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Rob Gronkowski and The Phenom Index for Tight Ends
Image via WBUR/Flickr
Image via WBUR/FlickrT

Last week I introduced the Phenom Index for wide receivers and the response was tremendous.  Many of you asked whether or not this could be applied to the Tight End position and the answer is most certainly yes, but with a twist.

If you need a refresher on the Phenom Index in action, the metric is a way to adjust production by a player’s age.  Considering that NFL Draft prospects range from age 20 to 23 in their final college season, we need a way to view their production through an age-neutral lens, which is what the PI does.

Let’s see how this works for Tight Ends.

The TE Phenom Index and NFL Success

I studied more than 200 TEs from 2006 through 2013–both drafted and undrafted–and tested the PI against Fantasy Points per Game through their first 1, 2, 3 and 4 seasons respectively.  The table below represents how much of their variance can be predicted based on the Phenom Index alone and their PI plus draft position.  After all, draft position is an incredibly significant variable in any model in which it appears.

Fantasy P/G Horizon# Players"Without Draft" Correlation (r^2)"With Draft" Correlation (r^2)
First Season20814.8%26.6%
First 2 Seasons17817.0%34.0%
First 3 Seasons15316.6%30.9%
First 4 Seasons12816.7%30.7%

While these results don’t quite match the astonishing wide receiver results, we can learn a lot from the Phenom Index when it comes to TEs.  If you knew nothing else other than PI and draft position (not 40 time, injury history, explosion, strength, ANYTHING)  you could account for 34% of the variance in a players early career success.  The model only get better when physical measures are added.

(Say hello to Weight Adjusted Agility for Tight Ends!)

An Important Modification to Note*

As previously explained, the Phenom Index for receivers is calculated by taking a player’s final season Dominator Rating, indexing it, and then dividing by their age index.  Voila!

For tight ends, the equation is slightly different; you look at the average of their final TWO seasons Dominator Rating, index that, and then divide by the age index.  It’s not a big difference, but it is a difference.

Note that for both receivers and tight ends, I tests both “final season phenom index” and “final two seasons phenom index”.  It worked out that final season was consistently more useful for receivers while final two seasons was more consistently useful for tight ends.

Show Me The Goods!

I know, you want to see how everyone scores.  As a reminder, 1 is an average score.  To establish a baseline, here were the averages of the two stats that go into the Phenom Index.  Notes about players are below the chart.

