It’s time to look at Denver’s draft haul in 2018, starting with the anterior-dominant players. For context on anterior vs posterior NFL trends, please see part 1 of this series
Anterior Dominant Denver Draft Picks
Bradley Chubb– No pick in this draft is harder for me to grade than the pick of Bradley Chubb. Chubb shows superlative anterior efficiency- he is very quick, and shows a consistent ability to out-maneuver opposing linemen via first-step moves. Chubb also shows a mostly-developed medial posterior (core), along with good levels of lateral posterior efficiency (particularly given his size)- he is both quick and very strong on the outside (lateral) areas of his body. On film, he absolutely dominated his college opponents.
So why do I feel so conflicted about the pick? Chubb, if highly successful in the NFL, will be the first successful outside rusher I’ve studied to show relatively subpar levels of medial posterior efficiency. To my knowledge, every standout pass rusher, from Von Miller to Joey Bosa, shows very high levels of efficiency in the medial posterior areas. Bear in mind that muscles are strongest near the core, and that all movement originates from the spine. Medial efficiency always trumps lateral efficiency (in equal measures). And medial efficiency also allows for much greater subtlety of movement, with much less wasted motion. Put another way, is it more efficient to spin a top from the center, or from the rim?
The last time I saw such a disconnect between biomechanical trends and on-field results was when Deshaun Watson was tearing up the league in 2017. I had never seen a QB with such subpar posterior thoracic efficiency show such success. And as painful as it was to see that Watson tore his ACL, sanity was restored to biomechanical land that day- his throwing mechanic is simply unsustainable.
I’m not suggesting that I think Chubb will tear his ACL. However, I do see a lot of wasted motion and extra effort needed on a play-by-play basis. In college, his combination of quickness plus size/ strength was simply unstoppable. This may continue to be the case in the NFL- Chubb may just be a physical freak who is so quick for his size/ lateral-strength that he dominates the opposition, historical trends be damned. But to me, questions remain. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being a bit boom/ bust- when the matchup is right he may dominate. But against top pass-protectors, he may disappear. And given his extra motion/ effort, he may end up having injury issues (although I don’t see any obvious red flags for now).
Personally, I would’ve taken the reported trade-back offer from the Bills and drafted Vita Vea with the 12th overall pick- given his levels of medial posterior efficiency, I see Vea becoming an elite DT within a couple seasons. But I may very well be shown incorrect- Chubb may well be a physical freak who dominates olines years. Time will tell.
Courtland Sutton– Elway and company seem to have settled on a particular type of athlete for the early portion of this draft- anterior dominant players who show high levels of lateral posterior efficiency. And although I am quite unsure about the future of Bradley Chubb, I am unfortunately a lot more confident in my analysis of Sutton’s future prospects.
Sutton is a very large, very athletic WR. He shows good straight-ahead burst/ run-power, and soft hands. But given his lacking medial posterior efficiency, I have a very hard time seeing Sutton become a subtle or effective route-runner. Like spinning a top from the rim, it takes him extra effort, extra motion to make changes in direction. Likewise, because of his subpar medial posterior thoracic efficiency, he is unable to extend his arms to full length with full strength in his fingers. His catch radius is therefore somewhat small given his size, and combined with his route-running (which is likely to remain subpar), I have a hard time seeing him becoming an effective target on a regular basis. I’ve seen comparisons to Demaryius Thomas and Deandre Hopkins; however both of these players (and every other elite WR I’ve studied) show extremely high levels of medial efficiency. It is therefore hard for me to see Sutton finding long-term success at WR in the NFL.
Daesean Hamilton– shows very high levels of medial anterior efficiency. He is a subtle route runner, with excellent hands and good short-area quickness. His posterior efficiency is generally lacking- his strength and long-speed are both underwhelming. In particular his lateral posterior efficiency is noticeably subpar- this means that, despite subtle route-running, Hamilton does not generate much suddenness or strength to cuts in his routes. His blocking will also likely remain a liability. However, due to his excellent short-area quickness, subtle route-running, and sure hands, Hamilton appears to be the perfect candidate to fill Denver’s target void in the middle of the field. Although he may struggle breaking through physical press-man coverage, my guess is that Hamilton will become the primary slot WR right away, and become a very effective target on passing downs for years to come (particularly against off-man or zone coverage).
Josey Jewell– appears to be a very smart player who is rarely found out of position and is quick to adjust to changing on-field situations. He shows reasonably high levels of anterior efficiency (both medial and lateral), and is quick to knife through holes in the offensive blocking. However, his posterior efficiency (in all areas, medial and lateral) is noticeably subpar. Despite some decent short-area quickness, he is neither fast nor strong. And although he was effective when kept clean in college, he was also easily neutralized by quality blocking. If he is to be successful in the NFL, it will be due to his smarts and anticipation; he will likely always be a subpar athlete for the position.
Troy Fumagalli– presents an unusual biomechanical profile. He shows high levels of anterior thoracic efficiency (particularly medially), and also shows high levels of posterior medial efficiency (particularly for an anterior-dominant player). However, Fumagalli borrows extremely heavily from lateral areas towards medial ones, particularly in his posterior areas. In practical terms, Fumagalli appears to be an excellent blocker, who also shows soft hands. However, his borrowing is so heavy (particularly in his lumbar areas) that it is unlikely that he will become an above-average route runner. Fumagalli therefore seems to be an excellent candidate to become Denver’s in-line TE, who also has the ability to sneak out for the occasional reception in the flat/ seam. A plus blocker with soft hands and suspect route running.