Maybe some of us don’t realize that second one yet, but there it is anyway. An analysis of a team’s depth is generally done in vague terms like “good” and “bad,” and I’ll admit there’s something to be said for that, because it’s easy.
Barking Carnival took a stab at what exactly consistitutes good depth and bad depth (and One Bronco Nation Under God took the concept and ran with it), and it’s really pretty hard to argue with, on the face of it:
“I define depth as productive players beyond your starters; including your starters.”
“Real depth comes in three varieties: experienced players who aren’t quite talented enough, young players who aren’t quite experienced enough, and good players who can’t beat out great players.”
Obviously, what you want on your team is a giant shit-ton of the guys who fall into that last category. But what I’d want beyond that, if I have to make a pick between experience and talent, is definitely talent. In theory, talent will improve. Talent has a future. Talent won’t make me want to throw rocks at it.
So with that in mind, I put together a system for ranking a team’s depth, which leans on my rankings of individual players on the following two scales (which are averaged together):
All-American = 6 points
All-conference = 5 points
Honorable mention = 3 points
Four or five star = 4 points
Two or three star = 2 points
15 games started = 4 points
10 games started = 3 points
5 games started = 2 points
15 games played in = 1 point
The most a player can earn in the “Talent” category is 15 points, while the most he can get in “Experience” is 5 (meaning talent is three times as important as experience … just spitballing, but seems reasonable enough), thereby creating a “perfect” score of 10 when you average the two together. So for an example, let’s look at the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu has started 13 games in his career and played in 25 total. The 13 starts earns him 3 points, and he played in more than 15 games, so he gets another point for an “Experience” total of 4 points.
The Honey Badger earns big points for being an All-American and all-conference (11 points total), and he gets another 4 points for being a four-star (lightly regarded out of high school, my ass) for a total of 15.
15 + 4 / 2 = 9.5
So he just misses a perfect score because of a (slight) lack of experience. For comparison’s sake, his relatively inexperienced teammate Odell Beckham Jr. grabs 2 points for experience and 4 points for talent, giving him a score of 3; while the long-tenured P.J. Lonergan (26 starts) earns 5 points for experience, but just 2 points for talent, giving him a score of 3.5. So we might conclude that Lonergan is a more valuable player than Beckham, as you might expect, but the margin is incredibly slim, as Lonergan has failed to earn all-conference or even honorable mention recognition in the SEC to date.
Talent trumps experience (but only to a point).
For craps and giggles, I scored LSU’s entire post-spring two-deep, and the results are below:
Zach Mettenberger (2) / Stephen Rivers (1)
Spencer Ware (6.5) / Michael Ford (2.5)
J.C. Copeland (2.5) / Connor Neighbors (0)
James Wright (2.5) / Russell Shepard (4)
Odell Beckham (3) / Jarvis Landry (2)
Chase Clement (3.5) / Tyler Edwards (2.5)
Chris Faulk (6.5) / Chris Davenport (2)
La’el Collins (2) / Josh Dworaczyk (4.5)
P.J. Lonergan (3.5) / Elliot Porter (2)
Josh Williford (3) / Trai Turner (2)
Alex Hurst (6) / Vadal Alexander (2)
Sam Montgomery (10) / Jermauria Rasco (2)
Bennie Logan (3) / Ego Ferguson (2)
Anthony Johnson (2) / Josh Downs (2.5)
Barkevious Mingo (5) / Lavar Edwards (2.5)
Tahj Jones (1.5) / Lamar Louis (2)
Kevin Minter (4) / D.J. Welter (1)
Lamin Barrow (1.5) / Luke Muncie (1.5)
Tharold Simon (2.5) / David Jenkins (2)
Eric Reid (7) / Ronald Martin (1)
Craig Loston (2.5) / Micah Eugene (1)
Tyrann Mathieu (9.5) / Jalen Collins (2)
Overall: 3.03 (4 for the starters; 2 for the backups)
* Why aren’t more LSU fans leaping off of buildings right now? Sure, the talent is elite, and that keeps things from falling apart completely, but with the overall lack of experience in the starting lineup, I would be tepid (at best) about my team’s ability to navigate an SEC schedule successfully. I was surprised at first when I looked at the team’s nonconference slate, which is uncharacteristically soft, but given the number of inexperienced guys being shoved into starting roles here, I now fully understand and appreciate the strategy this fall. Linebacker and quarterback, in particular, are going to be trouble spots. And heaven forbid anyone in the secondary gets hurt (offensive line probably can’t withstand more than an injury or two either). In short, there’s plenty here to worry about (and plenty to keep them out of the national title hunt). (8/24/12 edit — I was probably too tough on the squad, reading back on it. My current position is that this starting unit is championship worthy, with some problems and gaps making it less than a sure thing. That’s probably what I should have said to begin with.)
* All that said, the depth is good overall — the envy of most teams. My basic expectation coming into this thing is that you should have a 2-ranked guy as your backup (and hopefully much better than that starting — hence my apprehension about linebacker and quarterback), since that implies either that your backup is a highly regarded kid from the high school ranks or that he’s built up some noteworthy experience … or both (preferably). 16 of 22 Tiger backups are at least a “2,” meaning yes, LSU will again rotate in the kind of depth that will make everyone else stupidly jealous, especially by the end of the year when these kids have grown up some.
* I’d call anyone over a 3 a guy you know is probably going to contribute in a very significant way (“all-conference” significant). LSU has 15 such players, 13 of them in the starting lineup.
* The starters overall average a 4; the backups a 2. On offense, all players average a 3 (more on this in a second), while on defense it’s a 3.1 (The deviation on the defensive side, however, is nuts — ranging from a 1 to a 10; on offense the range goes from 0 to 6.5.).
* Tharold Simon is underrated, given his contributions, meaning I probably shouldn’t weigh starts so heavily above games played, because it punishes nickel backs (and the like), but I’m beyond the point of caring enough to change my formula. So there.
* Sam Montgomery will rip your face off and feed it to the Honey Badger.
I’ll do some more teams in some later blog posts, as the comparison is basically the point of this whole thing to begin with (and where we can really begin to have fun making sweeping generalizations about teams). I suspect LSU will do very well in a backup comparison, annihilate some folks in terms of its elite contributors (six guys scored at least a “6″), and look extremely vulnerable with some of the guys it’s plugging into starting roles. Then again, most teams in the country have to go with a couple of guys like that every year. It’s the teams who don’t that are the ones who stand out.
* Simplicity kills. (Or at least it can when you have perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history lining up under center.) This made the rounds several weeks back, but it’s still worth your time if you appreciate Peyton Manning, the Colts, and the plays they ran together. If you just appreciate the first two, this other piece might be more your speed. Or if you’re like me, read both.
* I end with the Montgomery murdering people, for obvious reasons.