As the calendar approaches April, the pre-draft spin cycle will soon hit overdrive.
The rules are simple. Teams that don’t like a player will say good things about him, hoping that someone with a higher pick will take the player, which will push a more viable prospect down the board. Teams that like a player will say bad things about him, hoping that he’ll still be there when the team makes its pick.
It’s important to keep those rules in mind when considering any off-the-record assessments of players by scouts and coaches who, depending on the teams for which they work, may be hoping to influence what other teams will or won’t do.
Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports spoke to scouts and coaches from multiple unnamed teams who attended the Monday Pro Day workout of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. And none of those folks regard Te’o as a first-round pick.
“Nice player, but not worth a first-round pick. Not in my view,” said an unnamed “AFC personnel man.”
“He’s not a star,” an AFC head coach said. “If I’m taking a linebacker in the first round, I want a guy who can change my defense. Trust me, I’ve been wrong about linebackers before, but this guy doesn’t fit the bill of what I spend a high pick on.”
“[H]e’s not good enough in my view,” an NFC defensive coordinator said.
We don’t doubt for a second that these sources said what Cole says they said. But without knowing which team they work for, it’s impossible to know whether they really mean it.
It’s a common reality of the pre-draft process. Scouts and coaches knock certain players, possibly because the scouts and coaches believe what they’re saying — and possibly because they have an agenda. When it comes to the draft, everyone has an agenda. When it comes to the strategy-driven NFL, everyone periodically (or more often) tells untruths to advance their agenda.
We’re not saying it’s right or it’s wrong. That’s just the way it is. But that makes it impossible to put much stock in the things being said by unnamed sources who may be secretly hoping that the player they’re knocking slides into their laps.