Scouting Rookie Prospects
The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense
of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check
is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s
a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information.
This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s
potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining
the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines
that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.
Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic,
he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and
help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep
a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This
way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider,
or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast
as you can!
Other than the draft, The Gut Check enjoys the process of scouting
fantasy rookie prospects more than most any aspect of the hobby.
Yours Truly doesn't fancy himself on par with anyone that seriously
scouts pro prospects, but he does feel he's learned a lot from
reading what others have to say about a player and simple observation.
Identifying a good prospect is like recruiting the best candidate
for a job:
- Actions speak louder than words.
- Superior raw talent can be molded into superior production,
but the results are as dependent on the organization as the
- Experience is overrated.
- Ultimately, it's still a crapshoot.
Actions speak louder than words:
This is the time of year when the hype machine for pro prospects
goes into overdrive and players with glaring weaknesses get picked
on the first day of the draft but experience failure in the NFL.
College coaches and agents fuel this hype machine because both
have much to gain from their player becoming a high pick. No matter
how much hype the player is receiving, it's important to observe
his performance. Sounds like common sense, but it's easy to get
sucked in by a coach's commentsespecially if these coaches are
successful on the level of Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, or Pete
Superior raw talent can be molded into
superior production, but the results are as dependent on the organization
as the player. In other words, the training is just as
important as the talent. There are many award-winning companies
that subscribe to the belief that they are just as likely to benefit
more from hiring an employee with no experience in a position
over candidates with several years of experience. This is because
they believe you can teach skills (route running, reading defenses,
etc.) but you can't teach talent (heart, work ethic, etc.). Would
Brett Favre been nearly as great a quarterback under Jerry Glanville's
coaching staff as he was under Mike Holmgren? Did Rueben Droughns
get the necessary training to be an effective NFL runner with
the Lions? The Gut Check doesn't think so.
Some teams do a great job of developing raw talent at a position.
This is worth noting during a draft. Pittsburgh (Ward & Randle
El), Oakland (Porter & Curry), and Tennessee (Mason, McCareins,
and Bennett) have a good track record of developing receivers.
The Seahawks are doing a nice job with converted linebacker Michael
Boulware as a safety and the Bears did a pretty good job with
a former safety at linebacker in Brian Urlacher.
Experience is overrated. Likewise,
a successful college career isn't a stand-alone requirement for
a great NFL career. J.J. Stokes, Kevin Dyson, and Tim Couch were
high draft picks based on great college careers, but were mediocre
NFL talents, at best. The Gut Check feels experience and raw talent
must work in conjunction to create a successful NFL player. Every
team has a different system and these schemes target players with
skills and experience that best match their designs. This is why
the Gut Check believes West Coast offenses wouldn't have drafted
Randy Moss even if his off field issues were non-existent. Can
you imagine the Raiders of the Jon Gruden era benefiting the most
from Randy Moss?
Ultimately, it's still a crapshoot.
There are too many intangibles with people. It's the intangibles
that made Priest Holmes one of the best backs of all time although
un-drafted. It's the lack of intangibles that doomed Ryan Leaf.
And it's the intangibles that kept Drew Brees from packing it
in when the Chargers wanted to make it Phillip Rivers' team. As
The Gut Check just pointed out with Brees, intangibles aren't
always revealed immediately. Not to compare Brees with these guys,
but many of the all-time greats suffered early disappointments
before putting it all together: Johnny Unitas, O.J. Simpson, and
Steve Young weren't great players from the beginning.
As mentioned in his preseason series on preparing for the draft,
Yours Truly starts the evaluation process with a running notebook
of college players. Although the Senior Bowl and other postseason
scouting games are useful in some respects, it's best to observe
players in-season. Fortunately for those of you with a late start,
the Bowl games are great opportunities to do a little fantasy
scouting. These are regarded as some of the biggest games of the
year for most teams and its useful to observe how a prospect performs
in high-pressure situations.
