At Dallas News, I explained my methodology when assessing prospects.
Throughout the season, the majority of my analysis has been data-driven: how much do the Cowboys motion, when should the team use play-action passes, how often does DeMarcus Ware rush the passer? I watch game film to collect that data, but I do so in a much different manner than when a scout watches tape of a college prospect.
When I break down Cowboys games, I typically watch each play five or so times. The first couple replays are purely for quantitative purposes: I track personnel, formations, pass length, run location, and so on. Those aspects of a play are more or less objective—not really subject to interpretation. On the last few replays, my analysis is more qualitative, i.e. I watch player technique and the overall development of the play. The latter sort of study is traditionally the type scouts perform.
As the draft approaches, my analysis will shift from mainly quantitative to primarily qualitative. The chief reason for the switch is that, well, college stats don’t mean much. It’s useful information to understand how many yards Jason Witten gained per route he ran in 2012, for example, because that data can be used to predict future success. When studying college tight end prospects, however, such information isn’t particularly pragmatic; it doesn’t help predict NFL success in a major way.
That’s not to say that all player evaluation is entirely qualitative. After the NFL Combine, there will be a lot more quantitative data out there on players—40 times, vertical leaps, and so on—and that information is typically useful. Bigger and faster is almost always better, and there’s a strong correlation between Combine performance and NFL success. It’s easy to point out when “workout warriors” fail in the NFL, but for the most part, the best players are the biggest, strongest, quickest, and fastest. Don’t believe me? Look at the size and speed of the NFL’s top receivers in 2012.
Read the entire thing at DMN.
Later, I posted a scouting report on Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher.
Perhaps the most important and overlooked aspect of playing offensive tackle is arm length. Offensive tackles need to have long arms to ward off rushers before they can get into the tackles’ bodies and ruin their leverage. We’ll see how Fisher measures out at the Combine, but he’ll likely have some of the longest arms in Indianapolis.
Fisher is relatively light when you consider his height, making him extremely nimble. The “dancing bear” analogy we hear so often for athletic offensive tackles fits Fisher perfectly. Despite his height, he’s really a “finesse” offensive tackle.
When people hear that, they automatically assume a guy can’t block in the running game, but that’s not necessarily true. I think Fisher gets a bad rap as a run blocker because he doesn’t destroy defenders off of the line. He’s not a “mauler” in any sense, but he’s still a quality run blocker because he uses outstanding body position.
Pancake blocks are nice, but all you really want from your offensive linemen is consistently getting between the defender and the ball-carrier. Fisher does that. If there’s one area of the running game in which he could struggle, it’s short-yardage situations. Since he’s so tall, Fisher has trouble firing off of the ball while still maintaining a low enough pad level to drive defenders backward.
And finally, I published a scouting report on Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Vaccaro is a versatile player who could play a variety of positions in the NFL. At Texas, he spent the majority of his time playing in the slot, usually in zone coverage. Even at his size, Vaccaro played well from this position due to his quickness and positioning. He’s a really smart football player who understands leverage and defensive philosophies; if Vaccaro got “beat,” it was typically to an area of the field where he knew he had help.
Vaccaro’s untraditional positioning for a safety is one reason he had so many tackles. He was typically lined up near the line and was able to make a lot of tackles on quick screens against teams like Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Vaccaro does a good job of fighting through traffic—he can get off of any receiver’s block—but I actually think he struggles tackling in the open field. That won’t be a popular thing to say but the truth is that Vaccaro didn’t tackle well from the traditional deep safety position he’ll likely play in the NFL. He’s a very willing tackler, which is of course good, but he fails to properly break down and overruns a lot of plays. Turn on the Oklahoma State game from this year and watch how many tackles Vaccaro missed.
See the whole scouting report at NBC.