Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines an unusual play from Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown and explains how it answers the eternal NFL Draft question: What is talent?
What is talent? As 1,000 people and the answers will be as unique as fingerprints and snowflakes. Many will describe football talent strictly in athletic terms. Evaluators will sometimes tell people that more hard-to-define traits like durability, leadership, and work ethic are talents.
They’re all correct on a certain level. However, I’ve come to believe that talent has categorizations: natural and refined talent. Without knowing the background of a player and what he spent hours working on, it’s easy to misidentify a refined talent as a raw talent. This could be the case with this catch A.J. Brown makes against Kentucky.
However, if I were to take a guess, Brown’s reaction and adjustment to the coverage is an example of a player who understands the conventional techniques of earning favorable position on a defender and catching the ball and despite the obstacles, creates an unconventional solution that’s still rooted in the fundamentals — even if the process doesn’t appear as such.
If I’m correct, this play is an example of refined talent. Brown has learned about earning position and catching the football that he can create his own methods when the situation dictates — the same way the performance environment can challenge a refined musical or acting talent and that talent can transcend the moment with something new based on a combination of fundamental ideas used in an original manner.
If I’m wrong, and this play is an example of natural talent, Brown’s hand-eye coordination and strength are good enough that he can win even in a situation that calls for action that lacks refinement. I’m not buying this idea at all, but it’s the common reaction fans have when they see this type of catch: “He’s just so strong…his hand-eye coordination is so outstanding…he’s just a better athlete than everyone else on the field.”
If you’re a fan without aspirations to delve into this behavior, the only thing that matters is that A.J. Brown makes impressive plays against tight coverage and you want that behavior on your team.” However, if you’re into learning about what makes a player good, then you have to examine the nature of talent and what leads to plays of this nature.
If it’s raw, then it’s not that impressive because the NFL is filled with top refined talents. If it’s refined, then it’s based on definable and behaviors that can be consistently duplicated. With Brown, it appears to be the later — and that bodes well for his football future.
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