Reads Listens Views 1/1/2016


Welcome to the draft season, Vad Lee’s Rorschach answer, 2016 RSP Early-Bird


If you’re new to the Rookie Scouting Portfolio blog, welcome.  On Fridays I post links to pieces that I’ve found personally compelling or to content I hope will scratch that itch, but I haven’t read yet.

As I’ve long said about this Friday feature, you may not like everything listed here, but you’re bound to like something.

Welcome to Draft Season


As RSP contributor Eric Stoner says, this is the best time of year for a football fan. The best of college football is happening, the most meaningful part of the NFL season is on the horizon, and then there’s “Draft Season:” all-star game, the Combine, Pro Days, and, if you like this kind of thing, the tabloid-like circus of it all.

By no means am I the rule maker or the etiquette police for this time of year. But I do want to share things that I’m about with this process so when you read my work, see me on Twitter, or hear me on shows like On The Couch, The Audible, Ross Tucker, and The Three-Cone Drill, you have a sense about where I stand on player evaluation, player comparisons, mock drafts, rankings, and anything else related to the draft.

Rankings: I do two sets of rankings. One set comes out April 1, the other is available the week after the NFL Draft. The first set is based wholly on talent. I generally believe in these rankings more than the second set, which is adjusted for the player’s fit with his current team.

Fantasy owners think they prefer the second set from May, but as the years pass and they become regular readers of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication, I find that I get a lot of feedback about the long-term value of that pre-draft publication that they originally didn’t think was as practical as the post-draft addendum.

I have no plans to do any additional rankings prior to the draft or after the post-draft publication any time soon. I don’t believe in them. Rankings that corporatized draft analysts do are driven mostly for entertainment value. The draft for me has enough drama, I don’t want to create more of it at the cost of turning my process into a soap opera.

The RSP will have a new ranking in the pre-draft publication: Talent Score. It’s new to you, but I’ve been using it for a few years behind the scenes and tweaking the process before I published it.

The original ranking from the checklists is still there and an important tool. I’ve discovered that my checklist is a strong indicator of the breadth of skill-talent that a prospect has for all the criteria required of his position. The higher he scores on the checklist, the more things he can do that coaches expect from the position.

But there are players in the NFL who don’t run a full complement of routes or have definite holes in their games in areas such as blocking, ball-carrying, or they are lacking in specific athletic skills that limit them to a specific role in an offense.  Even so, many of these players with a “narrow” set of skills have a great depth of talent with what they can do and it shows up on the field and in the box score.

Marques Colston and Jarvis Landry are not perimeter receivers in the classical sense, but one has had a fine career as a “big slot” and the other has the most receptions during his first two years in the league of any receiver in the history of the game.

That depth of talent is the second score I’m officially publishing the 2016 RSP rankings along with definitions for how I score it. It’s also on a 100-point scale and, at least for the sake of entertainment and curiosity, you can rank the players across positions and–eventually–multiple years with this depth of talent score.

I will advise that as I continue to develop and improve my process–any good process is one that “continuously learns”–that the rankings across years (and possibly across positions) may not fit as neatly as it will appear.

Even so, I think you’ll appreciate the breadth of talent and depth of talent scores because it will help you develop an increased understanding of the various ways organizations approach talent acquisition and why rankings aren’t some linear thing. I’ll also use it to help you develop a smarter fantasy strategy in your dynasty leagues.

Mock Drafts: I’ll look at them from people who actually have connections to NFL teams because I’m interested in seeing their educated guesswork. Otherwise, it’s not my thing. If I do a mock draft again, it will be like the one I did as my last Futures column at Football Outsiders: players that I think the teams should select and not the players that the teams are likely to select.

I get that it’s a fun game to see how close you are to understanding what 32 teams are thinking. I’ll play it for fun, but I’m not making it a part of my job. The NFL has an inefficient and dysfunctional system for evaluating talent. Why do I want to waste my time keeping up with what they’re thinking?

Player Comparisons: I like player comparisons. It’s a fun short hand that can be useful if you’re communicating with people who are on the same page as you are about the game. But I agree its one of the fastest ways to be misunderstood about your views about a prospect.

I’d say 9 times out of 10, I’m comparing a player’s style, build, or athletic ability to another. Rarely am I comparing his talent and/or football skills. If I am, I’ll explicitly state it.

In the Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication, I use a spectrum of players to compare a prospect rather than a single guy. If you think about it, players are unique combinations of multiple influences. If I give a one-to-on comparison on Twitter, I’m doing it with the purpose of brevity.

My Perspective on Players: I want most prospects to succeed in the NFL. I’m not emotionally invested in who these players are. I may get to know 4-5 of them each year on an acquaintance-like, professional level.

I’m sure there will always be players that I don’t have a good impression of personally, but I’ll never make that known unless I’m specifically highlighting the dichotomy between how much I value that player’s skills on the field despite disliking what he may have done off it.

Even so, I root for players to mature as men, develop as professionals, and succeed with their craft. When I criticize, it’s from a place of respect for the game and the players who are trying to play it in the most rarefied air. It’s also from a perspective of illustrating the differences between what works at the college level and how it may not work in the NFL.

