Josh Norris

All Star Circuit

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Shrine Game Scout Conversation

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


On Saturday I’ll post a final look at the East-West Shrine Game roster. Each year I travel to this event (this is my sixth) I pick up something new about the process and how Shrine week compares to the Senior Bowl extravaganza.


I love both and each is beneficial, but the two are different. Shrine week is laid back. Practices are held at high school campuses. Evaluators stand on the field mere feet away from nearly full contact practices rather than 35 rows up on a stadium. NFL personnel members are catching up, laughing and frequently distracting each other from what is happening in front of them.


I am always evaluating my work -- Why an evaluation was correct or incorrect and what information I can add to my toolbox in order to create better content. That type of self-scouting can also be used for the pre-draft process and how I present it to you. Through conversations with NFL people, agents and my fellow (wonderful) media members, I continue to learn “best practices.” For the Shrine Game it is to zero in on the top 10, 15 or 20 prospects attending and nail those evaluations. Figure out who separates themselves from the pack, allowing them to make an NFL impact despite being at a lesser all-star event. That is different than the Senior Bowl, where I need to know every prospect, before and after, like the back of my hand. That’s not to say I don’t watch all Shrine prospects, I go through around 75 percent prior to the week, but sustaining and completing every evaluation is not feasible.


That is a roundabout way of saying this -- I am working on presenting my work in a better, more clear way to all of you.


During the special teams portion of practice (social time), I spoke with one NFL team’s Director of College Scouting. An uncomfortable feeling always emerges when asking NFLers about prospects at the current event. They know I can evaluate, so it is clear I would be digging for quotes. I knew this prominent personnel member was on a staff that went through major coaching changes over the last few years, so I shifted the conversation in that direction.


The amount of turnover a team’s roster goes through when shifting head coaches and coordinators is drastic. I do not have the numbers to back this up, but it would not be surprising to see 50% of the roster change over the course of two offseasons. Why? Owners and GMs often hire backgrounds/minds/personalities on the opposite end of the spectrum from the type they just fired, since the last style did not work. From there, the new decision makers want THEIR players. We see this all of the time. Great coaches can still have some level of success by working with and around players on the roster, but lesser coaches often blame a lack of player “fit” and talent than their own ability to win with what they have.


So I asked this Director of College Scouting about the differences in evaluating for a new-ish head coach compared to the old one. His first answer: intelligence. “The players have to be smart to pick up this system because it moves quickly,” he said. “Three plays in the huddle, checks at the line, and then adjustments on the fly.” That ability to process kept coming up in conversation, a personal position checklist of sorts. “Does my assignment change on this call? And what about this one?” again and again in a span of 40 seconds.


Next, I probed about one specific position: receiver. The high ranking personnel staffer hinted at previously lacking a plan for a position. They simply drafted pass catchers who they liked, but those evaluations seemed to be better in a vacuum than in practice, especially when balancing a receiver unit, with each one needing certain strengths in order for the offense to ideally run.


This time around, the team pinpointed critical factors, but not for the overall receiver position, but for different subsets of the same position. For example, and in its simplest form, in three-receiver sets - two receivers could boast “route running” as their top trait, while another offers “vertical playmaking” as his. That continues down to tight end as well.


This seems so obvious, but too often roster building is not put into practice with a clear process in mind. A prospect cannot be great at everything - You’ve heard me say that 100 times. Each has areas where he wins and negatives that likely won’t turn into strengths. So, in the case of pass catchers where multiple players at the same “position” are on the field at once, balancing skills and styles is important. And having depth for starters who offer a somewhat similar profile, albeit it to a likely lesser degree, is important as well.


A wide receiver is not a wide receiver is not a wide receiver. You cannot evaluate the position (or any) on a checklist and then administer a grade accordingly based on what a player does not have. That means you are searching for perfection and deducting when those expectations are not met. Instead, recognize where a prospect succeeds and figure out where that player fits on your team. “Critical factors” is a widely used term, but it is too generic. “Jarvis Landry and Mike Evans are both wide receivers, but they basically play two different positions.”


In recent years I’ve separated outside and slot receivers, but this makes me want to take it a step further at receiver but also along the defensive line and other positions.


The Director of College Scouting also complimented his team’s training staff and strength coach for bringing in new ideas, breaking the bubble and trying something new. Finding 22 starters a team can win with is possible, but locating 30 more in order to fill out a roster is nearly impossible. Keeping that 22 intact and healthy is a critical point often overlooked.


I’ll have more later in the week. Thank you for reading and supporting.



Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris



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