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. This is Part 5, College Role Is Not All.
Player evaluation is often, as Blanton Collier and Paul Warfield would say “right there, on film.” However, as discussed in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series, the film is just where to start your process. Matt Miller’s ’10 Scouting Rules’ tweet captures the process-based approach scouts should find success with. The NFL draft scout illuminates many of the philosophies commonly used, and is a transparent evaluator who has laid out the details of his process before.
These philosophies provide a starting point for delving into evaluation, highlighting the processes can use to ensure their reports and player opinions are as thorough and professional as possible.
What a college coach or scheme asked the player to do isn’t always what he can do.
Derek Carr came to Fresno State in 2009 as a highly touted prep QB and a legacy based on his brother’s (David Carr) success at the same program. He was recruited by head coach Pat Hill, and was placed under the tutelage of QB coach and offensive coordinator Jeff Grady. Grady was a Fresno alum, playing in Hill’s systems for years as a backup to the elder Carr.
Derek was the backup to Ryan Colburn for two seasons, but with the 2012 season on the horizon, Hill and Grady were fired. Tim DeRuyter was hired, bringing Dave Schramm on as his offensive coordinator, and the junior signal caller had to learn a new system, with new terminology. Many of the pro concepts that Carr had been coached in were replaced with spread concepts that focused on getting the ball quickly out of Carr’s hands.
When college scouts begin studying prospects, they normally start by reviewing junior year tape during the spring/summer before a player’s senior year. In Carr’s case, 72% of his career passing attempts came under Schramm ‒ all of his junior and senior season tape. He was labeled a spread QB and questions swirled around his ability to transition to make complex reads.
But, for those evaluators who dug deep and did their research, looking at his entire development, there was ample evidence that he could do more. For those who just watched Carr in Schramm’s offense during his senior season, they missed the complete evaluation of a player with starter skills who dropped to the 2nd round.
There was similar conversation about Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, who was selected early in the 1st round after Buffalo traded up to draft him 4th overall. Despite being a high draft pick, the pre-draft evaluation process was not kind to his ability to execute at all three levels of the field ‒ short, intermediate, and deep. This was because the Clemson offense consistently put the ball in his hands within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, turning him into a RB in space. In his historic freshman campaign, 63.1% of his yardage came after the catch. He did run routes at all three levels, but there were fewer opportunities on deep balls, which some scouts interpreted as evidence Watkins couldn’t go deep.
This is a scout’s biggest occupational hazard. You are stuck trying to evaluate a trait with limited (or no) snaps based on scheme, situation, or opportunity. Whether it is Sammy Watkins ability to track the deep ball, or a safeties ability to play the ball in the air ‒ sometimes you have to work with fewer snaps. In these cases, you need to go over those few plays, where you see the trait, over and over again until you understand exactly when, where, and why things occurred. When you accomplish that, you will have an opportunity to read between the lines and glean exactly what the player CAN do.
Follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hatman