It’s true. In the NFL, it comes down to whether you can play the game at a very high level or not and the phrase, “the eye in the sky, don’t lie,” still holds true. While there are many things that a player has no control over, there are numerous other variables that a player can choose to do, in order to make him a more attractive prospect to NFL teams, which has nothing to do with his overall skill-set. Let’s take a look:
Effort/Hustle – Going 100% on every play doesn’t have anything to do with skill. Having a high motor, giving hustle and effort on every play is viewed as a positive and is something that a player can control. Remember, scouts and coaches are not just watching highlight tapes, they are watching full games to see what you do on every single snap.
Football IQ – Film study, knowledge of your opponent, understanding tendencies, knowing your scheme and the purpose of each play, knowledge of the rules, all of these elements have entirely nothing to do with how you play.
Accepting Coaching – Remember, scouts are going to talk to coaches about prospects, from the head coach down to the grad assistant. Most coaches are going to shoot scouts straight and be honest, their reputation weighs in the balance. So, if the prospect is willing to accept coaching and embraces what is asked of him by the staff, he will leave a positive impression behind, which will get relayed to the NFL teams.
Failed Drug Test – As a player, you might not think that this is a big deal but it is something that can hurt you with NFL teams and is something that as player, you have total control over.
Domestic Violence/ Violence against Women – There are many documented cases that have significantly damages a player’s draft stock. One of the more recent incidents involved running back Joe Mixon (Cincinnati Bengals). Despite that the altercation transpired several years prior to him entering the NFL Draft, several teams removed him from their draft board entirely. He was selected lower than what his draft grade would’ve been, had it been based solely on film.
Association – When NFL teams are doing their due diligence investigating a player’s background, they’re interested in who the player hangs out with off the field and whether any of these people present red flags. The phrase ‘guilty by association’ is often used by scouts if he feels that his surrounding clique could rub off in a negative way and result in bad decisions.
Social Media – Monitoring and reviewing social media pages has become a big part of the player evaluation process in recent years. Scouts are looking to see what the prospect is posting on these platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram). They are looking for whether the player is posting about football or could there be some red flags involved, such as mentions of guns, violence, drugs or alcohol, etc.?
Work Ethic – As a prospect, teams want to know, are you a hard worker in the weight room, on the practice field, in the class room? These are all things that a player can dictate. One of the most important resources to a NFL scout is the strength and conditioning coach. Scouts are going to ask does this prospect show up for work outs, does he do extra, do you have to push him to give effort?
Medical – This is one that a prospect doesn’t have much control over. In football, injuries happen and they can have an impact on a player’s draft grade. What a prospect does when he endures an injury, how does he attack the rehab and what cautionary steps are taken to prevent re-injury are all questions that NFL scouts will seek answers to when they evaluate a player.