Friday, April 13, 2007

A Bonus Article Tonight for all those Loyal Readers

All 4 of ya.

We are probably going to be doing nothing but draft stuff for the next two weeks in this here space because...well, nobody is going to write anything about anything in football but the draft between now and then.

Anyway, I've noticed that most scouts will overvalue a players' physical tools, especially at the wide receiver position, and then when said player fails to meet expectations they write article about how tough it is to pinpoint receivers.

Well, the truth of the matter is, it's not all that hard. You've just got to look for the guys with the most college experience. Receiver is a very mental position and you want a guy who is aware of what is going on around him playing for you. So if you are going to get behind a WR prospect, get behind a guy like Dwayne Bowe, a highly rated 4 year player (3 year starter) at LSU. You'll be right more often than this guy.

But he will learn his lesson eventually. At least, thats what I thought until I read this article. Now I'm convinced he won't ever learn why he sucks at scouting prospects.

You need to be an INsider to access it. Sorry.

Productive NFL wide receivers come in many different sizes, shapes and speeds. Just take a look at the wide receivers who led the NFL in catches last season. Sure, Houston's Andre Johnson fits the mold as the league leader with 103 receptions. After all, the former No. 3 overall pick (2003) checks in at 6-foot-3 and 219 pounds with 4.4 speed. But how do you explain Mike Furrey, a former undrafted free agent in 2000, hauling in the second-most passes (98) in 2006?

Furrey plays the slot receiver in Mike Martz' offense.

Seriously Todd, no position in football is more affected by what their team is doing around them than the WR position. You probably should know this considering the career path you've chosen.

Andre Johnson caught a bunch O hitches from David Carr. That type of offense is only successful if you turn those hitches into TD's sometimes.

Other productive NFL receivers who slipped in recent drafts include Carolina's Steve Smith (third round, 2001), Seattle's Deion Branch (second round, 2002), Arizona's Anquan Boldin (second round, 2003), the N.Y. Jets' Jerricho Cotchery (fourth round, 2004) and New Orleans' Marques Colston (seventh round, 2006). Meanwhile, David Terrell (2001), Ashley Lelie (2002), Charles Rogers (2003) and Reggie Williams (2004) all looked the part as high draft picks coming out of college but haven't come close to matching production for investment.

Steve Smith, 2 years CC + 2 years at Utah, all starting
Deion Branch, 4 years at Louisville
Anquan Boldin, 4 years at Flordia State (correct me if I'm wrong)
Marques Colston, 4 year starter at Hofstra (also a really lucky find)
Jerrico Cotchery, 3 year starter at NC State, additional PT as a Freshman

David Terrell, 2 1/2 year starter
Ashley Lelie, 3 year starter
Charles Rogers, 3 year starter
Reggie Williams, 2 1/2 year starter

Have you learned anything from this trend? I'm guessing not. Okay then, moving on.

The bottom line is that evaluating wide receiver talent from the college ranks has become maddening for NFL front offices. In my estimation, there are a couple reasons for this. First off, I would argue that quarterback is the only position with more outside factors to skew collegiate production. Secondly, the ability to "separate" is the most important skill for a wide receiver. Unfortunately, it also can be the trickiest to properly evaluate.

Todd McShay actually thinks that QB production is the most skewed position on the entire field. He actually wrote this paragraph. This is hilarious. The easist position where a convienient FORMULA exists to project success to the NFL level is the position that Todd McShay believes is the one that gets skewed the most.

Did I read that correctly?

Secondly, the ability to seperate is not really all that meaningful of a quality for a receiver. The fact that you value it so much completely explains why you can't evaluate them properly. I would think the two biggest sticking points for grading a reciever are:

1) How well he plays the ball (the catch)
2) How well he gets yards after the catch (after the catch)

I would say that MOST receivers are relatively identical in the way they seperate. This probably explains why you can't grade a difference accurately. It's also a huge red flag that you are doing this whole scouting thing improperly, but I'm not one to tell you how to do your job.

Or am I?

While catching the ball is the ultimate goal, a receiver with great hands is rendered useless if he can't get open. It's not difficult to evaluate a receiver's hands, top-end speed and leaping ability. The challenge when evaluating a wide receiver's separation skills is to sift through those potentially deceptive variables, which include his supporting cast, the offensive system he plays in and the types of defensive coverage and level of competition he faces.

It's good that its not that hard to evaluate hands, speed, and leaping ability, because those things really don't matter. I mean, you don't want to draft a guy who drops the ball a lot, but those guys stick out like sore thumbs even at the Collegiate level.

Also, why would supporting cast, offensive system, or coverage (well, I can sort of see coverage) have anything to do with how well a guy seperates. You still haven't even told us why getting seperation is important. You have no credibility whatsoever.

Although there's no exact formula that makes up a receiver's ability to separate, here's a look at some of the key ingredients:

There's probably no formula because it doesn't really matter. Let me tell you how the passing game works. The defense, if in a zone, rolls coverage to where most receivers are. Not all receivers are going to seperate on any given play. The QB reads the defense and hits the open guy.

So, seperation, as you call it, is really just the ability to run.

Wonderful. I can see how someone would think that a receiver is defined by his ability to run while playing football. But lets see some of Todd McShay's fancy terms for this skill:

1. Initial burst
2. Recognition/instincts
3. Change-of-direction skills
4. Competitiveness

Initial burst, you mean running Todd?

I personally think recognition and insticts are the most important trait for a successful receiver. Hey kiddies, you know how you develop recognition and insticts? Stay in school. Play your senior year. Learn something. College is fun. Enjoy it. Become a better NFL prospect in the process.

Change of direction skills is completely useless and arbitrary. Unless you are talking about run after catch skills. Then its just arbitrary, but can have a conceivable use.

Competitveness is not a possible criteria to get open. It just isn't.

Jerry Rice will forever be the ultimate example of this attribute. A relentless approach to the craft -- both in practice and in games -- allowed Rice to overcome below-average speed throughout his brilliant 20-year career.

Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Rich Gannon may have had something to do with this too Todd.

This is a nice gritty article from Todd McShay with great upside and a high ceiling to allow for a lot of potential growth. What it's missing in facts and analysis (everything), it makes up for with initial burst and competitiveness.

1 comment:

Robocats said...

I wouldn't say that change of direction and "initial burst" (makes jerking gesture) are worthless, but they probably just aren't different enough to be criteria for evaluation.

(Successful) past experience is generally a good predictor. What else is? Team composition. Mcshay expresses his surprise that Furrey (probably cuz he's white and has to work harder than those minority-types) is in the same neighborhood as Johnson for catches last year. Furrey had Roy Williams playing opposite him. Johnson had an ancient Eric Moulds. Houston attempted only 481 passes compared to 596!! Johnson accounted for fully 33% of their passing touchdowns, and Owen Daniels accounted for another 33%. There was no one else for the defense to worry about. Is it really that odd that with a team that is better at passing, does it more often, and has a premiere number one receiver to draw the best DBs that Furrey performed on the level that Andre Johnson did when he was seeing better coverage and less help? This particular factor in no way means that Furrey is actually as good as Johnson.