Those of you who use Football/Draft Twitter like a breathing apparatus are probably well aware who Eric Stoner is. If not, here’s an introduction to the RSP blog’s newest writer.
[Matt’s Note: Twice a month between February and the NFL Draft, Eric Stoner will be supplementing the RSP blog with his analysis of the draft. The straight-ahead version of Stoner’s bio reads like this:
Born in southern California and raised by a football coach, he was forced to cut tape and chart personnel at an age that violates California labor law. He worked as a high school position coach, teaching linebackers, offensive line, and defensive line. Co-developer of the Draft Mecca Grading Formula, his work has previously been featured for Rotoworld NFL Draft, the SB Nation Jaguars Blog, Big Cat Country, Bleacher Report, and DraftBreakdown.
If you’re a just-the-facts-ma’am kind of guy, you can call it quits here. But I know many of you have additional questions and Eric did a good job of anticipating this as well. My answers to the same questions are below in italics.]
Who Are You?
What Is This?
I’m writing about the NFL Draft again. I have not written in a long time, and I need the practice so I’m answering some questions. This is my mixtape. Sorry for the wait, the drought is over, etc, etc.
Used to, but you’re writing for an NFL Draft site now.
This isn’t really a question, but yes, I am writing draft things again. For the last year, I paid hardly any attention to prospect rankings, draft articles, or even college football as a whole. I have few preconceived notions on most of these prospects, and I didn’t see the weekly #overcorrection cycles that tend to happen when gauging prospects for long periods of time.
So you used to write about the Draft. Can you recommend any old posts?
Because life is about looking forwards, not backwards.
If you had to pick one…
This is probably the most popular one.
So why should I care about anything you have to say in regards to the Draft?
[Matt: If you read the RSP blog on the regular then you should care that I’ve asked Eric to write for me. But let me get this out of the way: When it comes to the analysis, the RSP publication is a solo endeavor. Maybe one day that will change, but I have no desire or plan on employing people to do my analysis. I’ve had many people suggest that I scale the RSP, hire multiple draft analysts, and train them on the methodology.
These folks–usually entrepreneurial types–mean well, but God bless them for believing that I’m the one who doesn’t get it. I see it on their faces or hear it in their voices when they suggest how I can grow the RSP as if they’re Prometheus bringing fire to the human race.
The RSP publication is my craft first and my business second. I’ve scaled organizational teams well beyond what many of these entrepreneurs could even imagine–and trust me, most of them have wildly rich imaginations.
I didn’t get into talent evaluation to recruit, train, and manage people to do the grunt work that I love doing. The publication is my learning process on display. It’s an expression of creativity.
The blog is a slightly different animal. No, I’m not hiring–no submissions, please. But if I could hire a team of writers, I’d do it. I’d still write for it too, but there are 5-6 writers whose work I’d love to feature here–including that of former players, scouts, data guys, and opinion columnists.
Hell, at the top of my list is hiring my editor rather than him so graciously accepting barter and tokens of appreciation. Still, I need more time in my day to study film and having Eric aboard for draft season will help.
Eric has been one of those writers on my short list for some time. He understands the game, he’s an individual, and he communicates these two things well. Most of all, I know that when Eric publishes something here that he’ll provide the knowledge and detail to back up his takes–takes I anticipate will sometimes differ from mine, and I look forward to it.
There are people in the league who know about Eric, because they have read his analysis and admire it. So why should you care about anything Eric has to say about the draft?]
To be fair, you shouldn’t care about anything in regards to the draft, because nobody really knows anything. Draft coverage is an infinite feedback loop. [Matt: Draft coverage is a flat circle…yes, Eric has some of that Rusty Cohle vibe. And no, I’m not Marty Hart. I’m more like the owner of that dive where Cohle tends bar.] The same storylines, player archetypes, and arguments circle year after year. And most people only want one kind of draft analysis anyways.
What do you mean by that?
There are three distinct areas of draft analysis:
- Analyzing a player’s talent/skill in a vacuum
- Valuing a player’s traits in comparison to his peers’
- Gauging his value in the current NFL landscape.
That’s it. Just about every draft discussion that exists falls under one of those umbrellas. Some of these are easier discussions to have than others.
The bulk of most draft casual draft #content consists of mock drafts and rankings – because (really) people only care about who their team will draft. This is understandable, but it forces 90% of the discussion into area 3.
So you stay away from this area?
Yes and no. Mainly, I don’t think you can really start answering the questions of where a player’s value is in the current NFL landscape unless you already have a good feel on areas 1 and 2 – as well as a pretty good idea of what NFL teams are doing schematically. The value of certain player archetypes changes over time.
What do you mean by player archetypes?
The statue-esque pocket passer. The workhorse running back. The coverage linebacker. While each prospect is a unique and individual snowflake, NFL football has remain largely unchanged since the 1960s. It’s cycled through 4-3s, 3-4s, shotgun-based offenses, two-back offenses, for as long anyone can remember, but it’s still largely homogenized. For every Derrick Brooks – who “made NFL teams more comfortable with smaller linebackers” – there was a Jack Ham who came before him and a Lavonte David who will come after him. For every Percy Harvin, there was a Peter Warrick who came before him and a Randall Cobb who will come after him. Sometimes an Ernie Sims or a Tavon Austin gets thrown in there too. Bad players still fall under the archetype.
Tapeheads and statheads aren’t so different. They’re both creating models based on the probable range of outcomes for a position archetype. When you combine a huge variance in how players of a certain archetype turn out, how much that archetype should be valued, and how much NFL teams actually value that archetype, you get #takes.
So back to Areas No.1 and No.2….
Area No. 1 – analyzing a player’s talent/skill in a vacuum – is probably the easiest to do. To borrow a phrase/question from Josh Norris: “where does the prospect win?” and further: “is how he wins projectable to the NFL?” Most players and positions lend to having more questions than answers.
Area No. 2 largely surrounds one main question: “for position X, what is the best/most valuable way to win?” This is the most important and intriguing question to answer with each prospect/draft class/position. Best and most valuable aren’t mutually inclusive either. “Best” is purely resorts oriented, where “value” brings into the question of rarity. That, ultimately, up the entire point underlying the draft (in my opinion) – identify and collect rare assets that aren’t readily available, or whose skills aren’t easily mimicked or reproduced.
Sounds like a lot grey area.
None of these questions have concrete answers, but some answers are more correct than others.
[Matt: Separating the dark from the dark…stay tuned, Eric’s first two articles will appear here in February.]
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