I don't know about you, but Christmas comes twice a year for me. Once in December, and then again in April. I'm like a kid in a candy store when it comes to presents, and I'll do just about anything just to get a peek into what my new found gifts will be. Nah, but seriously, it's that time of year people! Time to fill up the frig with cold beer, get some steaks for the grill and get ready for football's annual guess who we get, and hope that that guy isn't the next bust of all time...
In this post I would like to talk about NFL busts and how one might identify them, how GMs approach the draft, and some of undrafted players that went on to have great NFL careers. Some people think that teams don't really get down to looking into their draft needs until the prior season is ended. That's far from the truth, in fact, good teams are looking years ahead for fresh talent to fill their rosters, and that starts even at the high school level.
An NFL scout's job is a tireless journey from town to town, school to school, season to season, with many phone calls and text messages, and a computer filled with names of talented prospects and all the attributes they might bring to the team. Mostly anominous, keeping a low profile not to disturb the athletes normal routine, but using an eagle eye to spy out anything that might give the slightest advantage of what a kid could bring to his team. The scout usually never has any say in who the team drafts, he just relays the information the trained eye has witnessed from the young prospect on the field and in some cases off. The scout will gather as many sources that he can for internal information as well, because all the intel they can get is valuable in the whole process.
NFL scouts have an area they work in which could be called a - 'section' or 'zone' and it can be mapped out over a conference(s) i.e., SEC, ACC, WAC, MWC, Big 10, Big 12, amd so on. Most scouts start out learning their trade at the high school level and move up the college level as they gain experience and the ability to identify good talent. Scouts can do well to have a good rapport with college coaches who recruit for their schools, to give information as well as to receive information on certain prospects. Knowing and having a good relationship with all the recruiters in a scout's area is crucial to the job, and makes life a lot easier. But even with all the diligent work done on a prospect by the scouts, GMs, and coaches, there is still the possibility of that prospect failing at the top level - The NFL
Since the defensive end is a position of need for the Broncos, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss on one such culprit of the bust slogan - DE Vernon Golston. Golston was a top prospect out of the mid-west, coming out of Cass Technical school, in Detroit, Michigan where he registered 75 tackles, including six sacks, and earned an All-State selection as an offensive guard.
Golston would choose to go to Ohio St. in 2005, where he would redshirt after he suffered a broken hand in his first game. In 2006, Gholston had 49 tackles and his 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, which led the team, included 7.5 quarterback sacks, ranked second on the team. He earned Second-team All-Big Ten honors on the year from both the league's coaches and the media while starting 13 games.
During the 2007 season, Golston set a school record with 14.5 sacks in 13 games, breaking the former record of 13 sacks in a single season set in 1995 by Mike Vrabel. He was named All-America by Pro Football Weekly and was First-team All-Big Ten. He would set an Ohio St. single game record by recording 4 sacks against Wisconsin's quarterback, Tyler Donovan on Novemeber 3, 2007.
During his career at Ohio St. Gholston started 25 games. He finished with 87 tackles (47 solo) and 30.5 stops for a loss. He also had 21.5 sacks, which ranks fifth in school history.
Awards and honors
2007 College Football All-America Team (Pro Football Weekly)
2007 watch-list candidate for Chuck Bednarik Award
2007 watch-list candidate for Ted Hendricks Award
2007 Big Ten Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year (coaches)
2007 All-Big Ten Conference First-Team (coaches and media)
2006 All-Big Ten Conference Second-Team (coaches and media)
This Guy Is A Can't-Miss Prospect...
When looking at first glance, Vernon Gholston was a "can’t miss" Top 10. The New York Jets picked him with the #6 overall pick to use his incredible athletic skills to convert to a 3-4 OLB. As a DE Gholston EPA’d in all 6 events at the NFL Combine. He tore up the 40 yard dash (4.65/1.53 split), and even bettered his performance at his Proday - 4.58/1.59 split, 42" vertical jump. He also showed tremendous upper body strength with 37 reps of 225 lbs.
