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Scouting The 2013 NFL Draft: Guide To Scouting

Chris Trotman

As the season draws to a close, it's time to start looking at the 2013 NFL Draft in earnest. I'm not a professional scout, nor do I claim to be. However, here are some suggestions that I give to all of you as we begin looking at prospects for the New York Jets to draft.

  • Don't just watch highlight reels. Don't just look at stats. Look for what players struggle with, what they're limitations are. Don't just ignore them. Can they be fixed or schemed around? Or are they deal breakers? For stats, look at the context. Jordan White put up incredible numbers, but they were against poor competition.
  • Watch whole games of players, the highs and the lows. I suggest using YouTube and DraftBreakdown to find footage.
  • Watch more than one game, if possible.
  • Don't weigh individual games against easy or difficult competition too heavily. Look at the big picture, but use individual plays as measuring sticks.
  • If a player struggles, look at why they struggled. Was their offensive line particularly poor? Were the receivers unable to get separation? Were they the only competent player and being asked to do too much? Consider the other members of the team, the scheme they're playing in, etc.
  • Try to come up with player comparisons as you watch. Who do they remind you of? This will help you figure out their level of talent and what they can possibly measure up to be, what their ceiling is. If a player plays like Jason Hill, that's going to tell you a lot about their physical limits.
  • Along those lines, consider the scheme of the team you're looking to draft them for. A 4-3 DE may not fit on a 3-4 team. If a team already has a strong, entrenched slot receiver, it may not be wise to suggest drafting them (unless it's a BPA approach). As an example, Jordan White has not been playing, according to reports, because he can only play in the slot, and Jeremy Kerley already has that role. If you're looking at a receiver, can they only play the X position, or are they a Z receiver? There are fundamental differences in what they're being asked to do. Likewise, can a cornerback only play man coverage, or can he succeed on a team that plays extensive zone coverages?
  • Come up with a list of what you're looking for in a prospect. Here are some examples:
    • QB: Football IQ, accuracy, quick release, height, etc.
    • WR: Strength (can they break a jam on the line?), what routes they're running, hands, etc.
    • DL: Arm length, pad level, hand placement, repertoire of moves (bull rush, swim move, etc.), etc.
  • Try to look at other scouting reports after you've watched the footage, so you aren't biased in what you see.

There are other guides you may find for measuring prospects. For example, Pat Kirwan has a "Production Ratio" for weighing statistics in defensive players to determine how often they make plays behind the line of scrimmage. SACKS + TACKLES FOR LOSS/NUMBER OF GAMES PLAYED = PRODUCTION RATIO. If someone scores above a 1.0, they are extremely productive behind the line of scrimmage (I tested out Muhammad Wilkerson using this formula, and he scored a 1.03 so far in his professional career). It's not a perfect calculation, for example, Aaron Maybin scored a 1.56 in his collegiate career, but it can give you an idea of a person's abilities.

These are just some general tips and suggestions as you search for the playmaker or for the sleepers in the NFL Draft. We'll have plenty of our own scouting reports here on Gang Green Nation, but we encourage all of our readers to come up with their own as well.

Edit: I made a boo-boo, and misattributed a quote to Rex Ryan when it was by reports from the Wall Street Journal and Carry on with your lives.