It’s easy to point and laugh at some of the ridiculous things scouts can uncover about prospects, and how they get traction in a modern media cycle.
But at the same time, some of the things uncovered, and the importance attached to them, might explain why the miss rate on players in the NFL Draft is so high.
The easy punch line in Bob McGinn’s latest installment of scout-driven character assassination for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is the fact that someone thought the fact Eli Apple only eats takeout is pertinent.
“I worry about him because of off-the-field issues,” one scout said. “The kid has no life skills. At all. Can’t cook. Just a baby. He’s not first round for me. He scares me to death.”
Eli Apple is almost certainly going to be a first-round pick, which should give him the financial flexibility to hire a personal chef. Such that that matters at all.
That silliness aside, there are other parts of the article even more offensive, or at least they should be.
While Wonderlic-shaming has largely gone out of fashion (in part because the league has stressed to its partners how much they want it to go out of fashion), it’s back in full force here.
One of the courageous providers of inside information compared Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard to former Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble, citing his test score.
“That (mental) is going to be a key for him,” the scout said in drawing the correllation between the two players.
Gamble was also routinely degraded prior to his draft for his test scores, but was sufficiently able to play football for nine years in the NFL, earning a six-year, $53 million contract to replace his rookie deal. At no point in that career was his inability to learn football evident.
So not only should a comparison to Gamble not be considered a negative, scouts should be actively looking for more players just like him. Their employers would prefer a pick be used on a guy who can cover top receivers for nearly a decade over a guy who tests well and makes a mean meatloaf.
Any business that spends as much on employees as the NFL does has an obligation to vet those employees carefully. But the fact scouts spend so mental energy on things their tests can’t measure suggests a weakness in the process, not the players.