This morning at breakfast, my younger son, who’s eleven, asked me, “Dad, would you rather not watch the Super Bowl, or not watch the NFL Draft?” He was absolutely not kidding, and it speaks volumes that I had to think about it before deciding I co
uld deal with listening to some live Draft podcast if I had to. Any other answer would be putting the cart before the horse, wouldn’t it?
The Draft is very different than when I first started following it closely as a collegian at Lehigh in the mid-1980s. The event has taken on a life of its own, spawning an entire cottage industry, and nobody says “Draftniks” anymore (because there are so many of us now that we’re no longer a fringe element?)
While I’m still looking forward to springtime here in White Plains, NY, the first annual event that fills me with a sense of renewal is Senior Bowl week. It starts with the East-West Shrine Game, followed by the NFL’s Conference Championship games, then the week of Senior Bowl practices, then the game. Oh, and there’s the Super Bowl after that before we shift entirely to free agency and the Draft.
The grind of the college football season can change the dynamics of NFL Draft boards. As early-season favorites fail to impress, a new crop of draft-eligible candidates can emerge.
We identify five running backs definitely worth watching:
1. SAQUON BARKLEY, Penn State
With big-league quickness and sports-car-like acceleration, Barkley boasts a complete set of tools including the ability to evade tacklers. In today’s multi-unit, heavy-passing game plan, Barkley can serve as an all-down back thanks to a fine balance of rushing and receiving yards. Adding a player with Barkley’s ability can really provide a wide range of options for quarterbacks at the line of scrimmage.
Amateur Scouting & Draft Season
If you’re our kind of person, this is your favorite time of the year. Baseball is on the horizon, and the NCAA tournament is in full swing, but the real March madness for us is scouting for the NFL Draft.
Like most of you, scouting is a hobby for me. I have no professional scouting experience, but I have been to one degree or another forming my own opinions about NFL Draft prospects since around 1985, when I was in college.
I’m an old-school “draftnik” (does anyone really use that word anymore?) and I was at the Marriott Marquis in person when Vinny Testaverde was drafted first overall in 1987 and the idea of actually attending an event that consisted of guys handing cards to another guy who would read the name on the card aloud seemed off-the-charts nerdy instead of mainstream nerdy.
In this article, I describe my process for scouting, which has evolved considerably over the years, in hopes that you can borrow from it to improve your own process and thus your enjoyment of draft season, or that you can share something from your own process that helps me improve mine. Spread the love.
It’s critical to keep in mind that what should matter most to you is YOUR opinion. You decide how to scout, what traits you like, how you value different positions, and what you think of individual prospects. That’s our entire raison d’être… we built a website that’s a virtual NFL General Manager simulation because we want YOU to be able to see how you would do if you could run a team YOUR way.
Amateur scouting may be a hobby for me – or at least tangentially, as I do run an NFL virtual GM website, a marginally-professional activity – but I take it very seriously and take immense internal pride in my work.
When you sign up to run a virtual NFL team here on PowerHouseGM.com, you start in the timeline at one week after the most recent Super Bowl. We do this in order to give newcomers lots to do right away and an immediate opportunity to put a thumbprint on their teams. After all, if you start in July, you’ve already missed the NFL Draft and free agency, and the waiver wire options are pretty lean.
The 2016 NCAA season will re-focus on running backs as not only potential Heisman Trophy candidates, but top candidates to be selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Next year’s NFL Draft could see a number of running backs earn first-round grades. Experts say the running back position no longer presents high first-round value due to the trend of spread offenses and greater emphasis on passing.
What must a modern running back do to achieve a first-round grade?
- Pass protect. In order to become an every-down-back, runners today must be able to protect the quarterback first and foremost. Any ‘back who can’t pick up a blitz will find himself second or third on the depth chart.
- Immediate acceleration fits in with draws and screens. Today’s passing schemes require backs to gain speed from positions where they have to wait for the ball.
- Yards After Contact is a key metric measured by “Moneyball” analysts. The ability to break tackles remains a key attribute running backs in any era.
- Pass catching due to screens, check-downs and flat passes.
Which running backs will garner the most attention this season?
[Note: This article is the first in a long series of new permanent content being posted to the PowerHouse Library. Yes, long-suffering PowerHouse friends, the “under construction” image has been removed, and we are at last building out this content…]
A Standard for Communications
It’s one thing to have an opinion of a draft prospect, but it’s quite another to articulate that opinion to a group of your colleagues in a way that can be useful in the decision-making process, and can be understood even if you’re not standing there waving your arms and gushing about him or crinkling your nose in disgust.
