The draft is one of the most difficult phases of the NFL world. Different scouts from teams all over the country spend months looking over the next “Tom Brady” or “Jerry Rice”. However, regardless of how much research these scouts seem to go over, why does every draft day seem to always be hit or miss? Today, I’ll be covering the different factors that scouts factor in when they try to find the next great player for their team.
The NFL Combine is held yearly some time before the NFL Draft. Highly-touted prospects are given invites all over the country to try and showcase their talents in front of NFL Scouts from different teams. Some players who are sure of their draft stock opt-out of certain workouts in fear of damaging their stock, while other lower-rated players do all the workouts in an attempt to boost their stock.
Most of the time, the combine represents the player’s mechanical skill in a more controlled environment. However, a player’s technical skill isn’t always representative of his on-field play. Not only does this apply to quarterbacks, but the other skill-positions as well. You can’t necessarily blame the scouts for observing the combine performances, but the general population places too much value on the combine.
The “numbers game” is one of the largest defining factors whether a player gets selected in the first round vs the second round. Half a second or foot too early or short determines the future for the rookies trying to prove themselves. While the physical aspect of a player is important, some scouts just completely forget about what’s more important to the game, which is how they perform on the field.
College Film / Schemes
In my opinion, college film is one of the more important aspects of the draft process. It plays into whether or not the receiver will be able to transition into the next tier of football. Different scouts have different factors in evaluating college film, but the same factors really apply during the review. For receivers, the things that most scouts watch for is route-running, separation, good hands, and in-game IQ. To play at a high-tier in the NFL, you have to display all of these factors in your level of play.
Some common mistakes that scouts make during film review involve the lack of route-running and the oversimplification of speed. A common take on receivers is that you have to have the speed to outrun defensive backs. What’s interesting is that the “speedsters” or people known for out-running the defense, don’t pan out really well in the NFL. Now don’t get me wrong, speed is good, but it has to be paired with the ability to run routes, make cuts and breaks, and apply that speed to diversify your ability. The “speedsters” rely too much on their speed and can’t pair it with footwork and the in-game IQ of tricking defenses. I won’t be naming any names, but every year there’s always talks of finding the “next Tyreek Hill” and they never look the same on the field.
Scouts have one of the harder jobs in the NFL. They go through hundreds of hours of film and make one decision that either increases or decreases their job of having a job the next season. What I’ve noticed though is that there’s never almost a hundred-percent chance of a player being able to transition to the NFL. There’s also almost never a “sure pick” as well. Each player will one-hundred percent look different from how they played in college versus how they will play in the NFL. Scouts nowadays primarily focus on the upside of players because of the great coaching that is able to mold a player. Very rarely does a scout team buy into the hype of a player purely for the reason of doing so. However, with all the technology and statistics we have today, it’s interesting to notice that some team scouts don’t know as much as we think they do.