With the launch of the 2013 RSP, Sigmund Bloom suggested that I share a behind the scenes retelling of my thoughts and feelings about players – something that delves deeper than rankings and profiles of skills ad potential. A few days ago, I wrote about running backs. Today, it’s tight end – a position where three years from now I can imagine three players I had ranked in the wrong direction. It’s also a class where I could have justified making a good player look great (but didn’t).
The 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio is now available for download. One of my favorite things about this time of year is the reactions I get from new readers. It reflects everything that I want to tell those unfamiliar with the RSP:
“I actually won last yrs RSP in a contest from you last yr. Definitely found out it was worth buying, just got this yrs!!”
@MattWaldman RSP last night. Barely scratched the surface. Much more depth than I expected.”
I can tell you that I’m not exaggerating when I describe the RSP, but it’s like telling someone what ‘hot’ feels like if they’ve never experienced the sensation. So if you’re reading these behind the scenes posts and wondering whether to make the jump, what I can tell you is that I’ve been doing this for eight years and other than the rare person who expected this to be an analysis of prospects at every position, most tell me the RSP exceeded their expectations.
What You Should Know About My Rankings Process
I have five steps that help me develop my rankings. They are each a process in their own right. If I were working for an NFL team as a decision-maker in this capacity it would be six, but I’m a one-man band and I don’t interview prospects that often. I also don’t have resources to hire a PI firm.
These steps aren’t meant to impress you. I don’t have the end-all, be-all rankings. I think they are helpful and entertaining, but the act of ranking players is a troublesome process without a specific team philosophy in mind.
Evaluating player performance is difficult because you have to try to objectify a lot of subjective material. There are also times where you don’t get to see a specific skill from a player because of game situations or the system featuring the player. How to factor this into an evaluation process that ends with a ranking is challenging.
Despite its problematic nature, these processes help me learn more about the game, the players, and my strengths and weaknesses as an evaluator. If you want to learn more about the steps, read the beginning of this post.
Predicting My Errors in Judgment Three Years From Now
If I were to guess three years from now where I will err with my rankings, I believe it will be that I ranked Gavin Escobar too high and both Joseph Fauria and Ryan Griffin too low. I can see reversing the order of their ranking because I think Griffin is more athletic than some realize and Escobar much less when it comes to blocking – an important aspects of the game that many project Escobar will get better.
Griffin made plays as a receiver that I thought were as impressive as Escobar and he’s a better blocker right now. I also thought Griffin was asked to make tougher plays as a receiver where Escobar was often fed the ball in ways that generate easy yards. Not that I could fault Escobar with smart play calling, which is why I have him over Griffin and Fauria. It’s just something I feel and I behind the scenes take that I’m sharing.
When I first watched Fauria, I had a gut feeling that he would be a good NFL prospect. I think there’s a good chance he’ll prove that he’s athletic enough to block and become an every-down tight end – not just a red zone receiver. There were several plays over the years where I saw Fauria make that one move that I didn’t think he’d be able to make. It was either a cut block, sinking his hips on a hard break, or an adjustment to the ball in an area that belied his size.
Again, this was a gut feeling and not a reason enough for me to rank him ahead of Escobar. I wanted to do it. If Fauria is matched with team where it looks like a good fit, I might make the adjustment.
I Could Have Ranked Him Higher, But My Conscience Wouldn’t Let Me
I’m talking about Zach Ertz. Based on my system of adding skill sets, Ertz has enough starter and committee level skills for me to make a reasonable argument for him 3-6 spots higher in my rankings. The higher it went, the more it would have been a stretch, but I think I could have made a convincing argument to everyone but myself. The reason is that there were too many skill sets where I could have placed Ertz in the reserve tier instead of the committee tier: vision, balance, blocking, and power.
His balance is already a skill set that I gave a reserve-caliber ranking and to me that’s a red flag. Great football players – especially those who handle the ball have excellent balance. Ertz is a somewhat high-cut athlete in the first place and most high-cut guys lack great balance.
I think Ertz has potential as a situational receiver, which isn’t a bad thing at all in the scheme of having pro potential. I just have difficulty projecting him as a top-tier prospect at his position in this class despite the fact that he’s likely to earn a that kind of pick.
I Still Like These Guys
Western Kentucky’s Jack Doyle isn’t fast and he looks ungainly for his 6’5″, 253-pound frame. He’ll never be a stud athlete who can become a major threat in the NFL. However, he plays a smart game, he’s tough (he was sick the entire week of practice at the Senior Bowl), and he can catch the football. Fantasy owners will probably never have reason to pick him except as a reserve in the deepest of leagues where tight ends are a premium. Yet, just the fact that I can imagine they might have that future value is another indication that I think he’ll be one of those guys who might force his dreams to die a hard death and carves out a spot.
Zach Sudfeld of Nevada has enough athleticism where I think he could surprise. His 6’7″ frame and soft hands make him a nice option on seams, fades, and corner routes. He’s also a fluid receiver who displays comfort in tight coverage. I also think his blocking is underrated. It’s definitely better than the likes of Jordan Reed, Chris Gragg, Gavin Escobar, and Zach Ertz – all players I ranked ahead of Sudfeld. If health is no longer a question mark, I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a competent reserve who sees time in a starting lineup.
For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio available April 1. Prepayment is available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2013 RSP at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.