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Old 01-20-2013, 10:34 PM    (permalink
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Default Draft Analysis Clichés

With Senior Bowl practices this week and the Super Bowl matchup set, it's officially draft season.

In the midst of draft season we'll hear a lot of people trying to comment on many more prospects than they've really done legwork on (sometimes because it's not reasonably expected for people to have done that much grinding) and so you'll hear a whole lot of people relying on clichés because they find themselves in contexts where they have to say something (since, for example, ESPN has a lot of airtime to fill). Oftentimes these clichés are annoying and frequently they're flat out wrong.

Here are some of the ones that bother me:

There's no middle ground between "a minus" and "a plus"
You see this a lot on TV, when a prospect has a characteristic that's neither deficient nor exemplary, you will hear talking heads talk about that characteristic as though it were a deficiency even when it's totally adequate for the position. You hear this a lot talking about offensive tackle arm length. Just last year you hear Riley Reiff being criticized for his "short arms" (at 33 1/4") while Mike Adams is praised for his "long arms (at 33 3/4"). Seriously, go look at a ruler and see how long a half inch is. Likewise, there was a lot of press given to Andrew Luck's "weak arm" before the draft last year. Now Luck certainly doesn't have a howitzer mounted on his shoulders, but his arm is certainly strong enough to make all the NFL throws. I think we need to reinforce that "less than ideal" or "average" is not the same as "deficient" or "inadequate." Lots of really good NFL players have had a lot of average characteristics in their complete skill set.

Defensive tackle has hot and cold motor or "takes plays off"
This tends to happen to be said about DT prospect who's not highly touted, particularly ones from non-premier programs. While certainly there are big guys who have motivation/conditioning issues, people frequently mistake "is asked to play too many snaps" for this. 300+ lb humans can't play on the DL at 100% for an entire game. NFL teams mitigate this fact by rotating guys in and out with regularity. A college program may have one DL who is significantly more talented than the next man up, and since they're only going to have that guy for 4 years max, there's no reason not to play the guy for 70+ snaps every week. So before you conclude a defensive big is lazy, check his snap count.

QB is automatically "NFL ready" because he played in "pro style offense".
Comparing the career trajectories of Jimmy Clausen versus Robert Griffin III, it should be clear this doesn't mean that much, right? The most complex of college offenses is much less complicated than the simplest NFL offense. Everybody who comes into the league, particularly at Quarterback, has a lot to learn. Taking snaps under center in college doesn't really prepare you for actually reading NFL defenses. Having less to learn doesn't necessarily mean a lot if you can't teach or he doesn't care to learn. Early success for rookie QBs these days seems more to hinge on "how the OC tailors the offense to the QB" than anything else.

So and So is "elite" or has "special" attributes
This is sometimes true, but absolutely overused. If everybody is special, then nobody is. If everybody has elite speed, then it doesn't really mean anything (since you can't reliably run away from someone who's just as fast.) These words lose their meaning when you apply them to the best player at a given position every year. If you want to praise somebody, grab the thesaurus and save "special" and "elite" for things that are actually "special" or "elite" rather than just "very good." There's lots of ways to say "very good" without relying on superlatives.

So and so is a "pro bowler" at his position
You see this generally when people are talking about what a team should have said, but you'll often see an analyst say something like "If [team] takes [player] they'll have a pro bowl [position] for the next ten years" (frequently when talking about a non-premium position). First of all, there are no pro bowlers in the draft; you have to actually play pro football to qualify. Second of all, nobody really sees the future that well, and though there's very little accountability in sports media in general it almost never comes true. Don't project specific accolades in a guy's career. It just makes you sound silly when you're projecting 2/3 of the first round to end up in the pro bowl.

Racial Profiling
You have to tread lightly on this one, but do you ever notice how many people are loathe to compare prospects of different races? Skin color has very little bearing on the actual play on the field but it's odd how many media professionals compare (for example) every black QB to Vick and every white WR to Wes Welker. Hopefully this is changing, as Jordy Nelson is very much not Wes Welker, and Mr. Newton and Mr. Griffin are suitably different football players that they can't both be the second coming of Mike Vick (IMO, neither is.)

Every player at the same position from the same school is the same
I heard this week someone compare Zac Dysert to Ben Roethlisberger. You hear every Iowa left tackle compared to Robert Gallery. This is ridiculous and lazy. Schools don't recruit guys specifically because they resemble guys they've had in the past, and you can't turn someone into someone else through coaching or experimental weight room technology. If the only reason a prospect reminds you of someone else is the position and the color or the uniform, you need to dig a little deeper. Zac Dysert is absolutely not the same kind of player as Ben Roethlisberger and Riley Reiff is not Bryan Bulaga is not Robert Gallery.

"Safest Pick in the Draft"
This label was once, nearly universally, applied to Aaron Curry. Four years after being drafted, Aaron Curry is out of the league. No pick is particularly safe. It seems like this cliche is frequently used to make it seem like players at non-elite positions (notably non-pass-rushing linebackers) seem worthy of high picks. But if a linebacker, say, is worth a high pick it's not because he's "safe" it's because of something else about him.

Close to the draft: Prospect is Rising/Falling
Teams don't make up their minds late in the process. Your board is close to done before the combine starts. But because of the fact that most media coverage is just projecting what will happen at the NFL draft, sources are much more important than actual scouting acumen. So when media finds out that their internal projections don't match those of well-connected sources, they have to change their rankings so as to save face with the public and so concoct this fiction that teams are changing their minds based on late breaking news. For example, teams did not find out about Da'Quan Bowers' knee issues on the day of the draft, they knew about them since soon after the combine. ESPN/NFLN didn't know, but teams did. The only people making last minute corrections were on-air analysts.

Are there any oft-used draft truisms that you feel have become annoying clichés?

Last edited by PossibleCabbage : 01-20-2013 at 10:42 PM. Reason: Typos
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