2017 Consensus Big Boards: Who Are the Most Polarizing Players in the Draft?

One of the most interesting types of analysis that comes out of gathering multiple big boards is to see which players people disagree on. We already know that there are different approaches that analysts take to ranking players, and the biggest ones are represented by the differences between the evaluator boards and forecaster boards.

In the past, player polarity came from the same sources of uncertainty that caused differences in evaluator vs. forecaster boards: school size, injury concerns and off-field character flags. That holds true today, too.

The fact that there are a different set of players implies that some of the differences in evaluation came from information imbalance—the players who appeared in the previous article were evaluated uniformly but were dropped by forecasters because of information the forecasters had that they have not shared.

In 2014, the most polarizing players (Jeff Matthews, Mike Evans, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Marcus Smith, Calvin Pryor, Laurent Duverney-Tardif, Zach Kerr, Yawin Smallwood, Michael Campanaro and Anthony Barr) were generally a good and underdrafted group.

The 2015 group of polarized players (Todd Gurley, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jameis Winston, DeAndre Smelter, Randy Gregory, Eric Rowe, Frank Clark, Ellis McCarthy, Danny Shelton and Shane Ray) produced a more mixed bag, with some clear failures (like Dorial Green-Beckham), clear successes (like Danny Shelton) and players whose talent is still to-be-determined (like Todd Gurley).

And in 2016, we saw a number of players that are impossible to judge yet. Jaylon Smith can now lift his toes, and it will be exciting to see if Corey Coleman can produce a bigger year with a better quarterback. Jonathan Bullard had a down rookie year, but there’s reason to believe he’ll improve. Time will tell with Robert Nkemdiche, but there’s generally a feeling of pessimism surrounding him. Keanu Neal and Chris Jones are quite good, and I think the jury is out on Carson Wentz.

And if people agree that a player should be ranked highly? In 2014, that was a massive sign of success. They included Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, Jake Matthews and Jadeveon Clowney. Even the players ranked 20-40 generally worked out; players like Bradley Roby, Brandin Cooks and Allen Robinson.

That same group of agreed-upon players in 2015 didn’t turn out. Devin Smith, Kevin White, Laken Tomlinson and Owa Odighizuwa still have yet to perform for their teams at a high level. The lower-level players in this group generally outperformed their draft status, however, which is the opposite of what you’d expect. Jamison Crowder, Jake Ryan, Tyler Lockett and David Johnson provide a solid corps of overperformers that bring up the average.

I’m not sure we can draw many conclusions at this point for what it means for a player to be polarizing, except that quarterbacks are almost always going to draw big differences in opinion. I think the general understanding of a polarizing player as being high-ceiling, low-floor might be true, however.

The polarizing players that have hit have performed well above expectation. Some of them have varied wildly from season to season (like Anthony Barr or Todd Gurley). A lot of those polarizing players were cut pretty quickly, too—Dorial Green-Beckham, Eric Rowe and DeAndre Smelter (though Smelter made it back onto the team from the practice squad).

Who are the most polarizing players in the draft?

Rank Player School Position Polarity Score
4 Jonathan Allen Alabama DL5T 39.4
176 Blair Brown Ohio OLB 34.6
46 Joe Mixon Oklahoma RB 30.1
187 Ejuan Price Pittsburgh ER 29.0
170 Conor McDermott UCLA OT 27.7
95 ArDarius Stewart Alabama WRS 27.5
120 Jamaal Williams Brigham Young RB 25.7
174 Joe Mathis Washington ER 25.3
147 Shaquill Griffin UCF CB 24.8
85 Jourdan Lewis Michigan NCB 20.5
153 Davon Godchaux LSU DL5T 19.9
14 Derek Barnett Tennessee ER 19.0
29 Jabrill Peppers Michigan S 18.7
50 Derek Rivers Youngstown ER 18.7
31 Patrick Mahomes II Texas Tech QB 18.4
195 Brendan Langley Lamar (TX) CB 18.1
44 Tim Williams Alabama ER 17.4
2 Solomon Thomas Stanford ER 17.3
75 Marcus Maye Florida S 17.3
175 Lorenzo Jerome Saint Francis (PA) S 17.3
18 John Ross Washington WRF 17.2

There’s a quarterback (Mahomes), a few small-school players (Brown, Griffin, Rivers, Langley and Jerome), injury worries (Joe Mathis), off-field concerns (Mixon, Lewis and Godchaux), tweeners (Allen, Price, Peppers and Thomas) and unique athletic profiles (McDermott, Barnett and Williams).

That leaves ArDarius Stewart, Jamaal Williams, Marcus Maye and Jon Ross. My intuition is that three of those players (Stewart, Williams and Ross) represent a specific, one-dimensional role of a player to most evaluators, and they value that role differently. I’m not sure about Maye, except to say that this kind of thing sometimes happens without a clear, unifying reason.

Oh, and the players people most agreed on?

Rank Player School Position Polarity Score
1 Myles Garrett Texas A&M ER 0.0
134 Jeremy McNichols Boise State RB 2.5
171 Marquez White Florida State CB 3.1
165 Corey Clement Wisconsin RB 3.1
135 James Conner Pittsburgh RB 3.2
57 Alvin Kamara Tennessee RB 3.2
129 Kendell Beckwith LSU ILB 3.4
7 Reuben Foster Alabama ILB 3.5
105 Jordan Leggett Clemson TE 3.9
6 Marshon Lattimore Ohio State CB 3.9
148 Julie’n Davenport Bucknell OT 4.3
156 Michael Roberts Toledo TE 4.3
161 Tanzel Smart Tulane DL3T 4.5
111 Tanoh Kpassagnon Villanova ER 4.6
40 Quincy Wilson Florida CB 4.6
37 Jarrad Davis Florida ILB 4.7
180 Josh Carraway TCU ER 4.8
102 Chad Hansen California WRF 5.0
127 Corn Elder Miami (Fla.) NCB 5.0

That’s an odd group. For the most part, I think agreements need less explanation than disagreements, but it’s worth focusing on one specific player: Reuben Foster.

He was one of the biggest disagreements when comparing the evaluator and forecaster boards but one of the biggest agreements here. Something worth pointing out is that Foster ended up sixth on the evaluator board not because he was ranked sixth by most boards, but that there were only five players consistently ranked above him.

In other words, if he was ranked eighth on one board, only five of the players ranked above him were ranked above him on another board. That means that he can universally be considered the 10th-best player, but with only five players universally ranked above him, the 10 or 15 players that are only sometimes ranked above him drop down.

In this case, Foster was universally ranked eighth or ninth by a good number of boards. Those boards disagreed about which seven or eight players they thought were better, but they all agreed that regardless of those other circumstances, he was just inside of the top 10.

Other than that, there are a surprising number of small-schoolers (Kpassagnon, McNichols, Smart and Davenport) but otherwise, players who are generally considered easy evaluations.

Take these results how you will. Even as a bit of trivia, it’s fascinating.

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