Tonight, No. 11 Florida State takes on No. 6 Michigan in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Michigan’s senior wide receiver, Amara Darboh, garnered a Senior Bowl invite. The 6-foot-2 inch, 215-pound WR hasn’t put up world-beating statistics, but what he has accomplished has been on a run-oriented offense. To better guauge Darboh’s NFL prospects, we’ll have to consider his market share numbers, age, and other factors.
Amara Darboh’s Production
Amara Darboh’s production numbers aren’t gaudy from a raw perspective, nor are they from a market share perspective. His 31.9 percent final season market share gives him a z-score of 0.55 according to Jon Moore’s Phenom Index calculations. In other words, his final year team-adjusted production is only 0.55 standard deviations above the average NFL prospect, including all the ones that were neither drafted nor played a down in the NFL.
What’s more, when we add in the TD production, it too isn’t exactly stand-out. The 37 percent final season number is more impressive than the yardage numbers, which gives hope that he could be at least a touchdown threat at the NFL level.
All told, the final season dominator rating of 0.34 puts him in the second to third round range as an NFL prospect. Even if Darboh is drafted in that range, I believe that could be too high.
Forecasting NFL Success
In the mold of Anthony Amico’s article on elite prospect Corey Davis, let’s look at Kevin Cole’s regression tree for NFL success.
Unfortunately for Darboh, he falls into the far left node with a career market share of only 0.26 and only 826 yards in his final year. That lumps him in with a cohort of 269 receivers in which only 2.6 percent had a top 24 fantasy season within their first three years in the NFL.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Since Darboh played on a rush-heavy team, if we give him credit for the second level node then he also hits on the third level node, putting him in a cohort with 50 percent success.1
In other words, there’s a wide range of outcomes for Darboh, but certainly a lot of downside to go with a potential second or third round valuation.
But There’s More…
A few other things have me concerned for Darboh’s fantasy prospects. First, he’ll be 23 in February, making him about 22.9 when the New Year rolls around, the point in time that Moore uses for Phenom Index. That’s 0.38 standard deviations older than the average prospect. Combined with his market share numbers, that would give Darboh a PI score of 0.17, barely above zero. As Moore puts it:
It’s pretty rare for a player to be below average in their final college season and then have NFL success. It’s happened a few times since 2004, but it’s rare.
In other words, Darboh’s PI score is only slightly better than a group of receivers that almost never have NFL success.
To put this in perspective, Darboh comps fairly well to DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was one inch smaller, one pound lighter, and had market share numbers of 0.29 (career yards), 0.34 (final year yards), and 0.45 (final season TDs) — all slightly better than Darboh. So why was Hopkins an elite talent? He did all this at 20.6 years of age, a full two years younger than Darboh, for a PI score of 2.86. Hopkins’ production also came on a stacked Clemson team that included Sammy Watkins, Jaron Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Andre Ellington. Darboh really only has TE prospect Jake Butt and fellow senior Jehu Chesson as legitimate competition for targets.
What’s more, the worst PI score to have a top 12 fantasy season was 0.67 in each of the last two years (Doug Baldwin and Emmanuel Sanders in 2015, and Sanders again in 2014).
Next, Darboh also doesn’t get the benefit of being involved in the return game, which of course isn’t expected for a player of his stature. This means no added boost to his profile.
Finally, according to film grinders such as NFL Media’s draft analyst Chad Reuter, Darboh does boast an impressive route tree and versatility. That’s something we can’t measure in metrics, yet, but at least the route running part of the equation reminds me of another player I overlooked in 2015, Sterling Shepard. I had Shepard rated poorly based on his size, age, and production metrics,2 but in this case the film grinders were accurate and Shepard has produced a respectable, but not remarkable, rookie season. It’ll be interesting to see if similar holds true for Darboh, who also has other benefits, like size and speed which should mitigate some of the downside concerns.
Amara Darboh will certainly be drafted, and should be considered a top 10 rookie prospect. However, I hesitate to put him inside the top five barring an impressive combine and a lot of drool from the film grinder segment of prospect evaluation. He has too many things going against him, including his age, lack of elite production, and zero return ability. His size, speed, and route running prowess could prove as mitigating factors, but overall I rate him like a (possibly quite) poor man’s DeAndre Hopkins with potential TD upside. I don’t think he becomes anything more than a team’s second receiver, and a low-end one at that.