Matt Waldman shares samples of what will be new with the 2021 Rookie Scouting Portfolio Pre-Draft publication as well as some of his thoughts about how it will shape the reader experience.
If you’ve subscribed to the Rookie Scouting Portfolio in the past, then you know that March is an arduous month for me and my editing team. It’s expected when you’re writing, editing, and publishing 18 months of daily research within the span of 30 days that will amount to as much as 1,500 pages.
When I published the first RSP in 2006, it was a fraction of this size. I also knew a fraction of what I’ve learned about evaluating offensive skill positions.
Because the centerpiece of the RSP was an evaluation and continuous development process taken from best-practices I learned in an industry certification course as an operations manager and director, I wanted to document and define everything that had value for me and possibly the reader. By the time the RSP was knocking on the door of its first decade of existence, I had documented a staggering amount of observations.
These observations ultimately helped continuously improve the precision and accuracy of how I define the evaluation criteria that I use to grade players. If you have only purchased the RSP for a year or two, then you may not be aware that I literally documented notes about every play of every player’s game that I watched and I shared those raw notes in the back of the book.
There were a few diehard crazies who read these notes, but that wasn’t the purpose of the notetaking. Showing my work to the reader was a nice selling point and I have always strived to show integrity of the process. However, the real reason I performed this exercise of writing everything down that I saw during a play was to learn the game—at least the parts I’ve been studying.
This was equal parts Socratic Method, eye-spy, and creating the process I used for watching each position. As I learned new things and changed the process, this crazed note-taking continued because it helped me mentally ingrain how I needed to apply these changes.
Eventually, the note-taking of every play reached a point of diminishing returns. I needed to watch more players, more games of each player, and devote more time researching football outside the game tape.
I also needed sleep or else none of this was going to matter.
In the early years of the RSP, the player commentary was short observational facts and opinions. Maybe 3-4 sentences on each player. Even the player checklists I used to take notes amounted to 5-6 paragraphs.
Hard to believe, I know, especially if you printed out the RSP and later discovered from the cops that your six-year-old kid used it to boost himself in the driver’s seat of your pickup truck, attach a pair of post-draft issues to his feet for the pedals, and joy-ride around town.
Within 4-5 years I had so much to share that the publication took on a lot of my personality, including good and bad humor, tangential stories about players, as well as anecdotes where I drew parallels between the NFL and my career and life experiences that many of you also have in common.
I earned positive feedback from readers about injecting my personality into the RSP with each passing year. Or, at least early on, more people were buying the book and I had no complaints about my writing.
The RSP has matured as a publication and business. Now that I’m 50—old enough to feel it when I act like I’m 15, but young enough to take better care of myself so I can do my best to see 51, 55, 60, 70, and hopefully a lot more years—streamlining my process while continuing to add quality to the publication has become a top priority for me so I can continue doing this work for years to come.
I’ve spent the past 3-4 years working on this task after I ended the play-by-play notetaking and I didn’t realize the unintended consequences of this change to my work process. I had become so bent on watching as much as I could, that when it was time to take those notes and create scouting profiles that summarized each player, I had feature-length articles for most of the 150-175 players I studied.
Writing 150-175 feature-length articles plus chapters on each position with another 25-60 pages of draft history, player superlatives, and skill breakdowns in 30 days became even crazier than it had been in the past when I was juggling three jobs. For the past two years, I was afraid that I would not meet my deadline.
So, as had been suggested to me multiple times by friends and family over the years, I finally had the opportunity to make changes that make life easier for me and benefit readers.
The first notable thing you’ll see with the 2021 RSP is that the player summaries are no longer structured as long features with two columns of text on each page. Each player profile takes up the entire page with the column format you’re reading right now. More importantly, I created templates for each player profile.
This is the first draft of Trevor Lawrence’s scouting report. It will be edited when released as part of the publication on April 1.
As you can see, this template makes it a lot easier to navigate when you’re searching for a specific part of my evaluation for reference. In the past, readers had to read the equivalent of a magazine article to find what I wrote about his pocket play.
Now, you can skim to the section headings that are uniform for each quarterback. Each position has this type of template.
While it may seem this is mainly a benefit for you, I’ve been able to write more and make it closer to a finished product before March, which means I’m sleeping 6-8 hours a day and hopefully, increasing my chances that I will continue writing annual draft publications for years to come.
I’m also tracking more data. This is the introduction to the After-Contact/Contact-Avoidance data I’ve collected on running backs this year as well as a small sample of how the running back prospects fared against reach attempts (the easiest form of tackling overcome).
This is also the first draft and will be edited for publication on April 1.
I have also changed the criteria and format of my checklists. This is part of what I do to score wide receivers. This is Ja’Marr Chase’s checklists from the nine games that I charted. I watched more, but these are the documented observations.
As you can see, the criteria are actually pretty well-defined on the page. It’s A LOT of things I’m looking at for each position, although the receiver position might have the most.
If you’re wondering about Chase’s totals, this is a Breadth of Talent checklist. While it assists me in determining my overall Depth of Talent Score that drives my rankings, Breadth of Talent is more of an indicator of how many skills a player shows during a game.
Sometimes a top prospect only performs 35-45 percent of the tasks that can be demanded of a receiver based on the gameplan, the offense, the number of skills the player has, and the way the opposition defends the player. Even so, if those skills carry a lot of weight, that player can be a top prospect.
It’s also possible that a prospect can perform 75-85 percent of the criteria but the quality of how they performed these skills was lacking enough that they earn a free agent grade. If you’re new to the RSP, I explain this in more detail.
The bottom line is that I’ve been working hard on the front end of my process so I have an easier time writing in March. As a result, I’m delivering even more quality of work and you’ll have an easier time with navigating it when you use it as a reference on draft day and cross-checking your scouting reports.
And of course, most of you who are fantasy GMs that use it for drafts and when you need to decisions on free agents in your leagues.
The one thing largely absent from the 2021 RSP is my storytelling, humor, and “-isms” I’ve injected into my reports during recent years. My editing team loves the changes but they missed seeing my personality show up on the page less often and we expect some of you will feel the same way.
It won’t be a permanent change. My -isms will return in future publications. I just had a lot of new work this year and it required a lot more time and focus. As this process gets more ingrained, you’ll see more of those -isms again.
The RSP pre-draft should be available as it has been every year since 2006–April 1st. I will email those who pre-ordered when it is ready and I will announce its availability on social media for those waiting to purchase on the publication date.
For the most in-depth analysis of offensive skill players available (QB, RB, WR, and TE), download the 2021 Rookie Scouting Portfolio for $21.95.
Matt’s new RSP Dynasty Rankings and Two-Year Projections Package is available for $24.95
If you’re a fantasy owner and interested in purchasing past publications for $9.95 each, the 2012-2020 RSPs also have a Post-Draft Add-on that’s included at no additional charge.
Best yet, a percentage of each sale is set aside for a year-end donation to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse.