Interview With A Draftophile: The Art of Uncovering the Small School Sleeper

Rutgers v Ohio State
Rutgers v Ohio State / Ben Jackson/GettyImages
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Unless you’ve figured out some tricks the rest of us have not, there are only 24 hours in a day, and far more prospects than would seem possible to examine in a typical offseason. How do you figure out where to start?

It depends a little on the position and the level of competition. I usually wait on top prospects from big schools, since I know the names will filter out there and I can catch up later. I also keep a running list of underclassmen who stand out to me when I'm watching games or watching a different prospect. In general, keeping a list of guys I notice any time I'm watching is a good place to build a list. (for example, I saw both Maxx Crosby & Alex Highsmith play as sophomores when I was looking at other players.)

QBs, RBs, and WRs I might start by watching highlights to see how they win and what kinds of outlier skills they seem to have. I'll dig a little more in on the ones who seem to have upside. QBs as pro prospects for me are almost totally about their upside, rather than how good/polished they were in college. EDGE I might watch some guys others have mentioned but I don't get serious about it until the combine, because I think it's the most athletic testing-dependent position by far. I then cross-check the freak testers with certain parameters against their film and production and then look at the guys who are riskier because they're great but not elite athletes at the position. Maybe they're close, or maybe they're young and will grow into their athleticism, etc.

The 3 big things I do that most other probably do not as much:

1. I watch a ton of FCS & mid-majors on ESPN+

2. I will identify a few players I already know I love and then try to see all of their snaps throughout the year, while catching their opponents and teammates, of course.

3. I accomplish both those things by being a master of the DVR and fast-forwarding between action. Because of my madhouse life schedule, I can't sit and watch many games live, so I condense my viewing experience A LOT. One of the reasons P.S. that love the XFL: the games are short, the pace of play is fast, and I can watch that game enjoyably in less than an hour... and see a bunch of guys I probably know better as players than the announcers.