The Minnesota Vikings have employed data scientist Jared Lander in the past, and this year Lander is high on Laquon Treadwell.
As we sift every report looking for clues about what the Vikings might do with the #23 overall pick, it’s worth noting this particular Wall Street Journal story about data scientist Jared Lander and his analytics-based assessments of this year’s prospects.
Lander is a professor at Columbia and is called by the piece “a rising star of data science.” His method involves running “variables thousands of times through an ensemble of machine-learning algorithms.” In other words, this guy’s incredibly smart and he knows his numbers.
There are lots of analytics people out there, but why are Lander’s findings particularly worth noting? Well, because Lander’s work last year was used by the Vikings to help them make their selections.
Lander worked in conjunction with Minnesota’s scouting department to crunch data on prospects. The Wall Street Journal quotes Vikings GM Rick Spielman talking about Lander’s contributions:
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"“I was always curious about what we could do with all the data we have on players,” said Spielman. “Could we spin it in a way that would help us predict how a guy would play at the NFL level?”"
Spielman was happy with the results to say the least:
"“In terms of analytics,” Spielman said, “Jared took us from first grade to college.”"
But what does Lander say about this year’s prospects, and can we glean any possible info about the Vikings’ plans from his findings?
The same WSJ story contains some predictions from Lander about various players. Lander lists ten can’t-miss first-round prospects and one of them is a wide receiver.
And that receiver is not Josh Doctson. It’s Laquon Treadwell.
The piece doesn’t go into specifics about why Lander lists Treadwell and not any of the other receivers, but it does mention Treadwell’s height and wing-span, calling him a “prototypical red-zone receiver.”
Lander lists a lot of obvious names as can’t-miss, including Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott and Laremy Tunsil. Interestingly, he also has Ohio State LB Darron Lee as “can’t-miss.”
According to Lander, some big-name prospects to stay away from are QB Jared Goff, DT A’Shawn Robinson, DT Robert Nkemdiche and DT Jarran Reed.
From a Vikings point-of-view, the findings on Treadwell are most intriguing. Recent reports have suggested the Vikings are leaning toward Josh Doctson with the #23 pick, but Treadwell certainly is not out of the picture.
Now it needs to be pointed out that Lander this year is not working directly with the Vikings. However, the Vikings say they will continue using the principles they learned from Lander to help make their selections.
None of this absolutely rules out Josh Doctson as the Vikings’ pick, nor does it guarantee that they will get Treadwell if he’s available. It is however pretty intriguing information.