A quick note on Davis Tull, the outlier

Davis Tull and Vic Beasley both performed very, very well at the NFL Combine in February. While Beasley’s freak show fueled top-5 talk, we still aren’t entirely sure what to make of Tull. A defensive end with a 1.52 10-split, 42.5″ vertical, and 11′ broad jump just sounds like a high draft pick. But those numbers from a player who competed in the Southern Conference and whose arms measured in at 31-1/4″? There’s a lot more to unpack there.

Tull recently described himself as a late-bloomer, which meant that he wasn’t recruited by elite college programs out of high school. A broken leg during his senior year led him to end up a Chattanooga Moc, where he three-peated as the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year. Even with the production at UTC, he wasn’t well-known before he blew up Indianapolis. Well, a few people had an inkling, but he was largely anonymous.

(I am shameless. Sorry, gang.)

I don’t have a clear answer for what to make of Davis Tull, mainly because we haven’t seen a Davis Tull before. His arm length of 31-1/4″ is extremely short for the position, existing in a range for which we have almost no data. Is it possible for an EDGE player to succeed with an arm length more typical of a running back than a pass rushers?

The arm length concern isn’t completely unheard of in the NFL, with both Matt Roth (30-7/8″ arm length) and Rob Ninkovich (31-1/2″) representing successful pass rushers with limited wingspan. Still, only six EDGE players have even been drafted since 1999 with an arm length less than 31-3/4″, as shown in the following table.


We can see pretty clearly that there’s no Davis Tull on that list, with the top player maxing out at a 0.9 z-score. This is really the problem; it’s tough to make smart predictions about players who fall so far outside of the typical distribution. Data analysis relies upon identifying trends and exploiting them to find value, but there’s no trend with a Davis Tull. He’s the rarest of prospects, the kind that’s unique in my 17-year prospect database.

Davis Tull has the second-highest pSPARQ of any EDGE player from 1999 to present. This isn’t just another good athlete from a small school; Tull is Combine Godzilla, ready to wreck buildings and offensive linemen with equal aplomb and impossibly short arms.

In Ninkovich and Roth, we have at least enough data to suggest that the “can’t have short arms” hypothesis might be flawed. Tull is a great, very-great, super-great athlete, the kind of rare athlete for whom we bend the rules. And even in the case that he ends up unable to make an impact as a pass rusher, he has the athleticism to play SAM linebacker in a base defense, a la Bruce Irvin for the Seahawks.

There’s trepidation about the arm length, small school pedigree, and bum shoulder, all of which are pretty terrifying. Tull is projected as a third-round prospect and would probably be projected in the first round without the questions about his health, pedigree, and frame. While all three of those issues have been overcome before, but this is a case where three negative indicators are stacked on top of each other. He’s in the discount bin for a reason, and it’s not entirely unreasonable.

Even knowing all of that, I find myself hoping that Tull ends up playing for my Seattle Seahawks. Damn the torpedoes; bring me Combine Godzilla.


9 thoughts on “A quick note on Davis Tull, the outlier

  1. sidney

    One of the other potential problems with Tull, is that we still don’t have any official results for his short shuttle and 3 cone drills. When a player like Tull avoids doing these drills because of a ‘sore hamstring’, I tend to suspect that they are avoiding something that they believe they will do poorly at. While lower body explosiveness and power are great things, it can be somewhat negated by being stiff as a board, especially if you are as small as Tull. Still, he is an interesting prospect.


      1. sidney

        Yeah, I know you have entered the data for his SS and 3C, I’m just trying to suggest that you might want to double check that information. I believe you got your data from Tony, correct? I raised the same issue with him, that confirmed data for these drills didn’t seem to be available anywhere else, which seemed unusual, and a reason to be concerned about its accuracy.


  2. jj

    Zach, it seems I’m missing something here. I wonder why in these articles about individual players you don’t list them in the table with their comparison players so we can see their SPARQ and z-scores at the same time.


  3. sspeidel

    I notice that Davis Tull is almost 24 years old, and so more physically mature than, say, Danielle Hunter of LSU, who’s not only quite a bit longer at 34 1/4, but very similar in combine numbers except vertical jump and three years younger.
    Would we expect an athlete to gain “thigh twitchiness” in three years or is that fixed?
    I believe that although you often hear “ya can’t coach speed”, at 20 you can train up a lot of physical ability.


      1. sspeidel

        So, Beasley went at number 8 to Atlanta (to Pete’s protege), Hunter in the third to Minny, and Godzilla to the Saints in the fifth. All of them athletically fantastic, and so few places on the 32 teams, most of them stacked already. The NFL really is a supremely competitive environment.
        Why did my seahawks go for Frank Clark in the second? I now believe that Pete and John had him fully vetted: I don’t believe he is a woman beater. In fact, despite what some perceive as the weakness of his public “mea culpa”, PC and JS must have public seen something in his character that made them think he’d flourish in Seattle. It can’t just be that his arms are three inches longer, can it?


  4. Pingback: Final Day of Draft Prospect Visits | The Steelers N'at

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