- This offseason brought more changes at coordinator positions than any in the past five years, and that means drama when it comes to the scout/coach dynamic. Plus, how the top QB prospects performed under pressure, the Giants’ strategy with the No. 2 pick, and YouTube highlights starring Josh Allen
Over the next six weeks, teams will pore over all of the necessary information at their disposal in order to whittle down and eventually finalize their draft boards.
For the most part, how they feel about these prospects hasn’t changed much since scouting staffs first provided grades after the college football season, but the most interesting debates are yet to come—and this year might be more contentious than years past.
Draft season represents a strange crossover on the NFL calendar. Scouts usually have contracts that run through the draft, but the coaches who are asking for certain (different) traits might have just been hired in January as part of a new staff, after scouts have already done months of work for a different regime or coordinator. So why is 2018 different?
This year, there are 31 new coordinators (18 on offense, 13 on defense) to go along with seven new head coaches. According to Dan Hatman, a former NFL scout who now runs The Scouting Academy, that’s the most coordinator turnover since he started tracking coaching movement five years ago. All scouting departments operate differently, but some transition from “best player available” in Rounds 1 and 2 to “player who best fits the scheme” in Rounds 3 through 7. Some are looking for specific scheme fit even sooner.
“We draft for roles throughout the entire draft,” says one NFL executive. “We just try and match it up with best player available, but we could bypass a good player that doesn’t fit our scheme.”
The upheaval challenges those who grade players and are supposed to be, as Hatman calls it, “scheme agnostic.” Good area scouts should simply know what a quality football player looks like and the rest falls into the hands of general managers and scouting directors. In reality, it’s far more complicated than it sounds.
Imagine a team starting over with a branch from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, or the Pete Carroll coaching tree. In those cases, respectively, the thickness and hand speed of a defensive tackle or the length on a corner could be radically more important than under previous regimes. An evaluator who spent the entire season pounding the table for a 5' 10" defensive back now sees that player tumble down the final board because a new coach wants his defensive backs to have at least 31 1⁄4-inch arm length. It is almost impossible to find a universally beloved (or at least acceptable) wide receiver body trait.
“Everybody has their own approach,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. “We just try and take good players all the way through, like right now we’re sitting here without a [second or third round pick], which is a fun challenge for us. So alright, how do we figure out how to compensate for those openings?”
It represents a formidable test for general managers and personnel directors, who are judged by ownership, in part, on how they handle massive traffic jams in the war room during draft time. This year, they will have to add psychiatrist to their unending list of responsibilities. As for scouts, their streak of “least appreciated job” on the NFL ladder continues for another year.
“How are you teaching guys to go through this?” Hatman says. “Now you’ve got seven guys in a room who all believe something different and are going to fight over what to believe. Are you at least putting bumpers on the bowling lane?”
QUARTERBACKS UNDER PRESSURE
An interesting excerpt from the Pro Football Focus draft guide: Here’s how the top-five QB prospects fared under pressure in 2017, listed in order of their NFL equivalent quarterback rating in those situations . . .
Baker Mayfield: 111.6 (44-87, 11 touchdowns, 2 INT)
Lamar Jackson: 90.6 (53-119, 927 yards, 8 touchdowns 1 INT)
Sam Darnold: 74.8 (61-127, 1035 yards, 7 touchdowns, 6 INT)
Josh Rosen 69.1 (53-110, 768 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 INT)
Josh Allen: 58.5 (36-95, 507 yards, 7 touchdowns, 5 INT)
For me, the most interesting part of this stat is that Jackson saw more pressure (on 184 total drop backs) than any of the quarterbacks on this list, with Darnold being a not-so-close second. Sort of an interesting wrinkle for those interested in turning Jackson into a wide receiver.
PARSING THE DRAFT ‘HOT TAKE DU JOUR’
The Giants should not stay at two unless they’re drafting Eli Manning’s successor.
In my previous, pre-Colts/Jets trade look at the top five I had the Giants taking N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb with the second overall pick. In a perfect world—one in which new general manager Dave Gettleman wasn’t burdened with the weight of a 37-year-old franchise quarterback in decline—I think the choice would be obvious. He wants to build his franchises from the lines outward, and taking a guard (Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson) at No. 2 would simply be too much for a non-premium position.
Gettleman’s mentor, Ernie Accorsi, always stressed that if a team is picking that high, the player needs to make the Hall of Fame. Chubb could very well fit that billing. Nelson might, too, but good interior offensive linemen can surface later in the draft or in undrafted free agency.
It’s clear that, as teams set their boards and ticket-minded ownership gets involved, the push to secure a quarterback is on. The Jets gave up three second-round picks just to move up three spots to get . . . someone at No. 3. The Browns will almost certainly fulfill their offseason plan to draft a quarterback. That leaves the Giants holding the keys to the last card in the top three, and teams like Buffalo, Arizona, Miami are all within striking distance if there’s a deal to be made.
Staying at No. 2 and taking someone like Chubb or Penn State running back Saquon Barkley would fit both Gettleman’s reputation as a non-conformist and the offseason plan to maximize the remainder of Eli Manning’s career. He would have to answer plenty of questions, though, about the opportunity to trade down and whether he truly maximized the value of that pick.
My gut? If it’s not Chubb, then Gettleman is looking to recreate the same kind of quarterback room the Giants had with Eli Manning and Kurt Warner in the past. Manning understands the end is (somewhat) near and would probably like to leave the franchise that had his back for more than a decade in good shape. If that’s the case—again, my gut—Josh Rosen is the pick.
YOUTUBE HIGHLIGHTS THAT MAY ONLY INTEREST ME
Josh Allen vs. Boise State, 2017 . . .
A few interesting questions for NFL head coaches or general managers to ask themselves: Does he move on from covered targets as quickly as you’d like? Is the arm strength able to be harnessed? Is there a tendency to lock on to receivers?
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