Commentary and Essays on Scouting
Breaking Through by Breaking the Rules – Intuition is the express lane on the logic highway. This is why Dan Shonka and a host of other scouts, former scouts, and analysts will tell you stories of great running backs (and players at other positions) explaining that they don’t have a method to their inspired madness that is a memorable carry. But that’s not to say that there isn’t a method.
Quarterback Techniques Part II: The arm (Not Safe for Work)– Warning: This blog post isn’t for the corporate mindset. It’s safe to read at work except for the first link you come across. However, if you’re the kind of idiot (and I use the term affectionately – we all act like idiots from time to time. It’s part of the human condition) that feels the need to share everything with co-workers because you think you know their sense of humor better than you actually do, then it’s not safe for work. In fact, if you’re that kind of idiot don’t read this post until you get home. If you get canned it’s because your listening skills suck.
12th Round– If you want evidence that the talent gap among NFL prospects is extremely small, consider that just 19 years ago there were 12 rounds in the NFL Draft. We’re talking about nearly twice the draft pool than the present day. Some may argue that fewer starters emerge from the late rounds and free agency than those drafted during the first day. That is only a theory that hasn’t been proven in a pseudo-scientific manner. I have another theory…
Pocket Presence – An analysis of one of the most important characteristics I seek when watching a pro prospect at the quarterback position.
Losing Your Football Innocence – Readers often ask me for advice on how to watch football with a more critical eye. My answers are below, but if you take my advice you’ll lose your football innocence.
Speed In Context – Legendary NFL owner Al Davis coined the phrase Speed Kills. Because the long-term demise of the Oakland Raiders can be attributed in part of Davis’ addiction to speed over anything else, there’s no shortage of irony in his statement. However, Davis is just one of many in the NFL whose beliefs and actions indicate that they are intoxicated by speed. It has become the football equivalent of beer goggles.
Evaluating the Evaluator – With its vast knowledge of strategy and technique and a wealth of financial resources at their disposal, NFL organizations not only have the potential to discover if that linebacker prospect fits their scheme, but they can also find out what he did with that blue pencil sharpener in Mrs. Beam’s second grade social studies class. So why do they still have a huge opportunity to improve as evaluators of talent? The answer is in the process.
Talent and Production: The Great Emotional Divide – much of what I have learned from my interviews of colleagues has less to do with technique, strategy, or what to physically seek from a player and more to do with what none of us know. Things that even NFL GMs and personnel directors will never know for sure: How a player will manage the great emotional divide that must be crossed in order to transition from college talent to productive pro.
The Rookie Scouting Portfolio: A Newbie’s Take– I have a lot of new readers-followers in recent months (thank you) who have asked me about the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. I’m a pretty transparent person. One of my goals with this blog is to spread the word about the RSP. I have to do this because as the letter at the end of this post states: I’m your secret weapon.
Interviews of Former Scouts, Writers, and Talent Evaluators
Conversation with Dan Shonka Part V: Scouting Gigs – I think it’s accurate to describe Ourlads’ Dan Shonka as one of the ultimate practitioners of football evaluation. Shonka has 39 years of football experience as a player, college recruiter, college coach, and a combined 16 years as a NFL scout for National Scouting Service, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins, and the Kansas City Chiefs. In this final installment of our conversation, Shonka tells how he became an NFL Scout and shares some of his experiences in the field.
Conversation with Dan Shonka Part IV: Prospects Past and Present – In this segment of the conversation, Shonka talks about pro prospects from the past and present, including two players he thought would be great who didn’t pan out, a sneaky-good runner he and Wes Bunting both like, and his take on Andrew Luck.
Conversation with Dan Shonka Part III: Positional School – I asked Shonka to indulge me in a game where I named a position on the field and he talked about skills he looked for that could or couldn’t be learned if the player didn’t exhibit them in the college game.
Conversation with Dan Shonka Part II: War Room Stories – This segment of our conversation included war room stories about perhaps the greatest linebacker of a generation, a cornerback who had some great battles with Michael Irvin, a disruptive defensive tackle, and a backup running back from the University Texas whose first name is Anthony but went by a more holy moniker.
Conversation with Dan Shonka Part I: Confidence and Competitiveness – This segment of our conversation included stories about Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and the players and systems of Brigham Young and Cal. These stories are terrific, but for me the most valuable nuggets I gleaned from Shonka’s tales is the importance (and real life examples) of confidence and competitiveness in a football player.
Greg Cosell Part V: Class is in Session – Factors that Cosell uses to evaluate specific positions on the field.