For now, The Gut Check is going to provide some random notes
on players that caught his eye during the college season. Some
will be in the NFL draft this spring; others may spend another
year or two on college campuses. Hopefully these notes will give
you some ideas or at least a barometer for your opinions on certain
Anthony Davis, RB, Wisconsin: Small
back5'8", 205 lbs. (at best)with a great offensive
line in front of him. Against UCF Davis displayed excellent acceleration
through the hole. He doesn't appear to have a lot of start and
stop moves in the open field. Davis is beating the first man that
has a shot at him, but the blocking is so good that his yardage
gained is fairly deceiving. NFL Scouts say he needs to show better
receiving skills. Today, Davis had a nice, 12-yard reception on
a scoring drive. Plays smart. Is willing to aggressively engage
an opposing defender as a pass blocker. Overall, the jury is still
outDavis needs to show how well he runs between the tackles
against a team that is a better match for this good, Wisconsin
Darcey Johnson, TE, Wisconsin:
Don't know much about the guy, but he made a one-handed catch
on a sideline slant, 30-yards down the field as a man was literally
tackling him. He's reportedly the third-fastest player on the
Alex Haynes, RB, University of Central
Florida: 5'10", 225 pounds. Haynes is demonstrating
that he's a powerful runner with good body lean. Showing a lot
of patience as a runner and displaying both vision and decisiveness
in the hole. The announcers seem to have the opinion that Haynes
has the talent to be an NFL-caliber back. This is a guy to research
in the off-seasona possible sleeper.
David Underwood, RB, Michigan:
Against Miami of Ohio, Underwood seemed slow for an RB. His greatest
detriment appeared to be his tendency to avoid contact. This was
his first start, but generally backs with his size don't shy away
from dishing out punishment, or at least taking it when necessary.
Underwood was not impressive at all.
Martin Nance, WR, Miami (OH): Does
a good job finding the zones. Displays nice concentration and
body control in his route running. Almost made a terrific, one-handed
catch with Marlon Jackson covering him. Looks like he has the
frame to add weight without losing speed. It would be surprising
if Nance becomes a first-year wonder in the NFL, but he appears
to have the tools to develop into a starter in the future.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan:
Terrific power as a runner with the ball after he makes a catch.
Edwards is a decisive, physical wide receiver with excellent body
control when fighting for the ball. Although scouts compared Reggie
Williams' skills to Terrell Owens, The Gut Check believes Williams
isn't explosive enough an option. On the other hand, Edwards compares
more favorably. This guy is the type of receiver that projects
well as a primary threat in the NFL because he'll go deep but
also make the intermediate catches across the middle. In the right
system, Edwards could be an immediate starter in the NFL.
Ahmad Brooks, LB, Virginia: Hits
hard, nice speed, and takes decent angles to the ball carrier.
Good kick returnerodd combination (LB/KR)wouldn't
be surprised if he's converted to safety if he wants to be a pro.
Ryan Moats, RB LaTech: Wow
8.4 yards per carry in this game. Sure it's just UNLV, but he's
showing a low center of gravity, nice burst through the line,
excellent moves in the open field, and even a good stiff arm.
His receiving skills need workdoesn't look smooth when he
gets the opportunity to catch the ball. Excellent power for his
size and announcer, and former Ohio State coach, John Cooper is
very impressed with Moats and his frame of reference (Robert Smith,
Eddie George, Raymont Harris, etc) is a good one for backs. LaTech
was a passing powerhouse with Luke McCown last year (best passing
team in the NCAAA) but now they appear to be a doing a complete
180 on offense due to Moats' skills. Moats is a very impressive
player that continued to put up excellent stats against higher
level of talent.
Joseph Adai, RB/WR LSU: Not sure
if Adai is going to be a good fantasy starter in the NFL, but
this guy is an excellent football player that will contribute
to a pro team. He is carrying this LSU team against Florida tonight.
Adai has balance, toughness, and plays big when the team needs
a big play. Adai has "it" as a playerawareness
and does whatever is needed to get the job done on the field.
Has 10 carries for 96 yards with 4 receptions for 26 yards and
a game-winning score. If scouts don't see this guy as a valuable
prospectalthough not necessarily an every down starterit
will be a surprise.
Channing Crowder, LB, Florida:
Good hitter that tackles well. Generally takes nice angles and
has the speed to rush the passer. Against LSU's mobile QBs, Crowder
had two sacks. He also had 10 tackles3 for a loss. Crowder
should be a 1st or 2nd round prospect when he enters the draft.
Didn't get to observe enough of Crowder in pass coverage, this
will be important to research down the line.
