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14

Locking Out NFL Prospects

by Jared Belson on Mar. 14, 2011
Now that the Union has decertified, there is likely to be a very long struggle ahead. If there is a prolonged lockout or strike, it could very well shorten or end the season, and the mere thought of that will very much alter the way teams draft. If there is no settlement before the draft, or no injunction allowing trades and free agency, players will not be able to be traded and veterans or undrafted free agents will not be able to be signed. When neither of those can happen, teams will have a harder time filling their needs, and will be more reliant on the draft to do so. If that is the case, teams just might be looking for players that can contribute right away in a shortened season with a limited amount of training. Here are the types of players that could be affected, if teams start to think this way:


Inexperienced Underclassmen:

With potentially no offseason training, no preseason, and possibly less regular season games, when the season does come back, teams will need players who could play right away. They will need players who can come in quickly and be productive, and helped them win games with or without the proper training. When it comes to certain underclassmen, experience will be key, and their lack of it might hurt them.

Examples: Robert Quinn, Justin Houston

Case Study: Robert Quinn is technically two seasons behind most of the seniors in this draft in terms of experience, after missing his entire junior season due to a suspension. Conditioning thus is already a concern due to the lost season and him potentially being out of playing shape. Combine that with an entire offseason with no structured or controlled workout regimens, that might just be enough for teams to let him pass on by in the draft.


Shotgun Quarterbacks:

There is a lot for any quarterback to learn before a season starts. Whether you are Peyton Manning or Sam Bradford, studying needs to occur in full force, and when you are a rookie, it is even tougher. You now have to learn ten times as many plays, and be able to execute them even faster than you ever did in college. Unfortunately, some rookie quarterbacks have more to go than just learning the offensive packages and the defensive schemes that they might face. They have to learn an entirely new form of playing their position. These would be the shotgun quarterbacks. Whereas before, these quarterbacks would get the ball snapped to them in a shotgun formation allowing them more time and space to see the coverages of a spread offense, now they will have to take the ball from underneath the center's legs, dropping back quickly in the process, while adapt to the new types of spacing and views that they will have. That is a lot to ask of a rookie quarterback, especially if you do not have time to train them in the offseason or have games for them to practice in. With little time to hone their craft with coaching in a shortened season, taking a young player who played in a shotgun offense in college might be a risk for a team.

Examples: Blaine Gabbert, Cameron Newton

Case Study: Statistically, Blaine Gabbert had a better season as a sophomore than he did as a junior. Teams want to see players improve over the course of a season, not regress. With NFL offenses consistently getting more complicated, teams want someone who can come in and grasp their system easily. Having played out of a spread formation in college, that task is going to be quite difficult. If a team is thinking about drafting him, knowing that they are going to want to stash him on the bench for a year, then they might be better off waiting another year for some of the more NFL ready quarterbacks that might be coming out in the 2012 draft such as Andrew Luck.


Heavy Guys:

For someone who weighs over 300 pounds, eating likely constitutes a good portion of their day. However, when it is counterbalanced by a strict workout regime, it is not a big problem, but a solution to a problem on whichever side of the ball they play. Yet players who are 300 pounds did not get that way by being disciplined with their eating and exercise. While a good portion of them might be overweight do to more innate reasons genetically, from the womb, or early childhood intake, many of them have never had that type of natural self-discipline that football has always provided for them. So given a great amount of time off, the 300 pound players are more likely than the 200 pound players to give in to the urges of their large stomachs, and come in to a shortened season overweight and out of shape.

Examples: Phil Taylor, Marcus Cannon

Case Study: Phil Taylor was a player who many thought underachieved his senior year. Coming in with a lot of hype, his effort was often times scrutinized. What happens though if he is drafted and there is a strike? Taylor currently weighs 334 pounds. With a year off, what kind of conditioning can you expect from him? If a team doesn’t feel he will have the discipline to stay in shape with time on his hand, he might see himself fall.


Projects:

It is one thing if you are inexperienced because you are young. If you are new to the game, that is an entirely different story though. Football is a game of toughness, speed, and instincts. With just one of those positive qualities you might be able to carve out a role for yourself on a team. However, its those that conquer all 3 that become the great players of this game. Toughness most often comes from your background, and you are likely born with speed, but instincts come from playing. The more you play the more quickly you are able to read and adapt to the opponents. If a player hasn't played as long as some of the others, and teams know it might take them time to pick up all of the little nuances involved with the game of football, they just might not want to wait around for it all to click.

Examples: Danny Watkins, Jordan Cameron

Case Study: Danny Watkins was born and raised in Canada, so it would have been a safe bet to assume his main sport was hockey growing up. In fact, he was also a firefighter and it wasn’t until junior college at Butte that he started playing football. At first glance he might not seem like a project given his success at Butte College, and his outstanding two years playing left tackle at Baylor. However, he’s 26 years old, and given that he has only been playing football for about 4 years, if there is any concern about him not being able to pick up blocking schemes, teams are more likely to go younger. Given that many teams see him more as a guard than a tackle, giving him a new position to learn, it might make him an even tougher sell,. A team is going to need to be sure he can jump in right away, because if it takes him a few years to master the position, in a sport that is still somewhat new to him, they might feel he is already be on the downside of his career by the time he is ready.


Injured players:

If a player had an injury close to the time of the draft, it might not always affect a player's draft stock as much as you'd think. For a team, they know that they have a trustworthy medical staff that could monitor and help take care of the injury to ensure that it will not be an issue in their career. However, with a lockout, none of the players drafted will have access to the team's medical facilities, and thus recovery is no longer in the hands of the team.

Examples: Da’Quan Bowers, Tyron Smith

Case Study: Teams are just started to get concerned about the “minor” surgery Bowers had on his knee, when he couldn’t attend Clemson’s pro day. Knee injuries are a big enough concern as it is, but not being able to manage that injury with your medical staff if you are the team that drafts him, might just give you enough worry to let him slide. A team will want to feel that his rehab is being carefully monitored and he can be attended to if he feels a tweak in his knee. Seeing how he performs at his individual pro day in April will go a long way in determining whether or not he has an injury that has taken care of itself. If there is any doubt, he could take a dive.


Risers:

Of course with any fall, others will rise. With underclassmen falling, productive seniors most capable of jumping in and playing right away in a shortened season, might rise. Players such as Gabe Carimi and Ryan Kerrigan who had two of the more successful senior seasons on their respective side of the ball, might make huge jumps for teams looking to plug guys in that who they could count on for their effort and production.

A lockout could also provide contrary logic to the areas listed above. For instance, underclassmen could actually rise. A team might want to take a young player such as Ryan Williams or Tori Gurley, knowing that if they sit a season, they will still have young legs when they are ready to go.


This draft could prove to be much like the season in one aspect; No one knows what is going to happen.