I’ve been asked by many people during this draft season how I know so much about NFL draft prospects. Well, the first thing is that the NFL Draft is my passion.
The draft is my favorite non-game in sports. From the NFL Combine, to pro days, to mock drafts, to the actual draft in April, there’s nothing better.
That is why I devote much of my time to blogging and recording podcasts about the draft and everything leading up to it. To do my mock drafts and big boards, I must have a clear understanding of every player I am talking about, as opposed to some mocks where it is obvious that the people making the mocks don’t actually know who the players are. Rather, those people just read off of other mock drafts written by people like myself who take the NFL Draft and the breaking down of prospects very seriously.
So, to show readers how I form an opinion on all of the players in the draft, I thought I’d show you my step-by-step process for breaking down players.
First and foremost is devoting the majority of my time to watching football from the September to January. The only way to really know the skill of a player is to watch him play live several times. That means watching those Tuesday night MAC games on ESPN, or those 10:15 at night irrelevant games between two west-coast teams.
Watching all of these games is when I can learn about new players from smaller schools, as well as seeing players from bigger schools such as Alabama and Oklahoma progress (or in some cases digress) throughout the season.
Then comes the postseason work. This begins with the college All-Star games such as the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game. In the case of the Senior Bowl, I mostly watch the practices throughout the week, as the practices are much more important than the actual game in terms of breaking down a prospect.
The practices consist of one-on-one drills between cornerbacks and wide receivers and goaline situations for linemen. Once all of the actual games are over, the majority of my time goes to learning more about every player.
The best way to learn more about a player is to do two things: read various articles about the player and use YouTube.
That’s right, YouTube.
Since I am not made available to the game tape that is issued to draft experts such as Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, I have to find my own videos.
I don’t go online to find “highlight” videos of players, as those mostly just show touchdowns or big plays made. The best thing to do is find videos that have tape of a player in various situations, such as a short third down that needs to be converted by a running back, or a one-on-one coverage for a cornerback.
Take this video of Iowa OT Riley Reiff for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWfhLJXbMnk
This video shows Reiff, my second best offensive tackle in the draft, in various situations and shows highlights of just him in the trenches. This video is useful because it includes both passing and running situations to give me a wide-range of plays to watch Reiff in.
Also take a look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXDEzCf3C7Y
This video is tape of Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill in last year’s Cotton Bowl against LSU. The video consists of every throw by Tannehill in this game, not just his big plays such as touchdowns. This video is useful because it gives me a sense of how Tannehill played throughout the game against one of the top defenses in the country.
I usually try to watch at least one video like the two above for each of the top players in the draft. For some guys such as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Trent Richardson, I’ve watched multiple videos.
As I said, these give me a great sense of how players react and perform in a wide range of game situations.
From here on out, I just watch tapes of players, read articles about players’ backgrounds, and watch events such as the combine and pro days.
Developing an idea of each prospective NFL player before he even touches the field as a rookie is quite simple if you put your mind to it.
Devoting time to watching film of players leading up to the draft is key, as right now the college football season is over and the only other time prospects can be seen live is at the combine.
I hope this short guide to breaking down NFL prospects is helpful for anyone that wants to know more about players before they move on to the NFL.
Just a few articles read and a few videos watched each day will have you making your own mock drafts and big board before you know it.