As a LB he excelled as well, though fell short in the #2 correlating statistic to NFL success at the position, 20 Short Shuttle. Gholston also tested marginal to below on the HRT in areas of Dedication, Focus, Receptivity to Coaching and Mental Quickness. HRT measures and assesses for such personality and mental qualities as mental and physical toughness, submitting to authority, self-discipline, motivation, work ethic, combativeness or inflicting bodily harm, collaboration, etc.
HRT is a customized per team mental characteristics assessment developed and implemented by former military special operations psychologists. Psychologists believe that utilizing psychomotor, personality, and intelligence test results accurately predicted success among military personnel. Hence, given observable similarities between the military and football, the same is true in predicting success in the NFL (Packman, 2008; Sanders, 2010).
When you look at Vernon Gholston, you see a star in the making who had an outstanding college career and his measurables were nearly off the charts in terms of athleticism. He never recorded a sack in 3 seasons as a Jet and was released prior to 2011. The Chicago Bears picked him up and subsequently cut him as well. Then you wonder what went wrong, why isn't this guy an NFL star making millions of dollars. There wasn't much predraft information to lead anybody to believe that this guy would be the ultimate bust, even the experts make certain claims...
Pat Kirwin and Mark Mayock had him #4 overall, the War Room #5, Mel Kiper #6, Todd McShay #8 and Sports Illustrated the FIRST pick in the draft!
Should Teams Draft Solely For The BPA, OR Draft For Need?
That's a false dichotomy. Teams strive to do both simultaneously about 95 percent of the time.
Teams do not rank prospects from 1 to 250, the way draft sites do it. They organize players into tiers. The top tier might contain only three or four players, the next one seven or eight. By the time you get past the top 25 prospects or so -- and remember, that does not take us out of the first round -- a tier might consist of 20 players who earned more-or-less equal grades from scouts and coaches.
So when a team is on the clock, there may be four, 14 or (by the later rounds) 40 players left in its current tier. Given four players to choose from, one will fill a need, unless the team on the clock is the 1992 Cowboys. Given 14 players, a team might trade down. With a glaring need and one player worthy to fill it in an evaporating tier, a team might trade up.
There are times when the last players in one tier fill no real need, the next tier contains a good option at a needy position and trading around to micro-manage the situation makes no sense, but it is not that common. At no time does a team think, gee, there's a Hall of Fame-caliber (in our opinion) linebacker on the board, but we have pretty good linebackers and our tight end just turned 30, so let's take an ordinary tight end instead.
Let's Keep In Mind That The Draft Is An Imprecise Science...
Draft analysis has a scientific sheen, with 40-times in the hundredths of a second and scouting reports that break a player's footwork down to molecular levels. A lot of this is false precision and pseudoscience. Aside from a handful of truly unique individuals at the top of each draft board, each class is full of players who, in the professional sense, are essentially the same. We can rank one 5-foot-11, 190-pound cornerback good enough to start in the SEC 75th overall, and another 5-foot-11, 190-pound cornerback good enough to start in the ACC 142nd overall, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that the variables that separate Darius Slay from Brandon McGee right now have even a tiny impact compared to the variables which will affect them (and dozens of others) after the draft: depth chart log jams, organizational expectations, new workout regimens, great coaching, terrible coaching, money, creepy hangers-on with designs on that money and on and on. The secret of the draft is that many fans (and some analysts) see it as an end in itself. For teams, it is just one step in a continual process. As for that math problem, there is no real right answer. Animals change directions and speeds, Jeeps hit bumps, and variables like elevation and wind resistance overwhelming the rounding errors and simplifications. That's the draft.
Thursday evening the Denver Broncos will embark on their extended journey to win the NFL Championship, and it all starts with the 28th pick of the 2013 draft. We can all be rest assured that the entire staff involved in the selection process have worked many hours on finding the right man for the right job. I don't know about you, but I'm more excited now about who we get than I was 10 years ago...