Apparently the New England Patriots were interested in former BYU standout Harvey Unga- interested enough to go to his workout. Unga withdrew from BYU for violating their honor code, which is why he missed the actual NFL Draft. However, Unga withdrew at the same time as his fiance. BYU has a strict code about pre-martial "heavy petting" so I'm connecting the dots and figuring out why he withdrew. I'm not saying that's why, but looking at the evidence at hand, I have to conclude that's the reason (also, the fact that she had a child last week. Just sayin'.). So it's not like he left school because he's a trouble maker- he was excused because he loved a woman and is about to marry her as early as next week (according to WEEI's Chris Price). Oh, and he was the one who voluntarily excused himself due to violation of the code- he wasn't caught. He came clean and admitted it himself.
So is Unga worth a look? First, what is he worth? Secondly, what it most likely take to get him?
More on Unga after the jump!
In his three years of really playing college football, Unga produced some extremely good numbers. He was his conference freshman of the year in 2007. In three straight seasons, Unga gained over 1,000 yards and scored over 10 touchdowns. He's averaged around 5.0 yards/carry (4.964 y/c) his college career. While it's true that his total yardage dropped over the course of his time at BYU, that could easily be attributed to opposing defenses committing more to slowing him- and a career best 5.2 yards/carry as a senior means that Unga wasn't slowed. Unga missed the first game of the season with a hamstring issue, which means that he received fewer carries than in his previous two seasons.
His success as a running back didn't just come at the expense of weak teams. Against college power houses like Florida State, TCU and Utah, Unga managed to convert 54 carries into 336 yards and 2 TDs- that's a 6.2 yards/carry average. So Unga can absolutely run with the big players- and coming in at 6'0 and 237 pounds, he should be able to run the big players over as well.
Unga isn't just limited to running the ball. He's definitely capable of receiving the ball, taking 44 receptions for 655 yards as a freshman and 42 receptions for 309 yards as a sophomore. He's a multi-talented threat who has talent to impact any type of offense- but maybe he's an even better fit for a passing offense.
So how does Unga stack up to the running backs who were eligible for the 2010 Draft? He certainly didn't put up Toby Gerhart or Ryan Williams numbers (although he DID have around 100 fewer carries than each of them). His workout numbers (4.63 40) didn't make him a can't-miss type of player. The guys over at Football Outsiders have a method of gauging a college running back's potential success in the NFL called a "Speed Score." This score is based purely off combine numbers (combining a player's weight and 40 time) and not on-field production so workout warriors are at an advantage. Despite the lack of on-field proof in the score, it remains a pretty solid judge of who has a higher chance of success.
I calculated Unga's score to be 103.15. With 100 being the average player, Unga comes out at "slightly above average." He's not earth shattering (Chris Johnson came in at over 120), but his Speed Score means that he should be a solid NFL player. The top 6 Speed Score players were all taken within the first two rounds, and all 6 scored over 107.5. So where does Unga's 103.15 place him? 8th, according to Post #11 in the comment section. Right above New York Jets' 4th round pick RB Joe McKnight- and Unga had a much statistically better college career than McKnight.
So looking at the rounds the players around Unga were drafted, it appears that he's worth between a 4th and 6th round pick. But how does that translate into the Supplemental Draft?
The Supplemental Draft works by having teams bid on a player. For instance, if the Patriots believe that Unga is worth a 6th round pick, but the New Orleans Saints believe that Unga is worth a 5th round pick, the Saints would win the bid and would be given Unga. The flip side is that the Saints would be forced to give up their 2011 5th round pick in order to acquire Unga- making Unga essentially their 5th round pick. Teams with worse records from the previous season are given the tiebreaker, should teams offer the same pick.
But what will Unga cost? Looking at recent Supplemental Drafts, the top player is usually taken for around a 4th round pick and I'm pretty sure that Unga will go for at least a 5th round pick, if not a 4th. With 26 teams apparently interested enough in Unga to either see his workout or request tapes, I'm sure a team will offer a 5th. Will the Patriots?
I don't think they will. The Patriots enjoy keeping their draft picks for the next season as bargaining chips to move up and down the draft board. With the Patriots having Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis all on contract for this upcoming season, I have a hard time believing that the Patriots would add another back to their arsenal. Should Unga magically slip through the Supplemental Draft and end up as an Undrafted Free Agent, I can absolutely see the Patriots bringing him in for a look. However, looking at the Patriots current roster, I don't see a spot for 5 running backs on the team, never mind a 6th in Unga.
Unga will most likely go on to be a successful #2 back somewhere else, but wherever he ends up in the NFL, I don't think it will be with the Patriots.