a 12.9 percent decrease in yards per pass attempt (from 8.5 to 7.4), a 10.7 percent decrease in yards per completion (from 14.9 to 13.3), and an 8.8 percent decrease in touchdown percentage (from 6.8 percent to 6.2 percent).

While those fantastic seasons still were not better than the best seasons of Baldwin, Robinson, or Smith, they are still extremely valuable and made Brown the fourth-best wide receiver in the draft in terms of value given to his college quarterbacks.

Since Rivers has already proven so adept at gaining huge chunks of yardage per pass attempt, adding a wide receiver of Brown's caliber, who has elite-level ability in terms of aiding a quarterback in that statistical category, will ensure that the Chargers continue to have one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the NFL.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Pat Devlin Deserves A Legitimate Chance In The NFL

Based on the quarterbacks who were drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, the fact that former University of Delaware Blue Hen quarterback Pat Devlin went undrafted shows just how convoluted the NFL's process for selecting quarterbacks truly is. Despite the numerous interviews and the multiple workouts NFL teams put prospective quarterbacks through, most teams have no idea what they should truly look for when trying to predict how a college quarterback will perform in the NFL.

Even though Devlin went undrafted, his college football résumé measures up extremely favorably to every quarterback who was drafted; for the purposes of this article, his college statistics will only be compared to the six quarterbacks taken in the first three rounds of the draft who started at least two seasons of college football.

Accuracy is the most important tool a college quarterback can possess when making the transition to the NFL, and those quarterbacks who have been able to consistently put up excellent completion percentages across multiple seasons are those who are most likely to experience success in professional football.

Under that criterion, it is Devlin and no other quarterback who is best suited to quarterback an NFL team. In his first year as Delaware's primary quarterback (games in which he either attempted the most passes or threw for the most yards) after transferring from Penn State, Devlin completed 64.0 percent of his passes for 7.7 yards per pass attempt. Devlin then followed that up in his second year as a starter by completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 7.9 yards per pass attempt.

Part of his improvement in completion percentage from his junior to senior season is because his yards per completion dropped from an average of 12.1 yards to 11.6 yards. Even so, there is no doubt Devlin has elite accuracy.

It becomes even more elite when compared to the quarterbacks drafted in the first three rounds who started more than one season in college football. Devlin's career completion percentage of 66.0 percent as a primary quarterback is statistically significantly better than Jake Locker's (54.0 percent), Blaine Gabbert's (61.2 percent), Christian Ponder's (62.4 percent), Andy Dalton's (61.6 percent), and Colin Kaepernick's (58.3 percent). Although Devlin's career completion percentage was not statistically significantly better than Ryan Mallett's (60.2 percent) due to Mallett's incredibly inconsistency in his accuracy, it was still much better; in fact, it was 9.6 percent better.

Since no other quarterback in the draft could hold a candle to Devlin in terms of being very accurate across multiple seasons, it is absurd that no team was willing to reward him for his college football career. He should have been at the very least highly drafted. In a perfect world, he would have been the first quarterback chosen.

Devlin's college career is also superior to the career of former Delaware and current Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

For his college career, Flacco completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 7.5 yards per pass attempt, both worse than Devlin's 66.0 completion percentage and 7.8 yards per pass attempt.

Devin also had a higher touchdown percentage than Flacco (5.2 percent to 4.4 percent), which made up for the fact he had a slightly higher interception percentage (1.7 percent to 1.6 percent).

There is not much more a college quarterback could have done to convince the NFL he is worthy of a shot to start than to have a better college career than an NFL starting quarterback than what Devlin accomplished. Devlin did every single thing he needed to do to warrant an NFL team giving him a legitimate shot to be a team's franchise quarterback.

Unfortunately for Devlin, based on the fact he went undrafted, it is improbable that a team will allow him to truly compete for a starting quarterback position. Therefore, the NFL's thinking that he will not succeed in the NFL will become a self-fulfilling prophecy as he will probably never be given a chance to prove otherwise.

Devlin certainly deserves that opportunity, however.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

LeBron James And Not Derrick Rose Was The NBA's MVP

Miami Heat forward LeBron James has proved himself a prophet. By joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach, James predicted that he was eliminating himself from MVP contention, and that is exactly what has happened. Despite being the most valuable player in the league for the third straight season, he will have to watch as his award goes to a much less deserving player in Derrick Rose.

Even though James was unable to duplicate the efficient production of his two previous seasons, seasons which rival Michael Jordan at his best, James was still the best player to step on the court for the 2010-11 NBA season.

James once again led the league in PER (27.3), offensive win shares (10.3), total win shares (15.6), and win shares contributed per 48 minutes (0.244). By every objective statistical measure, James was the MVP and all the voters who elected not to give it to him are putting their complete ignorance on display.

