Scouting Reports: 7 of the 10 Most Important Characteristics Cannot Be Measured Quantitatively

by | Mar 31, 2017 | Articles, The League, The Team

Michael Conroy via AP

What are the most important characteristics an NFL scout assesses when he and the organization gauge the readiness of prospects available in the upcoming NFL Draft?

Heck, as fans, many of us catch glimpses of the NFL Scouting Combine. We follow the mock drafts, even keep up with campus workouts. We know about a prospect’s 40-yard dash times and cone drills and reps on the weight bench, even the size of a quarterback’s hands or the wingspan/radius of a promising wide receiver.

So would you be surprised to know that on a list of the top 50 “Scouting Characteristics” used by many NFL scouts, the top 7 characteristics have little to do with physical prowess and everything to do with character. It’s more about being “the right kind of guy” (to borrow Coach Garrett’s phrase).

Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com is a former NFL scout with extensive experience throughout the league including stints with the Packers, Eagles and Cowboys. He allowed me to look at a “Scouting Characteristics” list which serves as a guide for scouts around the game.

Here are the “Top 10 Scouting Characteristics” for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offense & defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.

  1. Character
  2. Work Ethic
  3. Compete
  4. Passion/Love Game
  5. Physical Toughness
  6. Mental Toughness
  7. Football Intelligence
  8. Play Speed (except QB, for QB’s, #8 is “Arm Talent”)

Gregory Payan via AP

9. Initial Quickness (except QB – Arm Strength) (DL & LB – Short Areas Foot Quickness) (CB and S: Acceleration)

10. Foot Quickness (OL Foot Speed, QB Release/Delivery, RB Acceleration/Burst, DL & LB Closing Burst; CB & S – Catchup/Recovery speed

Did you notice characteristics 1-7 are hard to quantify because they can’t be measured with a stop watch or number on a chart? You have to go all the way to #8 through #10 before you get to quantifiable numbers.

Once you get past #8, the “Characteristics” start to vary a little by position group. For example, for offensive linemen a characteristic is “punch/hand use”.

Some position groups go all the way up to 51 “characteristics”, others have “49” on this particular list. Again, the list is a guide, but it gives us an idea of what scouts really value.

As you get further and further down the list, you get to the real nitty-gritty of specifics for various positions such as “lateral slide” or “2nd level/space” or “Hips”.

The point is that physical measurables are lower on the list than characteristics such as work ethic and passion for the game. So when you hear scouts and coaches and front office executives talk about a player’s “intangibles” or “character”, those are qualities highly valued.

Are there exceptions? Sure, sometimes a player has so much physical potential or off-the-charts athletic ability/production that teams will take a risk and bring them on board. But for the overwhelming majority of draft prospects, it’s what in his heart — and in his character — that will put him atop a draft board.