The AFA Draft Pick of the Year

Was the next Virgil Carter drafted yesterday? Penn State Guard John Urschel was taken with a compensatory pick in the 5th round by Baltimore. John stands out because he has an unusual plan for his time after his playing days are over. He says he's very interested in  "sports analytics. Data analysis for football."

If he does, he'll analyze circles around the rest of us. While playing for PSU, John earned his degree in Math in just three years. Then added a masters degree in math, and is currently working on a second masters in math education. He's published research with names like Instabilities of the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three Body Problem, A Space-Time Multigrid Method for the Numerical Valuation of Barrier Options, and Spectral Bisection of Graphs and Connectedness in which he proved the Urschel-Zikatanov Generalized Bisection Theorem. Man, I wish I had a theorem named after me.

To us, his most interesting research might be this article he wrote for ESPN The Magazine. He looked at "1) how best to predict a lineman's draft position, 2) that prospect's success in terms of NFL starts, and 3) whether a fringe prospect will be selected." Sounds like it would have made a good guest post here.

The Bayesian Draft Model estimated the most likely time Urshel would be taken was pick 167, not very far off from his actual selection at 175. The chance he would be available at 175 was 43% according to the numbers. So almost spot on. Interestingly, Urshel's own selection may have been the result of some sharp analytics. Baltimore is known to have "a proprietary formula—a “special sauce,” assistant GM Eric DeCosta calls it—that factors in potential compensatory picks to the free agency cost-benefit analysis."

Urschel would make a killer impact on the world of football analytics if he chose. However successful his pro career turns out, he'll carry the credibility of a pro-caliber player. Coaches will take what he has to say much more seriously than what an ex-Navy pilot writes on a website.

So, congratulations, John! I'll be rooting for you on the field and off. Play like a Raven!

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7 Responses to “The AFA Draft Pick of the Year”

  1. Borat says:

    You use to think you were Alfred Inestine. Now you think your Mel Kiper, Jr.

  2. Anonymous says:

    ^Didn't even read the post and doesn't know the difference between your/you're. You should feel bad that people of this caliber don't take you seriously! But really, great post, and this guy seems awesome.

  3. Borat says:

    Buy "this guy seems awesome" you ment me of course. Thank you're very much

  4. Anonymous says:

    As an options trader @ a major sell side shop and football junkie I am going to reach out to John about a summer internship next year. The $ in derivatives is not as great as it was @ the peak but its multiples of what he will find from an NFL front office. In addition, he won't have to deal with the daily grind of working for people that have no idea what he is talking about even if they are open to his work. Thanks for the heads up. Love your site.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Good stuff. Sounds like an easy guy to root for.

  6. Anonymous says:

    have you read the book, "Next Man Up," about the 2004 Ravens? If so, what did you think? I rented it from the library to read a couple chapters for a paper I was writing and ended up plowing through the whole book in a couple of days. I thought it was really a fantastic book and made me respect the Raven's organization even more than I already did (although I am a 49ers fan...). Ozzie Newsome really is a phenomenal GM. On a side note, it never ceases to amaze me how football players are seen as unintelligent. I would suspect that, on average, they are probably smarter than the general population and I would also suspect that the mean IQ among offensive linemen is probably close to 120 genius level.

    As always, keep up the fantastic work. We all of us are forever in your, and all the contributers here, debt for all the great free content you provide here. Thanks.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully after a career of getting his head knocked about he'll still be able to do calculations and manipulate statistical and mathematical concepts.

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