Average Final Two Seasons DR: 16.32%

Average Final Season Age: 22.6

TE Phenom Index 2006-2014

TEDraftF AgeF DRF2DRTE Phenom Index
Rob Gronkowski201019.70.480.3296.421
Ladarius Green201220.60.2590.3393.446
Aaron Hernandez201020.20.2530.2063.199
Orson Charles201219.90.1660.1423.042
Martellus Bennett200820.80.2810.2482.463
Austin Seferian Jenkins201421.30.2470.2932.277
Eric Ebron201420.70.1880.1922.167
Vernon Davis200621.90.3590.3231.936
Michael Egnew201221.20.1520.2081.87
Jermaine Gresham201021.50.2340.2321.791
Dwayne Allen201220.80.1960.1531.782
Gavin Escobar201321.90.2620.281.75
Kyle Rudolph201121.10.2320.1811.729
Marcedes Lewis200621.60.2610.2351.706
Jermichael Finley200820.80.1320.131.691
Samuel Smith200721.60.3290.2311.684
Dorin Dickerson201021.80.3140.2371.637
Jace Amaro201421.50.2320.1971.577
Scott Chandler200721.40.2380.1851.557
Travis Beckum200921.90.1190.2381.551
John Phillips200921.60.190.1891.513
Levine Toilolo201321.40.1750.1691.482
Philip Lutzenkirchen201321.60.0720.1851.477
Jordan Reed201322.10.2620.2361.471
Garrett Graham201023.40.3310.371.456
Tyler Eifert201322.30.2610.2511.448
Ed Dickson201022.40.3050.2661.446
Darrell Strong200821.60.2130.1781.429
Zach Ertz201322.10.3180.231.421
Cameron Graham201121.90.2070.21.396
Andrew Quarless201021.20.1470.1321.385
Greg Estandia200623.10.3510.3161.381
Ryan Griffin2013230.3880.2981.37
Chase Coffman200922.10.2620.2151.361
Kory Sperry200923.70.2340.3611.338
Zack Pianalto201121.60.1490.1551.323
Brandon Barden201221.80.10.1741.322
Fred Davis2008220.2720.1871.314
Joseph Fauria2013230.2870.2781.305
Brent Celek200721.90.1780.181.294
Chad Upshaw200722.50.1540.2331.291
Jared Cook200921.70.1740.161.286
Troy Niklas201421.30.1680.1181.281
Greg Olsen200721.80.1440.1651.279
Dion Sims201321.90.2060.1681.268
Joe Klopfenstein200622.10.2140.1931.267
Michael Palmer2010220.20.1731.255
CJ Fiedorowicz201422.20.2160.1921.246
Rob Blanchflower201423.60.4020.3131.243
Coby Fleener201222.30.2240.1991.242
Vance McDonald201322.60.1640.2231.242
David Paulson201221.90.1790.1611.241
Colt Lyerla201421.10.0220.0961.236
Bear Pascoe200922.90.2210.2451.227
Tony Scheffler200622.90.2740.2461.224
Xavier Grimble201421.30.110.1081.207
Tom Santi200822.10.2180.1751.205
Ryan Otten201322.70.1430.2251.193
Cameron Morrah200921.80.2260.1451.192
Clark Harris200722.50.1980.2011.185
Darius Hill200923.30.2220.2651.157
Virgil Green201122.40.1950.1881.156
Dedrick Epps201021.50.1120.1151.151
Evan Moore2008230.1370.2341.15
Lance Kendricks201122.90.2830.2271.147
James Hanna201221.50.0760.1081.147
Weslye Saunders2011220.1650.1441.129
Gary Barnidge200822.30.180.1691.126
Martrez Milner200722.40.2560.1771.117
Kellen Davis200822.20.2330.1591.1
Devin Frischknecht200922.20.1680.1521.095
Kevin Koger201222.10.1560.1441.092
Rob Housler201122.80.2430.2011.092
Zach Miller200722.20.1810.1581.091
Jeff Cumberland201022.70.1650.191.087
David Thomas200622.50.1960.1761.086
Leonard Pope200622.30.180.1621.085
Martin Rucker200822.70.2120.1851.073
Jake Stoneburner201323.40.1840.2351.063
Shawn Nelson200923.20.1610.2261.062
Branden Ledbetter200922.80.1620.1951.062
Jack Doyle201322.70.210.1821.06
Chris Gragg201322.50.2340.1691.058
Luke Willson2013230.1740.2021.053
Joe Newton200723.20.2440.2191.047
Crockett Gillmore201422.10.1190.1371.041
Tyson DeVree200823.10.2730.211.036
Travis Kelce201323.20.2760.211.011
Tony Moeaki201022.60.2110.1611.009
Nick Kasa201322.20.2430.1291.001
Jeron Mastrud2010220.1290.1210.999
Richard Rodgers201421.90.1090.1110.987
Anthony Fasano200621.70.1040.0940.986
Dustin Keller200823.30.2270.2030.984
Quinn Sypniewski200623.70.260.2340.984
Brandon Myers200923.30.2180.2070.983
Matt Spaeth200723.10.2190.1910.982
Collin Franklin201122.40.2340.1430.972
Jonny Harline200724.20.2930.250.945
Carson Butler200921.40.0170.060.934
Mychal Rivera201322.30.1460.1230.93
Michael Hoomanawanui201021.50.0340.0670.925
Andre Smith201122.30.1730.1170.922
Anthony McCoy201022.10.1470.1030.921
DJ Williams201122.30.1280.1190.919
Nate Byham201021.50.0350.0670.918
Luke Stocker201122.50.1010.1280.916
Mike McNeill201122.80.1240.1510.912
Davon Drew200923.10.2330.1660.909
Nick Provo201223.20.250.1770.907
Alex Bayer201423.10.1530.1650.889
John Carlson200823.60.2180.1950.886
Jacob Tamme200822.80.1580.1370.87
Kevin Brock200922.70.1160.1330.868
Jake Murphy201424.30.2510.2260.863
Adrien Robinson201222.30.1410.1030.862
Colin Peek201023.60.1940.1750.839
Dennis Pitta201024.50.2290.2240.822
Brett Brackett2011230.2190.1370.819
Ryan Taylor201122.30.1040.0930.808
George Bryan201222.60.1160.110.805
TJ Williams200623.30.1610.1450.801
Lee Smith201123.10.1370.1340.798
Charles Davis200622.80.130.1170.798
Adam Bishop200823.10.1750.1310.797
Daniel Hardy201123.30.1270.1440.793
Dan Murray200723.40.0930.1470.79
Dante Rosario200722.20.0960.0790.785
Rhett Ellison201222.20.0460.0810.781
Darcy Johnson200622.90.1210.1090.756
Cornelius Ingram200923.60.2040.1450.754
Ted Bolser201423.20.1270.1240.752
Justice Cunningham201322.10.0640.0640.746
Jake Nordin200722.50.0820.0830.739
Charlie Gantt2011230.1340.110.737
Joey Haynos200823.30.0690.1250.729
Arthur Lynch201423.50.1520.1320.72
Anthony Hill2009240.1990.1540.717
Matt Furstenburg201323.50.1170.130.714
Ryan Purvis200922.60.0430.0840.712
Derek Fine200824.40.1080.1680.705
Michael Williams201323.10.0940.1040.705
Zach Sudfeld201323.70.2610.1340.7
Daniel Coats200722.70.070.0810.691
Beau Reliford201222.20.0250.0520.684
Jameson Konz201023.50.140.1150.675
Brandon Pettigrew200923.90.0990.1310.672
Josh Chichester201224.30.1240.1520.671
Dominique Byrd200621.90.040.0360.667
Anthony Pudewell200723.70.1270.1170.649
Brad Taylor201123.20.0870.0870.629
Cody Boyd200723.20.1370.0850.628
Craig Stevens200823.30.1040.0850.61
Deangelo Peterson2012230.0720.0660.596
Kris Kasparek200823.10.1150.0720.595
Marcel Jensen201423.90.0770.0920.561
Dan Gronkowski200923.90.1530.0940.56
Kyle Adams201122.90.0670.0540.56
Logan Paulsen201022.80.0630.0490.556
Brad Cottam200823.10.0760.0560.547
Jordan Najvar2014230.0170.0440.523
Lucas Reed201323.90.0650.060.47
DC Jefferson201323.70.0620.0480.463
Brian Linthicum201224.10.0510.0570.447
Bristol Olomua200624.60.0570.0510.393

