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From the Press Box - Redemption and Intangibles

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From the Press Box - Redemption and Intangibles

So this column has been a bit irregular the last month and I'm sorry about that. Some of the reasons for that will be more clear next Friday, but I'll be trying to finish strong here in April—which means I'll be working a bit on my vacation the week of the 15th.

So put away the whips!

I'd like to start off with some of the all too rare positive stories about athletes in the NFL. Usually the press gets all excited for an arrest or DUI, but sometimes it recognizes something cool almost despite itself.

After five years in prison, wrongfully accused of rape, Brian Banks is getting his shot at the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons will be the ones giving it to him.

We see guys come out of prison changed—it's not a rare story for guys to get a wake up call—but Banks' is a unique story because he was innocent. He lost five years of his life, a full scholarship to USC, as well as his reputation (he was forced to register as a sex offender after serving his time).

The long term damage to his life by an accusation which was made up, could have destroyed most of us. It very well would have at least made us a hell of a lot more cynical.

However, as chronicled in every story about him including this piece from Pro Football Talk, Banks feels blessed because his family and friends stuck with him. He feels positive despite what happened.

Honestly, I've no clue how good he will be. He's been working out hard and is highly motivated but we all know that isn't always enough.

As far as I'm concerned, I hope he has a long fulfilling career. It sounds like the universe might owe him one.

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Talent evaluations are really tough. Most of you know this, we've talked about it in this space enough. We're in smokescreen season so we all know to believe half of what we hear and then take everything else with a giant mammoth sized salt lick.

Of course the single most difficult thing to do is figure out "intangibles".

Comparatively, breaking down arm strength, ability to read defenses and pocket presence is easy as cake (I'm not a big fan of pie, much to the horror of my eldest son).

And by "intangibles" I don't mean leadership in the huddle. That you can tell.

I mean work ethic, demeanor and overall personality when you can't see them in the field.

So many analysts get tripped up by this because that area is the one they most have to rely on scouts, teammates and other never-to-be-named sources. Those sources have agendas. Those agendas can lead to—perhaps not outright lying, but a bit of fudging.

Which is how you get reports, such as the one Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki wrote about Geno Smith, which fly in the face of just about everything everyone has written to date on a player.

I'm going to steer clear of Nawrocki's history with outrageous quarterback analysis because that's a hornet's nest for another day.

The reaction—which was savage—to his comment that Smith wasn't a hard worker and not a student of the game made it hard to see some otherwise good analysis. Smith has flaws—every single quarterback does in this class—which can bump him down some boards.

By all accounts, work ethic and knowledge of football are not among those.

Of course, who did Nawrocki talk to? Who did he trust? And can we trust him? Further, can we trust all the other reports—some made by people at West Virginia—when we know they've got their own agenda.

I've heard Smith didn't wow anyone at the chalkboard when he was at the Combine, but does that point to any of the above?

Again, this is the part of the evaluation process we all struggle with because very few analysts are in locker rooms enough to know the truth.

And I do it too. I compile info from multiple sources and, like most others, it's secondhand. I try not to let it weigh too heavily in my analysis because it's such a specious aspect of the process, but it's also important because when you ignore it—you get Jamarcus Russell.

On the other hand, it's up to each person to decide how much to profile rumors you've heard should be in any report and how.

If you phrase it wrong, you're going to hear about it.

That's it for today—we'll be back at least once next week, and possibly more.

Also, it looks like I will be doing the post draft prospect videos for the guys the Packers take like I did a couple of years back.

So that should be fun as well.

Have a great weekend.

Also, enjoy some DANGER ZONE from Archer

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Turophile's picture

The attitude thing may be toughest to determine when you are looking at the big D linemen.

All the really big guys take some plays off, if they didn't they would wear down and be less effective, which gives the same result. It is not easy to differentiate between a smart player who rations his stamina well and picks his spots to give max effort, from a player who has a bit of lazy in him. Big 3-4 D line guys often have little in the way of stats to guide you.

John Jenkins is a good example of totally confusing reports. There are good reports out there on him and others that almost crucify him. Are you going to get the unblockable monster from the Senior Bowl week, or a low-motivation guy who eats himself out of the league in short order ?

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