Rex Burkhead and Correlated Athleticism
Here is Rex Burkhead’s graph from MockDraftable.com, the excellent site that visualizes Combine measurements:
To translate the graph, Burkhead was wildly above average in a lot of the tests, and then was wildly below average in the 40 yard dash. That’s probably only going to reinforce the perception of Burkhead’s whiteness among NFL teams.
But as I was saying on Twitter tonight, a lot of athletic measures are correlated, which means that you could predict 40 times to a certain degree with vertical leap information, and vice versa. The fits would not be perfect, but they would be significant. The reason I think that matters is because we measure these things in small samples, so to the extent that we can pay attention to a prospect’s total athleticism, I think it can be helpful.
In the case of Burkhead, I’m fine dismissing the bad 40 time because I think football is generally a game of creating physical momentum and the athleticism that Burkhead showed on a number of his combine drills, combined with his weight, tells me that he can create momentum. If Burkhead can generate enough power with his legs to jump 39 inches, I feel like he can generate enough power with his 214 pound frame to run against NFL defenses.
So maybe Burkhead just can’t get out of the blocks for the 40, or maybe he really doesn’t have long speed. I don’t consider either a problem. It would be better if he had long speed, because long speed turns 20 yard gains into touchdowns sometimes. But the total number of plays where long speed matters is small.
Burkhead is actually a guy that I think would be interesting to look at the play by play data for because I would be really interested to know what his red zone TD rate is. If I had to guess, I would guess it’s high. I may take a look.
The first few runs in the highlight reel below are all long runs and while Burkhead isn’t running away from guys like Chris Johnson would, he also isn’t getting caught (ok, fine he gets caught once by a cornerback).