John Ross, Breakout Age, and What We’ve Been Missing
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John Ross appears destined to be one of the most polarizing prospects of 2017. He’s undersized. He was remarkably productive in his final collegiate season. He should test extremely well according to times Kyle Pollock dug up from a collegiate combine. He’s a potential first-round pick. And he does stuff like this. 14Team Mocker’s database of player ages. That doesn’t make him ancient, but also doesn’t make him a young prospect. He’s not Josh Doctson old, but Amari Cooper was born five months before him and just completed his second NFL season. If you’re a frequent reader of RotoViz prospect analysis, you know many of our analysts have found age to be significant in evaluating WR prospects. Shawn Siegele identified it is a key component of WR evaluation back in 2014, and followed up by recognizing Breakout Age as particularly illuminating. We’ve toyed with different variations of calculating Breakout Age — Siegele initially used a 0.30 Dominator Rating cutoff while last offseason Jon Moore chose to look at players with a 20 percent market share of receiving yards or better — but the premise remains to identify the first collegiate season a WR produced at a high level. So we are concerned with two main components of age – the age at which a player will enter the NFL and the age at which he broke out. With respect to the latter, since prospects who enter the draft young almost certainly broke out young, an early breakout age is perhaps most notable as a positive indicator for those prospects who are entering the league at, say, 22 or older. Prospects like John Ross. For Ross, nearly all of his receiving production came in the 2016 season. He redshirted 2015 after tearing his ACL in the spring, and had amassed just 579 receiving yards across his true freshman and sophomore seasons in 2013 and 2014. As a prospect entering the league on the age cusp, not breaking out until his final collegiate season would be a bad indicator. But as defenders who have tried to corral him can attest, things with Ross are rarely what they seem.