Director of the Scouting Academy and ITP contributor Dan Hatman has written ten short pieces using Matt Miller’s tweet list as inspiration, hoping to illuminate readers on aspects of the scouting and player evaluation business that are misunderstood, glossed over, or ignored. Click here for #1, No Shortcuts.
Blanton Collier and Paul Warfield are responsible for the scouting mantra “it was right there, on film.” Scouts are looking at the same games, with the same players, on the same field. However, there is much to consider that is not on film. The process-based approach scouts need to follow is present in Matt Miller’s ’10 Scouting Rules’ tweet. A talented, thorough analyst, Miller’s scouting philosophies are commonly used or debated by team and media scouts alike.
I thought this was an excellent starting point for exploring the evaluation process. In this series we are highlighting areas that aspiring scouts can find troublesome, and can be remedied with an appreciation of context and dedication to better processes.
Look for what a player can do, not what a player can’t do.
My first direct supervisor in the NFL was the New York Giants Director of Pro Personnel and current Carolina Panthers GM, Dave Gettleman. Dave has an amazing way with words and his idioms are the stuff of legends ‒ he was always good about hammering home a point. My first week on the job I was tasked with grading a few members of our offensive line ‒ guys like Chris Snee, David Diehl, and Guy Whimper. I remember loving the way Snee played, and I am sure that report was glowing in how I referred to him.
But what caught Dave’s eye was a report I wrote on a rookie OL: I crushed him. Bad. I basically said, to use Dave’s language again, ‘He couldn’t play dead in a western’. Now this was a player that was on the backend of our (at the time), 80 man roster, who had been heavily studied, both on his college tape and practice evaluations. While he lacked all of the gifts wanted in an elite player, he had a number of traits that caught the eye of general manager Ernie Accorsi and staff ‒ otherwise, he wouldn’t have been on the roster.
The evaluation mistake I made was comparing this undrafted free agent to All-Pros like Walter Jones and Snee. That lens caused me to miss the boat on what the player could do. This player was never going to be a Pro Bowler, but the 9th guy on your OL depth chart still provides significant value to your team. Dave read that report, handed it back to me, and said “It takes no skill at all as a scout to kill a guy. None. Where a scout makes their living is finding out what a player CAN do. If you can find that, you can scout.”
The key to this section is simple: ALWAYS look for the positive in a player. Look at every assignment, every trait, and see if how that player can provide value to your team. The worst phrase in scouting is “just another guy” – what a guy can do matters, not how he compares to anyone else.
Cedric Peerman (pictured right) is an excellent example of identifying what a player can do. Some may see a 5’9” running back who lacks ideal burst and does not play to his timed speed (4.40), but doing that will blind you to the fact that Peerman is a very capable runner in either a zone or power run game, who finishes runs with power, excels in the passing game, and is an exceptional special teams player. This profile is perfect for the 3rd RB on your roster: The swiss army knife who can plug any hole and help the team win in multiple ways. Ignoring those positive traits because he is not the next Barry Sanders will leave you behind the 8 ball as a scout.
Follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hatman