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Thursday, February 10, 2005
How we analyze prospects
So many times throughout the years, we have seen high draft picks end up in the junk pile a couple years later (Leaf, Reynolds, Emtman, Couch, Dupree, etc., the list goes on and on) and for whatever reason, never making an impact in the NFL. At the same time, we so often see low picks (or undrafted FAs) end up making a huge impact and having long productive careers at a variety of positions (see Brady, Tauscher, Starr, Terrell Davis, KGB, etc). It gets some of us to thinking...
Sometimes, a serious injury is the reason a career is derailed before it can start. (Gary Berry and Vince Clark as Packer DBs come to mind). While injuries might account for a significant percentage of early-round busts, for the purpose of this thread, let's ignore them. There seem to be several basic reasons we can focus on.
PHYSICAL ISSUES- It could be that, despite all the poking and prodding and combine testing, a player's physical attributes and skills don't match what scouts and personnel managers thought they were (think: Rich Campbell's arm). With such a scientific focus on testing results and data, this possibility seems like it is probably a rare occurrence.
LACK OF INTELLIGENCE - Some football positions, especially quarterback, middle linebacker, safety, offensive line, do require a reasonable level of basic intelligence. Certainly, the Wonderlic, that marvel of modern educational science, can serve to identify players who lack smarts, but scouts and coaches often put little stock on these results, saying a player has "game smarts" or "football intelligence." I recently read on another board that the NE Patriots have the highest number of college graduates on their roster of any team in the NFL. Makes me say "hmmm..."
CHARACTER - Teams certainly downgrade players who have been disciplined by their college team, or had brushes with the law. This kind of stuff is pretty high up on the radar for a lot of teams, so it is a fairly minor factor (in terms of frequency of occurrence) in why a player ultimately fails in the NFL. The Vikings have finally realized that they will never win a championship with Randy Moss, in spite of all his talent, because he's basically a self-centered jerk.
DESIRE & HEART - This is the hardest one to put your finger on, the hardest one to measure or test for, but to me it might be the single most important factor in a player's (and a team's) success or failure in the nfl. How do you detect or measure the inner drive that will make a good player into a great one, or a great player into a hall of famer? How do you find players that will infect a whole team with the desire to be the absolute best they can be?
I know, the main things in player scouting are still height, weight, 40 time, athleticism and that stuff, and that's not going to change, nor should it. But I've still got to think that a prospect's intelligence, character and desire to succeed carry more importance as factors in team success than some (the Packers?) are currently placing on them. The problem is that you have to be very close to a player's situation to really know much about this sort of thing. Still, smart teams and good organizations are really starting to change the way they do business in this area.