Wake-Up Call: The Eagles And SPARQ
Today’s question comes from reader Jeremy:
@SheilKapadia it seems like Eagles draft was heavily influenced by the SPARQ rating system. Can you explain what that is and how it’s used?
— Jeremy Lacks (@jlacks31) May 3, 2015
For those unfamiliar, SPARQ is a metric used to measure speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness. In other words, a prospect’s athleticism. Zach Whitman has more background on his Web site.
Long story short, SPARQ was created by Nike, and the Seahawks were involved in its development. The details of the formula are no longer public, but Whitman used existing data and information to approximate it. It’s not exact, but he calls his version pSPARQ.
Analytics certainly come into play when the Eagles are scouting players. Vice president of player personnel Ed Marynowitz did an excellent job of explaining the process before the draft. Under Chip Kelly, the Eagles want to be a height/weight/speed team. They have prototypes at each position, and they don’t want to build a team of exceptions.
“Big picture wise, you want to play with the odds, not against the odds,” Marynowitz said in April. “And the odds are telling you that the majority of these guys that are under this certain prototype do not play at a starting level in the NFL. If you have seven draft picks, do you really want to waste one, especially in the top three rounds, on a guy that history is telling you… typically these guys with these types of measurables don’t produce at this level?”
In terms of SPARQ specifically, the Eagles drafted three players who rated very high. Second-round pick Eric Rowe ranked third among cornerbacks in the metric. Third-round selection Jordan Hicks ranked fifth among inside linebackers. And seventh-round pick Brian Mihalik was first among all defensive linemen.
While SPARQ certainly could be a tool the Eagles utilize, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. It’s an athleticism metric but does not take into account height/length, which obviously matters at certain positions.
And there are plenty of other factors as well: a player’s production, skill set, scheme fit, #culture rating, etc. Nelson Agholor, for example ranked 66th among wide receivers in SPARQ. Sixth-round picks Randall Evans ranked 65th. JaCorey Shepherd was unranked, presumably because Whitman didn’t have the data to input.
The Eagles use a three-pronged approach to scouting. The first focuses on measurables, and SPARQ (or a similar formula) factors in there. The second is scheme fit/production. And the third is character.
Marynowitz did say specifically that in the later rounds the Eagles believe in looking for prospects with impressive athletic profiles. The Mihalik selection falls in line with that philosophy.
And overall, per Whitman, the Seahawks and Eagles had the two highest-ranked rosters in terms of SPARQ in 2014.
This was the first draft with Howie Roseman out and Marynowitz in his new role. As always under Kelly, the measurables mattered.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Taking a stab at projecting the Eagles’ depth chart on offense.
Love for Agholor, not so much for the Birds’ QBs. What they’re saying.
Is a Sam Bradford extension realistic? T-Mac takes a look.
The Eagles’ proposal didn’t pass, but NFL owners voted to change the PAT/two-point conversion rule.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice offers a “Captain Hindsight” draft that includes Byron Jones as the Eagles’ first-round pick:
Nelson Agholor will more than likely be an immediate contributor in the Eagles’ offense, as some have named him as a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. I don’t disagree, and I think Agholor was a good pick. However, because this draft was so loaded with talent at the wide receiver position, I probably would have preferred the size/speed freak of nature in Jones here. The Eagles did eventually draft a corner with similar size-speed attributes in the second round in Eric Rowe, but they had to give up draft picks to move up to get him.
Mathews appeared at first to be the consolation prize to missing out on Gore, but the Eagles still signed him. The former first-round pick is a talented rusher who has twice topped 1,000 yards, but injuries have also been an ongoing issue. He had a career-low 330 yards last season while playing on six games. I wouldn’t count on him carrying the ball more than 220 times like he did in his 1,000-yard season (unless Murray gets injured), but he can find a sweet spot in the mid-100s. He averages 4.4 yards per carry through his career, and could find himself in that 500-600-yard area.
We’ll look at the depth chart on defense.