If you want to do your own TE research, use the Career Graph app to find Dominator Ratings (average of MSyds and MStd)

Notes and Implications for 2014

Remember when the Patriots drafted both Rob Gronkowski (2nd) and Aaron Hernandez (4th) in the 2010 draft and within two years  everyone was saying that the dual-threat TE system was revolutionizing the game?  Not only was the system brilliant, but the talents were extraordinary, so no wonder it went through the roof.

Paging Ladarius Green…

I’m wondering aloud if Gavin Escobar isn’t a sneaky dynasty stash.  He was quiet in 2013, but useful on the targets he did get.  Jason Witten has 11 NFL seasons in his rear view mirror.  Nothing against Tyler Eifert, who I think is a nice player and scored well too, but relative to Eifert’s price tag, Escobar is a really nice value play.

Orson Charles is the huge whiff on the top of this list.  I think being so young can sometimes “trick the system”.  I’ll acknowledge there is more work to be done, but I still think the Phenom Index has significant value.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins isn’t quite Gronk, but, as James Todd pointed out, he’s not far off.  The pre-draft injury questions marks make the comparison even more similar and create the possibility that ASJ could slide to RD2.  That would be a huge mistake.

Boy Wonder Eric Ebron, while never as dominant as ASJ, looks like he will be the first TE drafted this year, and rightfully so.  If you’re a fan of a team drafting in the top 15, I think it is realistic–and absolutely incredible–to imagine your team taking Ebron in RD1 and ASJ in RD2.  (Paging the New York Giants)

Third-wheel Jace Amaro is an excellent consolation option in this class and is clearly ahead of 2013’s best options Eifert and Ertz, proving that the depth of the 2014 class is very real.

Find Troy Niklas.  He is the fourth or fifth TE in this class, depending on who you ask.  Personally, I’m a little concerned about his weight adjusted agility.  He appears between a former first round TE (Greg Olsen) and a trendy 2nd year, undrafted TE (Joseph Fauria).  I think that bodes well for his prospects, regardless of where he is drafted, but also points out a massive market inefficiency in the NFL Draft.  How could Joseph Fauria be in a cohort with Fred Davis, Greg Olsen, Brent Celek and Jared Cook…and go undrafted.  I definitely think the Phenom Index helps you see through the clutter.

Jon Moore is a coach at RotoAcademy and creator of The College Football Experiment.  Continue this conversation with him on Twitter or Google+.

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