Strive for Elegant

Demarcus Robinson

Should scouting football players be a simple or detailed process? Let’s strive for elegant.  

This rant features Florida WR Demarcus Robinson. It’s not a scouting report, but you will learn something about him in addition to my thoughts on the “simplicity” conversation working through social media on scouting football talent.

Within the span of an hour, I listened to Josh Norris, Sigmund Bloom, Lance Zierlien and Packers ‘Over-Grown’ Scout Alzono Highsmith talk about returning to something that the former Miami Hurricane RB referred to as “playground scouting.”

The basic premise is if the guy is dominating on the playground, he’s the one you want on your team. Zierlein invoked Robinson into the conversation as an example of the kind of athletic ability you want to see and that scouting, in many respects should be about honoring that overall feeling you got when saw something that makes you say “I want that guy on my team.”

I agree with everything about this idea, but I didn’t like the lack of context. It’s not their fault. They shouldn’t have to supply qualifiers for everything they discuss.

That context that I find important is that what’s simple to a person who watches miles of film a year for over a decade (like these four guys) is often far different than that of a beat writer, NFL news aggregation specialist with a weekly editorial column at a big-name sports site, a newbie fantasy football writer, or your average draftnik fan–who all play arm-chair scouts for a few weeks a year.

Even if some of these part-time water cooler scouts possess a strong understanding of the game, its strategy, or positional techniques, many haven’t taken the time to create a plan for distilling player performance into simple, insightful, and actionable information.

Details are important. So is embracing the challenge of grappling with complexities that occur from observing a player’s performance. Sure, an observer can get bogged down in details that blind him from seeing a player’s true value so can the individual who oversimplifies the game to a level where they miss important deal breaks staring them in the face.

The goal is for your design and execution to be elegant–even if we don’t always achieve it. I know I’m still working on it.

These four men I mentioned above know this. Not all of their readers do. We frequently get questions from readers who take something that they’ve watched or read from analysts like us and bastardize the true context and meaning because they didn’t grasp the context of the statements.

I doubt Zierlein mentioned Demarcus Robinson to highlight that physical skills are really the only important thing about scouting a player, but its routine to get questions to take something like Zierlein’s example and stretch the context beyond its intent. Robinson’s athletic skills are compelling enough to make you say, “I want him on my team.”

But it’s a statement Zierlein makes with the perspective of an avid film watcher who understands the ins and outs of the game better than most and his statement is the product of an embedded process that isn’t said aloud. One of these embedded things is that there are more things that go into “I want him on my team,” than big, tall, quick, strong, and fast.

How about smart? Or improvisational? Or tough?

The play below is one where Robinson doesn’t display the football maturity to factor down and distance, field position, and score of the game into his on-field performance and he gives up a potentially back-breaking play. Although it doesn’t turn out that way for Florida, college football players are playing at a high enough level that this kind of on-field maturity should be expected from them.

There’s a line between aggression and foolishness and in this case Robinson veered off the road into a ditch. If this play is an anomaly, no big deal. If it’s one of many situations where Robinson goes off-roading with that aggression-foolish line, then I’m that guy on the playground whispering to Lance, Alonzo, Sigmund and Josh, “No. You don’t want that guy, he looks good warming up, but he makes 3 stupid plays that will kill us for each play that potentially helps us.”

The thing is that these four likely have game intelligence embedded into their internal process that leads to that playground idea. Not all do.

For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2016 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – early-bird purchase for April 1 download available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2015 RSPs 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.

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