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Evaluating NFL Draft Prospects

Lesson 2 - Beginning NFL Draft Prospect Evaluation

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So you've got your database of NFL Draft prospects built, or at least started, the video tapes are rolling, and you're ready to start scouting. I usually watch tape with a computer on my lap, but if your database is on a desktop that is not near a television, you can jot down notes on paper and transfer them to your computer later.

After you have chosen a game to watch, sort your database by team so you can easily find the players you want to scout. In the comments section, jot down the specific areas (we will cover the specifics for each position in the next four lessons) you will be looking at for each player. Doing this ahead of time will make it easy to quickly post a comment or two in an organized fashion.

Watching the game itself is of little importance to your overall evaluation, although you might want to pay ttention to how players react in clutch situations, especially when the game is on the line. I like to focus on one player at a time, searching the tape for plays that include the player in question. After evaluating all the plays that include the first player, I rewind the tape and start with another player.

Lesson Three through six will focus on the specifics to look for at each offensive position, but for now, I want to talk about what NFL teams look for in general. These are the traits to look for in every prospect regardless of position.

• Character - How much character factors into the equation varies from team to team and scout to scout. I believe character is a very important factor when determining whether a young player can be depended upon on a consistent basis. Obviously character doesn't matter much if the guy doesn't have the athletic ability, but it can be the deciding factor between two players of similar talent. Since most of you will not have access to most college football players, you may have to listen to reports from other draft experts for information in this area. Also keep an eye out for players that make a habit of making the evening news with their off-field exploits or immature comments.

• Competitiveness - How bad does this player want to win? Do they go all out on every down or do they take plays off? There's a fine line between being competitive and being overly aggressive. You want a player that has the intensity to go hard all the time, but you don't want to see a player lose his cool. Ideally, you want a guy who will give it his all until the whistle blows, but doesn't let his anger get the better of him.

• Mental Preparation and Awareness - Does a player seem to understand his duties and what the team is trying to accomplish on every play? Does he spend the necessary time with his nose in the playbook or watching game film? Does he understand what's going on around him at all times? Does he react well when the play breaks down?

• Athleticism - Playing speed, quickness off the ball, strength, and body control should all be factored into a players athleticism. Body control would include things like balance, turning and running, adjusting to the ball, timing jumps correctly, and ability to avoid or break tackles.

• Leadership - Look for the player that is always prepared to do his job properly and works hard whether in practice or a game. A good leader does not need to be vocal, but must be respected by his teammates. He also sets a good example with his work ethic, shows up to play on every down, and pulls the team together when things are not going so well.

• Consistency - Does the player put in a good effort every week or does he tend to disappear at times?

• Injuries - Unfortunately, injuries are a big part of football, so you have to be aware of a player's medical history. If a player is prone to injuries that keep him in the trainer's room as often as he's on the field, you might not want to risk a draft pick on him. Any type of knee injury should be noted, as should any degenerative disorders.

How does this translate into a scouting report?

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