Projecting the rookies: WhatIfSports takes it on

I'm curious how many folks have heard of whatifsports.com?  It's a rather comprehensive site that does a combination of projections and fantasy sports.  Doing a fantasy league with all-time players can be oh so addictive.  I highly recommend it if you have some free time....or even if you don't.

Anyways, I noticed a post at Mike Sando's ESPN blog last night that mentioned something rather interesting and I wanted to get people's thoughts on it.  The folks at WhatIfSports put together an annual NFL preview that includes stat projections for every single player.  Not so surprisingly, the hardest projections are for rookies.  As they put it:

To come up with statistical inputs for rookies, we run a very complex set of algorithms that factors collegiate performance, role in college, strength of collegiate competition, "measurables," likely NFL role, previous performance of a similar player in that NFL role for this coaching staff and trends of similar rookies in the past. This gives us the player's projected ratio stats (expected yards per carry, completion percentage, etc.), as well as his forecasted usage for the upcoming season. From there, we can compare all rookies based on who we think will make the biggest positive impact for his new NFL team in his first year.

The results?  Well, they came up with a ranking of the top 100 rookies.  For the 49ers, Scot McKillop finished #62, one spot ahead of offensive lineman Michael Oher.  I'm not quite sure how much an impact McKillop will have as a rookie.  He'll get a lot of special teams playing time, but I'm curious how much he'll be on the field the rest of the game.  If Spikes stays healthy, who knows...

More importantly for now though, the #1 rookie in terms of positive impact was our very own Michael Crabtree (and yes it still sounds good saying that):

Unlike last season, when three players eclipsed the mark, there are no 1,000-yard rushers or receivers projected from this group of rookies. Crabtree is the closest thing and it really would not be a surprise to see him do it. He gets great marks across the board from college performance, to NFL opportunity, to "measurables" and even a successful player (Issac Bruce) in this role last season. The only concerns with this projection would be inconsistency at quarterback – Shaun Hill, Damon Huard, Alex Smith and Nate Davis are the options – and recent injuries to his feet and ankles.

The remaining top 10 were:

2. Matthew Stafford, QB
3. Mark Sanchez, QB
4. Percy Harvin, WR
5. Aaron Curry, LB
6. Jason Smith, OT
7. Andre Smith, OT
8. Kenny Britt, WR
9. Hakeem Nicks, WR
10. Louis Delmas, S

Thoughts on the rankings?  In the case of Stafford, when a team goes 0-16 I'd imagine there really is nowhere to go but up.  I remain skeptical about Mark Sanchez, but maybe WhatIfSports has a better idea of this than me.  I was intrigued to see Jeremy Maclin ranked 24th overall and behind Heyward-Bey, Nicks, Britt and Harvin.  So, any thoughts on whether some folks are over or under-rated?

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