My first year scouting in the NFL was 1995 with the Carolina Panthers, I learned a large amount of the NFL business from some very knowledgeable personnel men, they called themselves dinosaurs during my interview process. The two men that hired me at Carolina were Pro Football Hall of Famers Bill Polian and the late Mike McCormick. Several others had a profound imprint on my career as well, the late Bill Walsh and Dom Anile taught me the art of scouting and evaluating talent at the college and professional levels of competition. Throughout the years in the league you naturally acquire some very close friends (Kevin Colbert, Ozzie Newsome, Jerry Reese and Rod Graves) and respect their work from afar, also the senior scouts (Milt Davis, Red Cochran Jr. and C.O. Barcato) who helped shape me into an area scout, which propelled me to Director of College Scouting within five years.
Some say “build it up the middle.” Others say start on either offense or defense edge. But based on what I’ve learned throughout my 15 years in the NFL, 11 of those as a front-office executive, you start with a quarterback first. Without a franchise quarterback, you’re not very good. With a good QB, your chances of winning your division and making it deep into the playoffs increase tenfold.
The other positions of importance when developing a NFL roster are in this order: OT (offensive tackle), specifically a left tackle to protect the quarterback’s blind side; DE (defensive end), to rush and attack the opponent’s quarterback with consistent pressure off the edge; a MLB (middle linebacker) who controls the middle of the defense; a CB (cornerback) with man coverage skills to lock down receivers; and, lastly, a RB (running back) who can carry the load for 16 games (plus postseason) to help grind the clock and shorten the game.
In today’s world of the NFL, the landscape has changed and continues to evolve. Offenses have moved from a run-first mentality to a pass-happy aerial attack like in years past, when Jim Kelly and the K-Gun earned four straight Super Bowl berths under Coach Marv Levy and GM Bill Polian it included multiple-receiver sets and formations. College football is developing quarterbacks to thrive in a spread, or one-back offenses with the quarterback in the shotgun formation a high percentage of the game (see 2012 Super Bowl). And, as seen last year, the read option is here to stay as long as the college game keeps producing quarterbacks who have the positional attributes as a combination passer and runner.
With the influx of multiple-receiver formations, the NFL has seen the 3-4 defense come back from extinction. While a few NFL clubs stayed pat, several teams have recently started the transition or migration away from the 4-3 defense in order to apply more pressure on the pocket with athletic outside linebackers who are versatile enough to rush the passer and play in space. They boast awareness of both ball and receiver vs. multiple-receiver formations.
General Managers and Head Coaches, along with offensive coordinators, are making a big push to draft athletic offensive tackles – not only on the left side to protect the quarterback’s blind side, but on the front side as well. I have slotted these tackles in at either RT (right tackle) or LT (left tackle) for placement reasons.
Character: Leader in the locker room, community involvement, off-field issues (arrest, drugs, assaulting women, guns etc.
Football Intelligence: Student of the game, film study, playbook memorization, ability to process and regurgitate information with recall.
Leadership: Natural-born leader, vocal, quiet, leads by example.
Competitiveness: A clutch player with a win-at-all cost attitude, with a high level of intensity. He is at his best under adverse situations. He is confident in himself, and his teammates have confidence in him.
Toughness: A nasty inline blocker to consistently deliver under pressure and refuses to be defeated. He has an ability to play both injured and hurt when the team needs him.
Production: Produce under pressure in critical situations as a blocker in tight or open space.
Arm Length: Length for edge players ranges from 33 ½ to 36 inches.
Athletic Skill Set
Blocking: Attitude and temperament; three points of contact, strength/explosion; aggressiveness; willingness; flat back, runs feet to finish; works well with other offensive linemen on combination and zone blocking schemes, effort; physical toughness; balance; finish, pin and pancake, upright wall to shield, inline thumper.
Inline: Quickness off ball; initial strength and explosion; collision blocker; ability to sustain; foot and hand quickness; balance; cut-off; reach; seal; scoop, drive, fold, wall off, pulling into space would be a plus.
Second Level: Quickness to linebacker and downfield blocking skills; ability to locate and attack target on the move.
Pass Blocking: Foot quickness to slide and remain frontal of defender; hand punch replace, strike and recoil, quickness to pass set; good anchor; base/leverage; ensure balance; knee bender with good ankle flex; play lower than defender; finish.
Explosion: Uncoil; pad level; hip sink and snap; ankle flex.
Adjust/Recovery: Position and turn defender; maintain contact; quickness to re-position.
Durability: Stamina; endurance; injury history for position and the ability to play hurt.
Pull/Trap: Short area quickness; body control; long; mobility in space; adjust on the run; ability to attack target in space with production.
Recovery: Regain position to cut off inside charge; inside move; mirror; outside move; foot quickness.
Strong UOH (use of hands): Steer, stab and punch; double arm bar; single arm bar; twist and cork screw.
Football Intelligence: High football IQ; football instincts; awareness; read reaction quickness on the move; recognition of stunts and blitz packages.
Deep Snapper: Point after/field goal and punt snap ability.
Strength: Functional strength and explosion; weight room numbers.
Pittsburgh T.J. Clemmings 6’4 – 309 (RT) (X) Foot 1st Rd
Florida D.J. Humphires 6’5 – 307* (LT/RT) 1st Rd
Miami Ereck Flowers 6’6 – 329* (LT) 1st Rd – 2nd Rd
Texas A&M Cedric Ogbuehi 6’5 – 306 (LT/RT) 2nd Rd
LSU La’el Collins 6’4 – 305 (RT) 2nd Rd
Stanford Andrus Peat 6’6 – 313* (RT/OG) 2nd Rd
Others to Watch
Oregon Jake Fisher 6’6 – 306 (RT)
Oklahoma Tyrus Thompson 6’4 – 324 (RT/OG)
Utah Jeremiah Poutasi 6’5 – 335* (RT/OG)