One of my favorite players in this 2018 NFL Draft class, Steven Dunbar is a late-round/UDFA sleeper who has what it takes to outwork high-ceiling/low-floor talents.
“Who are your guys in this draft class?” is one of the most common questions I’m asked. My guys aren’t necessarily the best prospects, but players I admire based on a combination of my formative years watching football and the work I’ve done as the creator of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio.
There are certain football skills that appeal to me more than others because they match my analytic sensibilities for evaluating a prospect, but they also evoke an emotional response based on what I grew up valuing from football players. Think of it as football-related psychological imprinting.
Here’s a partial list of those traits:
- Comfort with physicality – I value players who can give and take physical play. They don’t have to win the confrontation but they don’t shrink away from the conflict.
- Effort – Often described as a “high motor,” I seek players who play until the whistle and don’t give up on plays. Even players with good motors will unintentionally give up on a player because they sense a lull on the action. However, players with high motors have learned to train themselves to remain vigilant until the whistle.
- Being the aggressor – Jamaal Charles is not a physical player, but he initiated first contact as a runner or blocker in his prime. Whether it’s ball-carrying, route-running, or pass-protecting, an aggressor with technique and a plan is a stiff challenge for most opponents.
- Physical and mental flexibility – I believe that flexible players are less susceptible to certain types of injuries and more capable of winning one-on-one battles when they’re forced to overcome a temporary disadvantage with leverage. Flexibility can sometimes adequately compensate for a lack of strength. Among other things, mental flexibility helps players make smooth adjustments when a strategy isn’t working. It naturally leads us to a related trait…
- Emotional intelligence – The majority of existing football leadership are Baby Boomers. I’m not a huge proponent of generational analysis, but these men grew up and built their careers on specific player prototypes with traits they could measure effectively such as book intelligence, athletic ability, and fundamental techniques of the position. Although important skills, football is a performance sport that requires its employees to deal with pressure, unplanned circumstances, and making adjustments to the stimuli around them. This requires the integration of every trait in a player’s tool box and that integrating factor is that intuitive-emotional IQ-flexibility that separates the stars from the good — but not quite good enough — options. This remains the least explored territory in NFL evaluation, because it is difficult to quantify and teach. However, once a player has established that he has the baseline tangibles, emotional intelligence is the most valuable of traits.
- Attention to technical details – A player doesn’t require technical mastery of his position before he enters the NFL, but I want to see refined detail with what he knows. I’d rather see a player display near-mastery with 1-2 techniques than be sloppy with 4-5.
The more of these skills a player has, the more I’m likely to admire their game. Think of it as psychological imprinting as it applies to football.
Steven Dunbar’s game has all of the qualities above. He’s a worker with technical skills, strong hand-eye coordination to win the ball in tight quarters, runs good routes at this stage of his development, and he relishes blocking.
Check out the videos I made on Twitter about Dunbar’s game. It doesn’t matter if you have an account; you can still check out this compilation as well as others on my page (@mattwaldman). No video is more than two and a half minutes in length.
These are great for mobile viewing because you can swipe through any of the 4 videos to pick out what you’d like to learn about Scarbrough’s game.
In fact, you don’t even need to go to Twitter (see below)…
For analysis of skill players, get the 2018 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, now available for pre-order. If you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2018 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 each.