Greg Cosell Part IV: The Craft of Evaluation – My initial take on Darren McFadden in 2008 was how I became acquainted with NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell. I read his Sporting News piece on McFadden and I was surprised to learn that we had similar takes on the runner. I sent Cosell my RSP analysis on McFadden and this fueled a longer conversation over the telephone.
Greg Cosell Part III: The All-Timer Game – Joe Greene or Reggie White? Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Irvin? Bruce Matthews or John Hannah? I name two players and the NFL Films producer tells me which one he wants and gives a reason why. It could be about physical talent, skill, or the fit within his fictional use for them.
Greg Cosell Part II: The Pats TE Duo and Rookie Discussion – In this portion of our conversation, Cosell supplies his take on the Patriots duo of second-year tight ends, quarterbacking in different eras of the pro game, and his thoughts on several rookies from the 2011 Draft class.
Greg Cosell Part I: Cosell graciously undergoes a voir dire of his knowledge of nearly two-dozen current players.
Conversation with Wes Bunting Part IV – The director of college scouting at the National Football Post talks about 2012 NFL prospects.
Conversation with Wes Bunting Part III – Bunting discusses rookies making a good impression, young players in good situations, and young players in difficult situations. Bunting also reveals the players he liked that surprised others as well as how NFL defenses are reacting to a specific offensive trend.
Conversation with Wes Bunting Part II – In this part of our conversation Bunting talks about his youth, how he fell in love with the game, and translated that passion into what he does now. He also reveals what he learned from Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta and the differences between evaluating for a football team and as a member of the media.
Conversation with Wes Bunting Part I – In this part of our conversation, Bunting discusses the role of stats and measurements in his evaluation process; a couple of teams that haven’t maximized its talent on the field; and a player who surprised him. I actually asked Wes about a player who was successful that surprised him – he took the modest track and immediately identified a player he thought would succeed who hasn’t thus far.
Conversation with Sigmund Bloom Part III – In this part of my conversation with Sigmund Bloom, Footballguys senior staff writer and Draftguys co-founder, we discuss under appreciated NFL players, emerging NFL players, the Bloom 100, what he’s watching when he’s evaluating players, and why he plays in 25-plus fantasy leagues .
Conversation with Sigmund Bloom Part II – In this part of my conversation with Sigmund Bloom, Footballguys senior staff writer and Draftguys co-founder, we discuss NFL trends, the appeal of the NFL Draft, and the value of the Game Recaps he does at Footballguys.com.
Conversation with Sigmund Bloom Part I – Bloom might be best known as a senior staff writer and podcast host at Footballguys.com but he is also a co-founder of Draftguys.com, a site that was one of the pioneers of using the Internet to broadcast video analysis of players they filmed at all-star practices. Personally, I think the “Bloom 100,” is one of the best quick reference, fantasy-friendly rankings of draftable rookie prospects available. Bloom and I spent an hour discussing when he got the football bug, his love for the machinations of the game, and the role of stats in fantasy analysis.
NFL Draft Scout’s Chad Reuter Part IV – The final part of our conversation covers Reuter’s typical work process as a talent analyst and the resources he recommends to the general audience to become students of the game.
NFL Draft Scout’s Chad Reuter Part III – In this segment, Chad and I discuss sabermetrics and football, the mathematical logic of drafting a quarterback in the first round, and the importance of tiers when building a draftboard.
NFL Draft Scout’s Chad Reuter Part II – We cover Reuter’s path to studying football as a full-time job, a defensive position that is difficult to evaluate, and why “instincts” and “intangibles” may not be innate after all.
NFL Draft Scout’s Chad Reuter Part I – In this portion of the conversation, Chad and I talk about offensive line play, evaluating technique versus results, and balancing these two behaviors with the craft of projecting a player’s future in the NFL.
ESPN Analyst Matt Williamson Part III – In this final installment, Williamson discusses his role with the Browns, his transition to ESPN, and the resources he uses to continue learning about the game and its players.
ESPN Analyst Matt Williamson Part II – Williamson tells the story of his ascent to football’s biggest stage despite never playing the game.
ESPN Analyst Matt Williamson Part I – Williamson discusses an emerging NFL offensive trend with personnel and then explains the difference between scouting for a football team and a media conglomerate.
Conversation with Travelle Gaines – The director of pro training at Athletes’ Performance Institute, Gaines is one the most well-known athletic trainers in the country. His roster of clients each year includes elite college prospects preparing for the Combine. However, his approach is more about preparing athletes to become better football players rather than workout wonders. His roster of NFL veterans that return to API for offseason training is skyward of 100, including Chris Johnson, Ryan Mathews, LeSean McCoy, Jon Beason, Marcus Trufant, Percy Harvin, and Matt Hasselbeck.