Crunching the Numbers: The Analytics Behind the Ade Aruna Pick

Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings consistently draft athletic edge rushers. Those players don’t always have high-level production — Danielle Hunter is the prototypical example, but Stephen Weatherly and to some extent Ifeadi Odenigbo didn’t have extraordinary production — but they always beat the NFL average in either the three cone or broad jump.

The only players the Vikings have rostered at defensive end that didn’t beat the NFL average in both categories were free agents, either as undrafted rookies or reserve contracts — Jake Snyder, Denzell Perine, Zach Moore and Jake Snyder.

So, in that sense, Ade Aruna’s analytical profile isn’t too surprising; he’s created limited production but has exciting athletic tools.

In his final year, Aruna produced 3.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.0 sacks, a likely product of a switch to a 3-4 system. Historically, peak production has mattered more than final-year production — something we covered when talking about Jalyn Holmes.

Aruna’s final-year production of 10.0 tackles-for-loss and 5.0 sacks is not extraordinary either, and using his Pass Rush Productivity in 2016 (his best year) was not much better, giving him an overall pass rush production score worse than his drafted contemporaries. He does make up for it in run defense, where he’s a good chunk better than his peers but overall has a poor production record with three of four indicators — tackles-for-loss, sacks and pressure rate — pointing downward, while his stop rate on runs is the only thing buoying his score.

As for his athletic profile, there are reasons to celebrate and a few reasons to worry.

He clearly has size and length on his side, there’s little doubt about that. Despite his size, he put up phenomenal scores in the vertical leap, broad jump and 10-yard split — the explosion scores that matter when it comes to edge rusher athleticism. Unfortunately, his agility scores, including the all-important three-cone, are very poor.

That’s not a death-knell by any means; after all, he’s got quite a distance against the rest of the pack when it comes to overall athleticism. It just means that his approach as a rusher will have to be limited to the kinds of things he can accomplish, with less focus on refining techniques that attack the outside with speed and flexibility.

There are a number of great power rushers in the NFL without great three-cone times (Tamba Hali and Michael Johnson come to mind), but there are more athletes who succeed with fast times than without them.

Nevertheless, his positive athleticism score boosts his overall profile.

Unfortunately, as the oldest member of the Vikings draft class and one of the oldest edge defenders to enter the NFL, his entire composite score gets dragged down. Historically, age matters. There’s nothing that says old prospects will fail — Keyshawn Johnson, Russell Wilson, Kyle Long, Carson Palmer, Zach Martin, David Johnson and Ezekiel Ansah were all old rookies — but the data suggests that the older prospects who have succeeded were prospects whose production and athleticism, after discounting for age, were still top-notch.

So, Aruna’s otherwise average composite score (97.7) gets dragged down to 84.9 as a result.

The players with the highest analytical scores left in the draft were Zach Sieler (drafted 20 spots later) and undrafted free agents Ola Adeniyi and Jeff Holland. There weren’t too many left.

All analytic scores are meant to be read like an IQ chart, with 100 being average and every 15 points in either direction representing one large tier.



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Luke Inman contributed to this story. After a week of practice that saw starting corner Trae Waynes limited due to injury and then absent for personal reasons, […]

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