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Dynasty Rookie Draft Comparisons: Brock Bowers, Ja’Tavion Sanders, Theo Johnson, Ben Sinnott

Dynasty Rookie Draft Comparisons: Brock Bowers, Ja’Tavion Sanders, Theo Johnson, Ben Sinnott

The NFL Combine and college Pro Days are behind us while the NFL Draft is right around the corner. There has been no shortage of coverage for these prospects, but I wanted to bring a different spin on player comparisons. To do this, I use a technique called clustering, which allows me to bucket these players into several statistical profiles and compare one to another. In the clustering, I included a combination of production, efficiency, athleticism and usage metrics in hopes of capturing who these players are.

2024 NFL Draft Guide

This article will cover the methodology with commentary on some of the standout players from the 2024 class. There is only one true standout player in this class — former Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, who is widely regarded as a top-10 prospect among all players. A couple of other tight ends have found their way into the top 100 prospects but none are expected to produce immediately (at least not for fantasy purposes).

Methodology

Before I get into the analysis, I want to explain the methodology and techniques I used along with delineating what this analysis is and, more importantly, what it is not. Let’s start with the latter.

This analysis is a descriptive way to compare a player’s college stats and athleticism to historical results. This is not a predictive indicator of future NFL and fantasy success or that a player with similar athletic and production stats will have the same career.

In terms of the methodology, I used a principal component analysis (PCA) using data since 2016. If you’re unfamiliar with PCA, it is a way to “squish” several variables (in this case, each of our statistical metrics), into just a couple of variables — our principal components — thus simplifying our dataset and reducing noise. Put another way, PCA helps us find fewer features that will represent our data (or prospects) in a more compressed way.

This also allows me to visualize the results on two axes using the first two principal components, which I wouldn’t be able to do easily with the several metrics we have. This is also where we can see player comparisons — players that appear further away from the center of the chart are more unique in their results and fall into a more distinct category.

For tight ends, below are the weights for the metrics for each of the two principal components. To calculate a player’s principal component, you can read these as linear equations. So for principal component one, a player’s score is calculated as (-0.12*Height) +(-0.16*Weight) +(-0.18*Forty-Yard Dash) + (0.44*Receptions/Game) + (0.43*Dominator Rating) + (046*YPRR) + (0.44*TPRR) + (0.24*Yards/Reception) + (0.22*aDOT) + (0.22*Slot Rate).

I also calculated similarity scores between each prospect’s metrics profile — I only used the metrics used in the PCA above. For this, I calculated the Euclidean distance of each metric between each player to get the Cosine similarity, resulting in our similarity score. Below each player, I’ll give a brief list of the players whose statistical profile is most similar to the prospect, along with the similarity score. These scores are in a range of 0 to 1, with 1 meaning a player’s statistical profile is an exact match.

With that, let’s get into some analysis.

Tight End Prospect Comparisons

Brock Bowers (TE – Georgia)

Most similar players: Dalton Kincaid (0.931), Brevin Jordan (0.886), Harrison Bryant (0.885)

Brock Bowers is the obvious standout of this class (just look at where he lands on the chart above). Of the 131 qualifying tight ends in my database, Bowers’ 2.64 career yards per route run ranks second behind only Dallas Goedert. He’s also keenly familiar with lining up from the slot, which he did on 52% of his snaps in college.

He currently slots in as the fifth-ranked prospect on the consensus big board but there is plenty of debate as to whether he (or any tight end in general) is worthy of being a first-round pick. Bowers’ final year was cut short due to a high-ankle sprain, for which he got TightRope surgery in the middle of the season. A hamstring injury also kept Bowers from doing any athletic testing this offseason, which some consider a potential red flag. But, with an expected draft position (per Grinding the Mocks) of 11.5, it seems more likely than not he’ll be off the board by the time the first round ends next Thursday.

Ja’Tavion Sanders (TE – Texas)

Most similar players: Caleb Wilson (0.880), Trey McBride (0.864), Sam LaPorta (0.728)

Ja’Tavion Sanders is the only other tight end ranked in the top 50 of the consensus big board and is part of an impressive set of Texas skill players coming out in this draft. Sanders didn’t become a starter until his sophomore year, but he was third on the team in receiving yards in his two final years, which is impressive when you consider the competition for targets he had.

Not much about Sanders’ production jumps off the screen. What he lacks in production he makes up for with “wow” plays that aren’t captured in the data. Sanders is also the youngest tight end in this class as he turned 21 years old just under a month ago, so he should have plenty of time to develop into a decent weapon.

Theo Johnson (TE – Penn State)

Most similar players: Jelani Woods (0.690), Luke Musgrave (0.580), Darnell Washington (0.577)

Unfortunately, Theo Johnson’s overall production profile leaves a lot to be desired, recording just 78 catches in his four-year career at Penn State. However, some of the advanced metrics make him look slightly better. Over his final two seasons, Johnson recorded an 85.5% rate of open targets, per PFF, which ranked fourth out of 161 qualifying tight ends. But, even when he wasn’t open, Johnson reeled in six of his nine contested targets.

Athletically is how Johnson stands apart in this class as his 9.93 relative athletic score (RAS) ranks ninth all-time for tight ends. Furthermore, among 226 tight ends since 2003 with a speed score, his impressive 121.1 score ranks 12th. Johnson’s athleticism will catch the eyes of teams and likely earn him a rotational role to start.

Ben Sinnott (TE – Kansas State)

Most similar players: Jace Sternberger (0.845), Devin Asiasi (0.806), Greg Dulcich (0.790)

I mentioned in the Bowers section the importance of elite athleticism at the tight end position. Sinnott certainly has that with a 9.73 RAS score (33rd-highest all-time) among tight ends. What excites me about Sinnott is that his production and efficiency profile is solid. His career 13.9 yards per reception is only second to Bowers in this class. He also averaged a respectable 1.61 yards per route run (YPRR). He’s also shown the ability to work downfield on his targets with a 9.9-yard average depth of target (aDOT).

Sinnott has also proven to be a reliable run-blocker — he posted a 76.1 PFF run-blocking grade in 2023, the sixth-best mark of the year among qualifying tight ends. If nothing else, this should help him get on the field. But, one can only hope it might eventually result in more snaps from the slot or out wide as he struggled to get work from those positions in college.

2024 NFL Mock Drafts

Here are a few early predictions for the 2024 NFL Draft. We’ll continue to add our 2024 NFL Mock Drafts leading up to the start of Round 1.


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