Rose's MVP campaign was so full of erroneous conclusions that it hid the fact he was not even the second-best candidate for the award. Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Chris Paul can all claim to have contributed more total win shares to their teams than Rose. Rose drops to eighth in the league when win shares contributed per 48 minutes are factored in.

There was an award that Derrick Rose did deserve, but the voters wrongly gave the Most Improved Award to Kevin Love instead. It was Rose and not Love that improved the most from last season to this one.

Rose experienced a 26.3 percent decrease in his PER (from 18.6 to 23.5) and a 108 percent increase in his win shares contributed per 48 minutes (from 0.100 to 0.208). Love can only boast a 17.4 percent increase in PER (from 20.7 to 24.3) and a 52.2 percent increase in win shares contributed per 48 minutes (0.138 to 0.210). Just like there was no contest between James and Rose as to who was the league's MVP, there was no contest between Rose and Love as to who was most improved.

Although Rose might take the NBA MVP award home with him, it is not rightfully his. Only James is worthy of that title this season.

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Indiana Pacers Might As Well Hire Frank Vogel

Frank Vogel wants the interim tag removed from his head coaching title, and while he does have a case that he earned a chance to be the Indiana Pacers' head coach, it is by no means an airtight one. The Pacers improved under Vogel, but the improvement was more slight than the increase in winning percentage might lead one to believe.

Before Vogel replaced former Indiana Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien, the Pacers had limped to a 17-27 record, giving the team a .386 winning percentage after the first 44 games. After Vogel assumed the reins, the Pacers went on to win 20 of the 38 regular season contests remaining for a .526 winning percentage.

However, sometimes win-loss records do not tell the whole story, and what those win-loss records do not reveal is by what a small amount the Pacers really did improve.

With O'Brien as their head coach, the Pacers were outscored by their opponents by 1.6 points per 100 possessions, scoring 104.1 points per 100 possessions on offense and allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions on defense.

Under Vogel, the Pacers increased overall by one point per 100 possessions and were outscored by their opponents by 0.6 points per 100 possessions, scoring 107.1 points per 100 possessions on offense and allowing 107.7 points per 100 possessions.

The Pacers' inferiority to their opponents increased to being outscored by 1.4 points per 100 possessions when the playoff series against the Chicago Bulls is included, but if Vogel is hired, it will probably be because of how the Pacers finished the regular season.

Of course, improving by one point per 100 possessions does not suddenly thrust the Pacers into the conversation of elite NBA teams so if Vogel does have the interim tag removed, do not look for the Pacers to compete for a title next season.

Vogel has already made it very clear that he thinks he deserves a chance to be the team's head coach. His campaign should also be supported by Tyler Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones, Roy Hibbert, A.J. Price, and Paul George.

It is Hansbrough who received the most benefit from Vogel taking over head coaching duties. Hansbrough went from playing 32.4 percent of the Pacers' minutes for O'Brien to 54.7 percent of the Pacers' minutes for Vogel. His role in the offense also increased as his usage percentage went from 21.3 percent to 23.9 percent and the percentage of shots he took for the Pacers while on the floor went from 21.2 percent to 25.0 percent.

Hansbrough rewarded Vogel's confidence by largely maintaining the 53.4 true shooting percentage he had for O'Brien; he posted a 52.7 true shooting percentage over the rest of the regular season under Vogel.

Jones would also have a lot to look forward to from Vogel being retained as head coach. His percentage of team minutes played also increased dramatically from 13.4 percent to 29.2 percent. Additionally, his scoring average improved from 2.7 points per game to 7.2 points per game while his true shooting percentage went from 48.9 percent to 56.6 percent.

Hibbert will also remember his time under Vogel as a time when he played his best basketball even though it took him accepting a different role to do so. After a hot start to the season, Hibbert started playing tremendously poor basketball, and at the end of O'Brien's tenure, he had just a 47.5 true shooting percentage.

For the rest of the regular season, Hibbert posted a 54.5 true shooting percentage helped in part by the fact he was asked to do less on offense. Vogel no doubt realized Hibbert is not a player who is able to carry a high percentage of the offense and so decreased his usage percentage from 24.9 percent to 22.4 percent and the percentage of shots he took from 25.1 percent to 21.8 percent.

Since Hibbert did play so much better, it was a necessary trade-off.

Price and George are in the same boat as they would look forward to a return from Vogel because it would allow them more time on the court. Price's minute percentage increased from 26.3 percent for O'Brien to 33.9 percent for Vogel and George's minute percentage jumped from 33.4 percent under O'Brien to 47.2 percent for Vogel.

With the Pacers' modest mid-season improvement and the support of the five players who all benefited from having him as their coach, Vogel should have a decent chance of getting the Pacers' head coaching position; the Pacers could do a lot worse than Vogel.

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