Wide Receiver Prospects, Part 1: Is there a “USC Curse”?

I’ve heard a lot of chatter about the “USC receiver curse” in recent years. how highly-regarded receivers from the school have struggled at the NFL level. With Nelson Agholor being talked about as though he was struggling to adapt, and JuJu Smith-Schuster potentially a high draft selection next year, I decided to do a little research to see if this idea had any merit.

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Hastily Assembled 2016 NFL Predictions

First, some good news: We should returning to zonereads.com shortly; I’ve been a little delayed by this whole “attempting to make a living” thing, but I should be importing the site back over soon.

I’m also planning to get back to more regular content; it’s certainly not like I lack for thoughts about the NFL, but I have lacked motivation to take the time to articulate them at column length. I already have a few ideas for upcoming columns, and I hope to crank those out in the next couple of weeks, although I have other projects that are labors of love or labors of money that could squeeze my time.

I’d like to get a weekly column going for either fantasy or gambling purposes. We’ll see if I succeed.

On to the purposes of this column: A quickly assembled guess at this year’s NFL standings, which of course is both too similar to last year’s to be interesting and too similar to be correct, given the variances and deviations that happen every year.

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Draft Thoughts Part 4 of 4: Winning Is Not The Incentive

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 ]

At the end of part 3, I said I’d attempt to address why teams don’t examine their processes more closely, why they don’t try to refine or improve them. I think the answer comes down to how decisions are made in the NFL.

I think the NFL has a corporate culture that incentivizes not making waves and not going off the beaten path.

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Draft Thoughts Part 3 of 4: These Are Not The Traits You’re Looking For

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 ]

I’ve made notes throughout the first few parts of this mega-post regarding players who fell in the draft despite their obvious talent, notes that said I would address in part 3.

Well, I apologize. Part 3 ran over 4500 words, so I broke it into two parts as well. This will be a four-part post.


In both previous sections, I highlighted players and factors that I think speak to why the NFL struggles to master the draft. I wanted to delve into those factors in detail, and perhaps more importantly, attempt to answer the question of why this continues to happen. Here’s how I see it, in short: Teams worry about the wrong things and have too many incentives against changing.

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Draft Thoughts Part 2 of 4: On the Cleveland Browns and Analytics

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 ]

I was quite excited for what the Cleveland Browns might do in this year’s draft. I watched a lot more baseball in the 1990s and 2000s, and was well aware of (and paid close attention to) Billy Beane’s work with the Oakland A’s. (I also haven’t forgotten how old-school scouts derided it as nerd nonsense by people who had never played the game and didn’t understand the arcane complexities of their sport. That’ll come up later.)

As someone who believes the NFL, both on a league-wide and on the individual team level, is in many ways run by backward, ossified processes that seem to have all the scientific rigor of bloodletting or the Ptolemaic system, I was intrigued by the thought of a team applying real analysis and big data to their front-office processes. This draft was the first chance to see the new front office in action.

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Draft Thoughts Part 1 of 4: A Handful of Team Observations

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 ]

So it turns out I have a lot more to say about this year’s NFL Draft than I thought I did. In my first draft of this article, this was my opening paragraph:

When enough is said before the draft– and I’ve been saying a lot, at least on Twitter if not on the blog– there’s not much to say afterward. Just a collection of observations from me, some about certain teams or their executives, others about general trends:

Well, once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. By the time I got somewhere north of six thousand words, I decided I was going to need to break up my draft posting into multiple entries, to cover the several major topics I intended to cover.

Part 2 will be a deeper look at the Cleveland Browns draft and the idea of analytics in football. Part 3 will be some thoughts on the NFL’s processes as a whole. For part 1, here are some observations I made about a handful of teams’ drafts.

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