More and more, with access to websites like draftbreakdown.com, fans are taking the time to study NFL Draft prospects on tape. In addition to that, with the NFL Networks coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine, and the easily accessible quantitative measurables from the Combine, fans are attempting to project players into the NFL based on their athleticism. With that said, how many of you have something like this in your draft notes about a player?
Player X: Wins with speed, is an explosive athlete, and has room to develop as a football player with a high ceiling because of his athleticism. Grade: Late First-Early Second
Then when that player goes out and runs a really fast 40 time, and jumps out of the gym in Indianapolis at the combine, you leave your evaluation the same, but raise his grade to Early-Mid First Round.
Josh Norris explained this phenomenon in his combine preview at Rotoworld a couple of weeks ago.
"Sometimes these prospects who possess a "high ceiling," thanks to (almost purely) their on-field athleticism, end up being Combine "winners" and see their evaluation raised.
Those movement skills, explosion and natural athleticism are already a major part of these prospects’ evaluations.
Therefore, any notable times, repetitions, or numbers should be expected, not counted again as an extra positive. It is putting a score to that athletic upside, not adding to the evaluation. It was already there."
Norris' example/cautionary tale was UCLA OLB/Edge Rusher Anthony Barr.
"I like Barr quite a bit and consider him a top-25 prospect, but his evaluation is based on closing speed, flash of bend, agility, and sporadic instances of hand use and strength. He lacks a consistent counter move when his initial line is halted. A large part of Barr’s evaluation is projecting what he can be after only spending two seasons on the defensive side of the ball."
Therefore, it's redundant to raise the grade you have on a player like Barr, or Jadaveon Clowney, or even BTB darling Aaron Donald when your initial evaluation was based on how they win with athletic upside (quickness, speed, power etc) and they run/jump/lift well at the combine or their pro day.
Similarly, this phenomenon can work backwards, when a guy who wins as a press corner with physicality, and strength and proceeds to run poorly compared to his peers. He may be downgraded for running a 4.5 instead of a 4.4 when speed is not the reason he is successful on the field, and the fact that he ran that 4.5 shouldn't change your perception of his ability to succeed at the NFL level.
The availability of draft information is a great thing for us as fans, writers, and evaluators, however, we must figure out how to properly apply this information. And that's something we can all seek to improve.