Real NFL scouts use descriptive language and common verbiage to clearly and efficiently explain traits that prospects have or lack, and they have plenty of opportunity to explain in words anything unique about the person behind the facemask.
Congratulations to the Broncos for their victory in Super Bowl 50, to Peyton Manning for winning his second championship, and to Von Miller for his superb play throughout the playoffs and his Super Bowl MVP award. Miller is one of the most dynamic young defenders in the game, and was one of the nicest young men I have met in person in my years going to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. Both the Broncos and the Panthers offer great lessons for our virtual NFL General Managers playing our iGMTM game, but that’s a topic for another time.
The NFL is truly the game that never stops, and this time of year is about turning the page and looking forward to the Scouting Combine, free agency, pro days, and the NFL Draft, where the teams that will vie for championships in the near future will add key pieces that will help make them contenders. NFL scouts have been hard at work since last summer, but this is the time of year that the rest of us shift our attention to our own scouting. For us, this time of year is as much as or even more fun than the actual competition of the NFL’s season.
With the Super Bowl in the books, much of the NFL Draft order has been determined. This year, there are no coin flips to break ties. However, the final draft order will not be known until the March owners’ meetings, where the 32 Compensatory draft choices for net free agents added and lost will be awarded to teams at the end of rounds three through seven.
We do now know most of the draft order, though, and we have uploaded it to our site for our virtual GMs to use in mock drafts by this weekend (and then updated for the Compensatory picks when those are announced.) The draft order is determined by a relatively simple process, as NFL processes go. Many in our audience will already be familiar with it, but in a nutshell:
We all have our favorite sources for NFL Draft content on the web. NFL Network, in addition to their coverage of the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine, and prospect Pro Days, has catnip for draftniks (how’s that for an awkward phrase?) in the form of their daily “Path to the Draft” show. Of course, in print, the best draft publication on the planet is Ourlads Guide to the NFL Draft, and our paid Members can get their guide for free this year.
Here at PowerHouse, we have SiriusXM NFL Radio on pretty much all the time, and their best show, hands down, is “Movin’ the Chains,” with former NFL personnel man Pat Kirwan and former journeyman (in case he reads this) QB Jim Miller. Every year, they do a series of mock drafts in a format where they take turns.
If you’ve never done a mock draft in this format, it’s an eye-opening exercise that exposes you to other ways of thinking and eliminates that tendency we all have to slot guys where we think they are a best fit.
The truth is, the 32 real-life NFL General Managers are each making one vitally important decision for their team, and not trying to make their contribution to a first round that looks elegant, neat, and well thought out. When you draft with a friend doing half the picks, you’re forced to stay focused only on the team you’re picking for at the moment, those coming after you be damned.
Here are the results of their first mock draft of 2015, broken into three segments, which is how they did it on their show on Friday, March 27th:
Earlier this week, I had an interesting email exchange with Shane Johnson – one of the guys here at PowerHouse who does a lot of great work for us. You will hear a lot more from Shane in the coming weeks…
The topic was Shane’s speculation that the way the NFL Draft might fall could lead to teams having a “best available” in front of them who is at a position that is not a need, and in that case, might we see veteran players traded during the Draft, potentially including Adrian Peterson, to clear cap space and open a path for the draftees.
I thought the conversation was interesting enough to turn into a blog post, so here it is…
Hey, Chris. A couple of weeks ago I read where an NFL GM was quoted as saying that there are no more than 15 true 1st rounders in this year’s draft. When I read that I felt like he was probably correct.
A few hours ago I was able to run the mock draft while selecting for each team manually based on the needs. In some situations there was not a player that I felt was good enough to meet their needs in the first round. The next best thing was to select the best player available for that team. But, when attempting to do this, I ran into situations where the best available player would be sitting the bench due to the talent the team already has at that position.
From what I have discovered this draft is going to be a very unique one. If you are in the top 10, things will work out for teams quite well. But after that it becomes very difficult. I think we are going to see more trades than we normally would but not in the way that we tend to see draft day trades executed.
The first team I ran into that had needs that could be filled in the next couple of rounds was Minnesota. The best player I thought was left on the board was Melvin Gordon. But with AP in the backfield what do they do?