Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines three plays from Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton that reveals why the key to projecting college performance to an NFL standard requires a process-ahead-of-results-oriented approach to scouting.
I hope you didn’t base your opinion on his performance against ____ …
How can you have concerns about him after the production he delivered against _____? You’re nitpicking…
He was terrible in that game, how can you not downgrade him after that performance?
These are common statements and questions that football fans have posed to me for almost 20 years when they don’t agree with my analysis of a prospect. The root issue isn’t them disagreeing with me but not seeing the logic underpinning the stance.
This happens most often because most people have difficulty projecting what they see on Saturday to what they will do on Sunday.
I’m not talking about the Ezekiel Elliotts, JaMarr Chases, and Jonathan Taylors of the NFL. Although even the top athletes with loads of technical skill can occasionally trip up analysts, most diehard fans can rely on the casual eye test to identify the top prospects.
Most NFL players aren’t those guys. Many of them lack at least 1-3, if not several, of the bullet points found on the elite prospects’ resumes:
- Consistent production against top competition.
- Workout metrics that met every starter threshold for the position.
- Physical dimensions that meet all the prototypes for the position.
- Production in offenses that incorporate a lot of NFL concepts.
- Teammates with NFL-caliber athletic ability.
And as we know, many of the players that seemingly pass the NFL’s scrutiny and earn first-round picks will also fail due to the league missing important on-field details about the player’s game.
Projecting players to Sunday is one of the most important parts of scouting and it requires seeing logical outcomes that aren’t currently present in the players’ games. From my experience, the best way to do this is to value the process ahead of the results.
This is the underlying message to statement that I often make about the RSP’s approach to grading players: Determine if the player is putting himself and his teammates in a position to make a positive play.
It’s not whether the outcome is good or bad but whether the players did what was within their control to generate a positive outcome even if that outcome didn’t occur.
Process is more important than results and if you have a sound process, it won’t matter as much as many think if you study games with great or terrible outcomes in the prospect’s box score.
Three plays from Tyquan Thornton’s tape offer some compelling examples to this point. The first play results in a touchdown, but the process is rife with problems that wouldn’t hold up to the NFL game.
The second play is an incomplete pass but Thornton’s approach to the target is illustrative of a player who does what’s necessary to put himself and his teammates in a position to generate a positive outcome.
The third play is both a positive process and outcome.
Thornton doesn’t strike me as a first-year NFL starter based on the games I’ve studied thus far. However, his game has growth potential that could lead to him starting down the line.
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