The NFL Draft is close. So close, in fact, normal people are no longer nauseated by the constant coverage of a potential draft prospect’s hand size. With that being said, though, there is a reason why people love the NFL Draft. It gives them hope. A belief that there is a chance that their iffy team might do all kinds of swell down the line.
It can be considered strange, though, at how we decide which players are worth cheering or booing for when our favorite team picks them. Really, unless you are the 12 or so honest to goodness people who breakdown film, you rely upon other people to tell you who is worth what.
Traditionally speaking, that means talking heads, mock draft gurus, and your local sports radio host, all who will have no problem telling you why Player X’s preference of underwear makes him a perfect fit for Denver, but a near deathblow for New England.
Thankfully, however, as technology advances, science becomes much more awesome (yes, awesome), and things of that nature keep getting more pub on our picture-boxes, blogs and whatnot, we now have an alternative.
All of which brings me to ESPN’s Sports Science creator and mastermind, John Brenkus.
In an interesting twist of irony (and really bad cell phone coverage, on my end, I think), our entire phone conversation sounded like a conversation being had between aliens. Nevertheless, between John being a smooth, swift and insightful talker and my ability to use a pencil, John was able to drop some knowledge on my otherwise empty cranium.
Before we go into what we talked about, it is also worth mentioning John’s credentials. Which could be highlighted by this, and you need only this, three years ago, John had Colin Kaepernick as his top-rated quarterback. That was at a time when no one thought his game could translate. So yeah, John Brenkus isn’t some ho-hum scientist, he has the goods.
The biggest thing John and I talked about was UFC QB, Blake Bortles. John, who has Bortles ranked as the best gunslinger in the draft, explained to me why he has Bortles ranked ahead of the rest of the group.
“We use more than just the physical aspect of a quarterback’s game when breaking him down,” John continued while pointing out how his Sports Science team determines a player’s quick release, “Most people just use how quick a guy gets the ball out of his hands. Instead, we see how quickly a guy determines his target, then releases the ball to the intended receiver. His true release time.”
All of which seems like a far better way to approach a quarterback’s ability to get rid of the ball. Sure, it is great if a guy can get the ball out of his hands quickly, but if it takes him approximately eleventy-billion days to find his target, it does his team no good.
John also mentioned the kinds of drills he has QBs go through. Rather than just the conventional throw to a target routine, John prefers to see every possible aspect. All the way down to, as John put it, “seeing how a guy does under pressure by having him throwing off his back foot, falling away, attempting to hit a receiver 20 yards down the field.”
As we continued to talk the importance of all the drills, technology, and science he uses to evaluate the position, I needed to know if teams have asked him about certain guys or if the NFL Combine itself ever asked for input, as I implied some of their drills are probably outdated.
“The NFL Combine is a traditional event. That is all it is. Teams will ask for information. It is all public information, though. It’s not like another team won’t have access to whatever information we have on a player.”
Then came my infamous (but not infamous at all) barrage of questions. Let’s quick hit these.
Hardest position to evaluate? John’s answer: QB.
Has a player ever come in and under performed and you didn’t see it coming? John’s answer was a nice, but no name calling: Of course.
Okay, so a barrage of questions wasn’t really the case. We focused mainly on Blake Bortles, my inability to have a solid cell phone connection (if only science could fix my technology, or, you know, give me more money for a better cell), and general NFL Draft talk.
I am going to leave you with this. John’s segment on Blake Bortles for Sports Science.
While it is not incredibly popular among the blogosphere to have Bortles in that high of a regard, it is really hard to argue against John’s merits, credentials and, of course, science.
At the end of the day, despite me heading into the interview on an anti Bortles stance, John blinded me with…
You can watch the Emmy-Award winning Sports Science on ESPN, but if you’re in need of a quicker fix, head over to their website here.