Rush to NFL draft day judgments has no place at Senior Bowl

The Senior Bowl practices came to an anti-climactic ending this week with weather once again playing a key component in getting anything accomplished.  That didn’t stop NFL coaches and scouts, as well as interested media and the normal throng of fans from making their presence felt at Ladd Peebles Stadium throughout the week.  Because of threatening conditions, both squads were forced inside on occasion and did their best to try and get something accomplished prior to the game itself.

Sorting through the chaff

As the Football Educator will normally do during this time period, I kept a close eye on the various news sources pumping out of Mobile via twitter, blogs, texts, TV, as well as official and unofficial sources.  It’s interesting to get a feel for what players are being pumped and pushed towards stardom, and which players are being pulled and prodded in the opposite direction.  Still more fascinating is the motivation and angles behind these early reports.

Avoiding the traps

For the serious professional football fans, it’s imperative that you understand NFL player evaluations can’t be accomplished in a single 1 on 1 drill, nor 7 on 7 period.  What invariably happens each and every year at the Senior Bowl is NFL coaches and some of the media get their first glimpse of players they’ve heard about over the course of the college football season, and then become either over or underwhelmed with their “look on the hoof” or practice performance.  Then as oft occurs, that person is asked for their opinion on the player without the complete picture.  The trap is set.

Sure, there are some things that can be garnered or gained scouting football talent from an instant eye-balling; body type, conditioning levels, short area quickness, hustle to name a few.  At times this runs congruent with established scouting reports that have come in off the road.  It’s also only human nature to pass judgments and formulate first impressions, but the best talent evaluators are quick to squash early inclinations towards swinging the pendulum too far in either direction.

Take things in context

No, Mobile-mania should be kept in context with the understanding that most players finished their collegiate careers almost a month ago, have been working out in warm weather locations with unfamiliar coaches/staff and predominantly are focused on NFL Combine and individual skill drills.  To suddenly be thrust into a situation with a Pro Coaching staff trying to quickly put together some semblance of an offensive/defensive system, all the while conducting their own internal evaluations, isn’t necessarily going to bring out the best in every player in one or two days.

There are those that will argue the “cream will rise to the top” and that like any evaluative system, pressure brings out the best in the very best.  True to a degree, but when tasked with making million dollar draft decisions it’s probably BEST to have the entire picture on hand; one or two seasons of game tape, statistical production numbers, 1 on 1 interviews, all-star practice AND game performance, NFL Combine results, Pro Day results, and whatever else is valuable to those charged with the ever so important “final say”.

Not as easy as it looks

The fact that this pundit or that prognosticator felt a particular player wasn’t as sharp as he should have been in the afternoon helmet & shorts walkthrough (and had to get a post up that day on their website) should play no bearing on where a particular prospect falls come April.  But you’d be surprised as to how much it can, and eventually does.  There are a lot of shortcuts taken in scouting NFL talent, especially by those that don’t respect nor understand the football player evaluation process.  That includes some tasked with its very implementation inside the clubs.

So before you jump in your own direction concerning a particular player and his Senior Bowl performance, step back and be a bit more analytical than those that have already put their draft day “cart before the horse”.

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