The Football Educator has run across a lot of quality work and detailed evaluations in the scouting process leading up to the annual NFL draft. Too many of the same “network names” get all the attention, and perhaps too much credit, for their prognosticating of players and then many times molding their mocks off each other!
There’s young scouting talent out there waiting to be recognized and I like what I see out of OptimumScouting.com. Director of Scouting – Eric Galko has put together a solid staff and they’ve released their “2014 NFL Draft Season Preview” with a nice underclass list, an early BIG BOARD, specific grading details, and by position ranks with individual reports. A great resource to get a jump start on your own looks, or to reference throughout the season as the college game progresses.
Here’s an article out of their publication that addresses the “push pull” effect of amped up offensive systems and the counter reaction by NFL clubs in their selections of defensive personnel. Good read!
The Football Educator
With Offensive Personnel Changes, NFL Linebackers Changing Too
By Walker Rhodes
As the NFL has shifted towards a clearly pass first league over the last decade, many looking to the game’s future have anticipated a league that would be dominated by four and five wide receiver sets. Just a few years ago, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to imagine a league where the tight end position had essentially been replaced by another wide receiver.
What’s actually happened, of course, is that in many offenses the tight end position is now one of the most valuable weapons on the roster. Players like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, and Vernon Davis, while possessing differing skill sets, all force defenses to account for a dynamic playmaker that’s not limited to just running routes, as a wide receiver would. With that in mind, NFL offenses are almost universally moving towards an offense that will be based in a two tight end set.
On paper, that proves to be an incredibly difficult offense to defend against. Even though most starting tight ends in today’s NFL are legitimate receiving threats, their presence on the field doesn’t guarantee a passing play. With two tight ends in the formation, the offense could just as easily run the ball with success. It’s a conundrum for defenses – match up defensive backs on tight ends and get hurt against the run, and if you match up a traditional outside linebacker on today’s tight end, you’ll likely get burned in the passing game.
NFL defenses aren’t without hope, though. There are just as many bright minds on defensive coaching staffs as there are on the offensive side of the ball, and defenses are adjusting to the new offensive schemes quickly. Perhaps the most noticeable way things have changed is the major shift in how NFL teams are now evaluating linebacker prospects. To counter both spread offenses and two tight end sets, NFL defenses now covet smaller and faster linebackers that will be able to have an impact in both the running game and the passing game.
For proof of that, you’ll need to look no further than the 2012 NFL draft. The average weight of the linebackers drafted in the top three rounds was just 243 pounds, with only three players weighing more than 250 pounds.