What teams want in offensive prospects

There is a ton of information about the prospects NFL teams expect to select in this weekend's draft. But a lot of it is numbers-oriented based on what each player did at the NFL combine, which often doesn't tell you a whole lot. Here's a quick checklist of the optimum skill-sets that NFL scouts want at each offensive position. On Friday, we'll look at defense.

This is based on a book the late Tony Razzano wrote called "Razzano: Secrets of an NFL Scout." Razzano scouted for the 49ers, Patriots, Chargers and Redskins. He helped build the great 49ers teams of the '80s and early ‘90s. It's an informative read, and I highly recommend it for any football fan interested in forming his own conclusions about what the future holds for NFL players or prospects. Check out Amazon.com to get a copy.

Quarterback

Must have arm strength and be able to deliver the deep ball fast and accurately. Must have escapability – a feel for when to step into the pocket and throw or when to shuffle to a side and buy some time. Must be able to read a play while on the run. Must have a quick set-up – the time it takes to receive the snap, drop back and throw. Must have short-throw accuracy, completing a high-percentage of these passes. Must be able to locate secondary receivers with ease. Must have good throwing velocity. Must have good judgment and pocket poise.

Razzano: "Judgment could be the most important quarterback criterion. You can look at all the other specifics. But you don't have anything unless you have good judgment in a quarterback."

Analysis of a current or recent Bill: Rob Johnson – Good arm strength, can throw on run, has nice touch, but has poor judgment, cannot find secondary receivers very well, has trouble reading plays and has poor pocket poise.

Offensive linemen

Must have quickness, agility and balance. Must have good feet and ability to move body well enough to maintain obstacle between quarterback and defensive lineman, or to find a defender to run-block on. Must have quick hands and strong arms to jolt oncoming defenders. Must be smart, remembering calls and quickly surveying changing landscape in order to react accordingly. Must have competitiveness, stamina, strength and explosion, which is how fast he leaves his stance for a good, well-balanced body position.

Razzano: "If an offensive lineman doesn't have good feet, I don't like to study him. That is a prerequisite."

Analysis of a current or recent Bill: RG Marques Sullivan – Strength is fine, but does not have good feet, or quickness and is not particularly explosive upon snap.

Running backs

Must have control, quickness, agility and balance. Must have strength and stamina to withstand pounding. Must have strong upper body and strong legs to be a good blocker. Must have good run instincts, and be able to run under extreme circumstances. Must be able to run inside and outside. Must be able to explode into line, not feebly approach it. Must consistently gain yards outside. Must have good hands of a wide receiver if he's a receiving option.  Must have durability. Must not fumble with regularity.

Razzano: "Size best exemplifies the point I've tried to make about ‘functionability.' If a running back doesn't function, I don't care how big he is or how fast he is."

Analysis of a current or recent Bill: Travis Henry – A former competitive high school weightlifter, Henry has excellent upper body and lower body strength, is quick and explosive enough to run inside and outside, and plays fearlessly, but fumbled with regularity last year.

Wide receivers

Must be able to run, catch and hold onto football. Good hands are a prerequisite. Must be able to make difficult catch with consistency. Must have good body control and be able to adjust to football with defender in his face. Must always know where sidelines are. Must be able to get open in his patterns. Must be in the right place at the right time. Must be able to run after the catch. Must be able to catch in traffic or have mind presence to knock ball down if it's uncatchable. Must be able to get off line of scrimmage cleanly when shown press coverage.

Razzano: "This position is important, but not as important as others to a scout for one reason: Receivers are plentiful. Why? There are a lot of people out there who can run and catch."

Analysis of a current or recent Bill: Josh Reed – Very good body control with excellent hands, an uncanny ability to get open, and a talent for making defenders miss, but does not contain Peerless Price's speed.

Tight ends

Must be big, strong and fast, with a receiver's speed, quickness, agility and balance, and a lineman's blocking prowess. Must be able to get open and make catches. Must be bulky and strong. Must be smart enough to recognize blocking schemes, patterns, open zones, coverages, defensive back positioning, blocking assignments, all while coordinating efforts with the quarterback and wide receivers.

Razzano: "Competitiveness – that's the big thing. It's the most important characteristic, especially with a hybrid position like the tight end … A tight end has got to be a good competitor, have good stamina, and have good strength. He has to have the strength of a lineman because he's blocking inside. Does he function with good strength? It's tough for a tight end to be highly skilled in each of the areas of his responsibility – you're encompassing a lot of other positions in one position. Many times you have to project a tight end's skill level after you've worked with him."

Analysis of a current or recent Bill: Jay Riemersma – Is an excellent pass catching tight end with good speed and quickness and an innate ability to find open seams, but is not a very good blocker.


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