I Don’t Care That Much About What You Think: I feel bad saying this to you, because I enjoy intelligent conversation or debate with those who comment my posts or RSP Film Room-Boiler Room videos. But ultimately, and always with noted exceptions, I don’t care all that much about your opinion.

I can’t care about it. Not if I want to stick to my process and sustain an organic learning environment for me to become a better evaluator of talent and create the best publication I can each year. So if I seem a little detached in a conversation, it’s because I’m obsessive about sticking to my process.

I’d rather make mistakes with my process and fix my process rather than avoid one with your observation and not fully understand why that is and how it will work for future situations.

RB Rankings: I’m also changing my RB rankings in the RSP. Just like I have a subset ranking for slot receivers and perimeter receivers in the RSP Pre-draft, I will begin having a subset for players I project as predominantly zone scheme runners or gap scheme backs. There will be an overlap with some players because they have a wider breadth of skill sets.

I’ve found over the years that there are backs that I recognize as having a high level of talent, but their overall ranking may not show just how much I value them. My words often do (David Johnson), but I think it’s good to continue trying to create a product that reflects my analysis.

Last year, I told readers that Devonta Freeman was a better fit for Atlanta’s outside zone scheme than Tevin Coleman is at this stage of his career, despite the fact that Coleman ran the outside zone at Indiana. I earned criticism for that analysis, but like I said above….

By the way, Coleman began earning a bigger share of gap scheme plays when he was on the field because Atlanta recognized that Coleman lacked the patience to produce as consistently from carry-to-carry at this level when at Indiana he was a boom-bust producer on a carry-to-carry basis in college game.

At the same time, I recognize Coleman’s potential in the right scheme or if he develops greater patience and generating a scheme subset ranking is a practical way to help readers see this clearly. Chris Johnson had a renaissance in Arizona because Bruce Arians asked Johnson what he liked to run and put those plays in the playbook. Johnson is naturally a better gap scheme back and it’s a big part of the Cardinals’ program

I’m Going to Be Wrong: It’s how it works. I’m a student of the game. I’m heading into my 12th year of studying players with this process that I continue to build on. It means, if anything else, that I’m aware just how much I am a football idiot.

Listens:Get What You Deserve

Listens: Bill Murray on “What He Wants That He Doesn’t Have Yet”

Football Reads

RSP Rorschach: QB Vad Lee

Vad Lee

The video below considered 3-4 ways Lee and his receiver might have approached the outcome of the play below. As with every Rorschach episode, I ask you guys to give your best shot at it.

The tally:

  • 40% believed the QB changed the route from a deep out to a corner route based on his read of the safety.
  • 34% believed the route was an out, but the QB overthrew it due to the pressure and the open space and loft on the throw helped the WR adjust.
  • 17% believed the route was a corner route and the receiver’s break was too flat before he adjusted to the pass.
  • 8% believed the route was a variation of a corner route with the beginning of the break purposely flattened like an out.

I thought the the QB made an adjustment based on the safety, but I seriously wondered if the receiver’s break was too flat and the QB threw the route as intended. I was fortunate enough to have Vad Lee like a tweet of mine while I was creating this video. So I showed the James Madison QB the play and asked him what he was thinking.

Here’s his answer:

So this particular play is the flood concept where we have a vertical route by the outside WR and a corner route by the slot WR versus a quarters look. Like SMU showed, it almost turns into man coverage with both WR’s running deeper routes. Pre-snap, it allowed me to focus on depth of the safety and the technique of the cornerback. Once the corner turned his back and keyed in on the outside vertical route, it created more space for the throw to the slot WR.

My slot is taught to take a high angle coming out his break (Note: If a DB is on top of him then I will throw him down). However, in this illustration, my WR did not take a high angle but by putting enough touch on the pass we were able to make each other right and he ended up in the right spot after all.

Thanks to Vad Lee for supplying his answer.

Pre-Order Discount on the 2016 Rookie Scouting Portfolio + Post-Draft Update!

Friday’s are also my chance to thank you for reading my work, encourage you to follow the RSP blog, and pre-order the Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication at a discount of $17.95.

If you’re in a dynasty league, the combination of the 2016 RSP and the RSP Post-Draft will have you prepared for this year and beyond.

Here’s just a sample of what my readers–new and old–are saying about the 2015 RSP.  (Get ready for “Squee!” “Dammit” and jaws dropping)

Take a video tour of the 2015 pre-draft to see what I mean:

Seriously, this analysis is worth the price of the 2016 RSP package alone, but you also get the post-draft addendum with your purchase of the RSP. Remember 10 percent of each sale is donated to Darkness to Light to prevent sexual abuse in communities across the United States. While that alone should get you to download the RSP package, do it because you will be blown away with the detail and insight of the analysis and content. It’s why the RSP has grown so much in the past 10 years.

Download the 2016 RSP and RSP Post-Draft here

Views: RSP Boiler Room Video Short: QB Jared Goff, California

If you haven’t checked out the RSP Boiler Room Vids, you’ll enjoy these short episodes packed with the goods.

 Cindy Blackman Santana Drum Solo

  • I always knew her as a jazz drummer who I saw play in the 1990s before she worked with Lenny Kravitz and future hubby Carlos Santana.

Reads (Life In General)

 Listens/Views: Taj Mahal and Tedeschi Trucks Band

Listens/Views: Cindy Blackman Santana Gettin’ Funky

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