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 6, Film Not Workouts.
NFL Hall of Famer Paul Warfield once noted that his coach, Blanton Collier, was great at seeing what was “right there, on film.” For scouts and talent evaluators, the film is your primary source ‒ but not your only source. As discussed in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of this series, there are other considerations to weigh. Matt Miller’s ’10 Scouting Rules’ tweet captures the process-based approach scouts can mimic to find success. Miller is a transparent evaluator who has laid out the details of his process before, and shines light on many of the philosophies commonly used by the pros.
This series aims to provide a starting point for delving into evaluation, showcasing the processes aspiring scouts can use to make reports and opinions as thorough and professional as possible.
The Bridgewater Rule: Trust the film, not the workouts.
Stephen Hill, Bruce Campbell, Vernon Gholston, Fabian Washington, and Felix Jones. What do they have in common? All of them had combines just as successful ‒ if not more so ‒ than Calvin Johnson, Tyron Smith, Robert Quinn, Patrick Peterson, and Adrian Peterson. But, their pro careers did not match their combine numbers.
Teddy Bridgewater’s infamous workout came at his Pro Day workout on campus. Many in the NFL scouting community called it ‘average at best’. Expectations ‒ especially from a crowd wanting to be wowed ‒ can fall short. But you are not scouting expectations ‒ you are scouting what you actually see. Workouts are opportunities to verify traits you saw on tape or opportunities to see traits the tape did not show. They need to be leveraged as a smaller percentage of overall grade and need to be looked at objectively. Too many scouts come into ‘workout season’ trying to validate their opinions, so if they did not like a player who worked out well, they bash combine results, but if a player they liked worked out well, they get excited
One of the most common evaluation misconceptions is the ‘workout warrior’. These players will display every physical gift you would want at the position. These players get scouts and coaches excited about their potential, about what could happen if you put them in the right situation and ‘coached them up’.
The problem for scouts is it is impossible to predict the future of your player development program, coaching staff, or the ability for your team to unlock a player’s full potential. Workout warriors are tantalizing, but you are much better off trusting the film. If a player doesn’t show those physical gifts on the tape or on the field., one must questions whether he can do it in pads?
Plenty of players play faster than they run on a straight line; do not gloss over how the guy plays on film because he has great measurables. Byron Jones is one such player who had a great workout and little tape, but the film he did have showed that he could play both in the weight room and on the field.
At the NFL level, the difference in overall athletic ability is smaller than many want to recognize. As such, the biggest differences are in the attitude, discipline, and technique needed to produce at the highest levels. There is a reason why players like Arian Foster, Victor Cruz, and James Harrison have had very good careers despite lesser performance during the big job interview in Indianapolis in February.
Follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hatman