Chris Leak, QB, Florida: Most impressive
thing is his poise. Demonstrates toughness both physically and
mentally and throws a very pretty ball. Good athlete that does
a good job throwing from the pocket. This guy should evolve into
a quality NFL starter and a high-round prospect within the next
couple of years. Would be shocked if next year is not his coming
Jason Webster, CB, LSU: This is
a potential shut down corner. He is a very intelligent player
that doesn't overly rely on his athletic ability. Does a nice
job fighting for the ball in the end zone. Webster has made a
lot of nice plays one on one with receivers in the end zone this
year. Seems like a physical playerkind of like a Bobby Taylor
with a potentially more savvy to his game. Sometimes he seems
to be toying with his competition.
These are generally just one game entries. Yours Truly will collect
various one-game observationsoften multiple observations
for the same playerand compile them into something more
substantial. Eventually, he'll create ratings for these rookies
heading into his dynasty drafts. Here's his 2004, top-50 rookie
list he compiled for a draft in a league where he competes with
Mike MacGregor. The players underlined were ones The Gut Check
drafted. Yours Truly thought the notes in retrospect might be
entertaining to share:
Top 50 Rookie List
|| POS Rank
||Best hands, routes, adjustment to the
ball, and drive I've seen in a WR. Best player on the
||Great speed, good hands, great size.
Very little separates him from Fitz, but that's why
Fitz is special. Injuries worry me.
||Fitzgerald may be the only receiver
with better hands. Winslow will make an impact from
||The best safety to come out in years.
I'd like to plug him in and forget about the position
for a while
||I don't want to like him, but I do.
||Has the arm and ability, but I like
his attitude even more.
||The best RB I've seen in terms of natural
gifts. He's in a great situation too.
||My favorite WR after Fitzgerald. Possibly
the most polished WR
||Has the talent, but I didn't see enough
of him. Lefwich raises his value for me.
||I see bust factor all over this guy,
but he has a ton of talent.
||Parcells waiting to take him sends a
strong message about this guy that I like.
||The best LB in the draft. Should have
a long, productive career.
||One of the top 5 overall football players
drafted this year.
||In a 2 years, he may turn out to be
better than some of the first round picks.
||Potentially forms a great redzone pass/catch
combo with McNair. If I don't get Winslow, I want Troupe
||This guy is a horse and I believe he's
too good to be benched in time.
||I'm starting to think he's underrated,
but I think Rudi Johnson has the job
||I think he's overrated, but could be
a solid starter in the NFl
||I think this is where the Broncos may
have messed up with an RB.
||A more athletic version of Bruce Smith
in some eyes. I won't go there, but he's a good one.
||I think he's a steal. If I get Taylor
and he's also still here, I could be set at safety for
||Very athletic and should make a lot
||Best athlete of the LBs.
||A warrior that tackles better than Dansby,
but not as athletic
||His physical skills are underrated compared
to some of these other guys, but he's a player.
||I think he's a steal. Breaks tackles,
good initial burst, hands, toughness. Wants the ball
in big games.
||I was impressed with him when he was
matched up with Carr. Very good athlete, too
||One tough player. Underrated.
||Not impressed, but compared to Keyshawn
in ability. Paired with Vick could be a decent thing.
||Sometimes dropped easy passes, but he
has the goods if he gains weight. I like this guy.
||Was impressive every time I saw him,
but not sold on him.
||I wasn't impressed in games, but his
team stunk. I think his attitude got a bad rap.
||If he's available here, I have to consider
||It's a crowded depth chart in NE, but
he has the talent.
||A lot of people are very high on him.
I'm not sure if they're just high. Has the physical
skills and desire though.
||Could be a surprise, but I can't draft
him too high. He's likely to be a back up this year.
||A playmaker at the position.
||Likes to blitz and aggressive.
||I like this guy. Will likely be the
one QB's test a lot, but will do better more times than
|| Excellent player, if I don’t get Jones
I’d be very happy with him.
|| Didn’t the Colts already get Mike Doss???
||Maybe I'm blinded by my desire to root
for Walter's son, but I think he's going to be a much
|| Won’t get the chance as a rookie under
Vermeil, but a good player.
|| Probably too high on this guy but should
stick and develop in Houston.
|| Way too much hype on this guy. Needs
a lot of work.
||A great sleeper candidate. Gibbs thinks
he found the right guy here and passed up Winslow.
|| Underrated, but not sure if he has
the speed—seems like a ‘tweener at position.
||Excellent player, but what kind of opportunity
|| Will develop into a fine pro down the
This season has been a pleasure. For those of you hibernating until
training camp, enjoy your sleep. As for the rest of you that see
the off-season as a time to prepare for the draft and feel like
talking football and keeping in touch, feel free.
See you next season!