Courtesy of Annie Apple

Hot Takes & Hot Cakes -- Ohio St. CB Eli Apple deserves better

Anonymous Scouts in the NFL Draft have said some crazy things over the years, but they seem to be getting more and more outlandish as time goes on. Our Josh Webb looks at the latest incident of Anonymous Scouting and why one major publication owes Ohio State CB Eli Apple much more than they gave him.

There’s a point before every NFL Draft where sites have said all they can say, done all the mocks they can do, and run through as many scenarios as they could think up. It’s usually right around this point that “Anonymous Scout” begins to make his presence felt in Draft reports. Everyone knows Anonymous Scout, but nobody has met him. He’s a skilled analyst, in high demand, and capable of analyzing every team’ every position of need, and then providing them with their best case scenarios.

Unfortunately for those being drafted, Anonymous Scout is kind of a pain in the ass. Don’t believe me? Ask Ohio State’s Eli Apple, a cornerback we had the Rams drafting prior to their trade for the No. 1 overall pick. In a recent article in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, an anonymous scout told the paper that he worries about Apple because his lack of life skills and cooking skills.It seems like the scout was trying to stress that Apple lacks the basic tools some adults need to succeed, but the packaging was a little much. At the end of the day, how does one even respond to the following?  

“The kid has no life skills,” Anonymous Scout said. “At all. Can’t cook. Just a baby. He’s not first round for me. He scares me to death”

Well, as it turns out, with humor. Apple’s mother took to Twitter and defended her son by having a little fun with Birdman in the process. More to the point, Apple’s mother stressed that reports like these don’t exist to their family. While I’m not quite sure what that means, I am reasonably sure she is highlighting the fact that this family will not be brought down by petty articles like this. She then added that Apple’s dad is a retired five-star chef, but that doesn’t really do much for Apple.

It doesn’t help that Draft reports tend to be nuanced and varied. The internet is full of individuals who fancy themselves Draft experts. A decent number of individuals on the internet are very good at what they do, but there are also some that aren’t so good. The problem with these Anonymous Scouts is that it’s hard for the reader to know which of the two they are getting. It makes it that much more difficult to make an informed decision.

What’s truly curious about these anonymous NFL scouts is that they seem to hide behind the shadows when the game is about putting your name out there. College analysts, for example, can also be found littered throughout the internet, but evaluations tend to come with names attached to them. Recruiting analysts are well known and their reports are very visible.

This isn’t really the case in the NFL. The purpose of Anonymous Scouts seems more in line with trolling than with actual reporting. Why write up a dignified report on Eli Apple that will just be white noise when writers can say something outlandish and then claim their anonymous 15 minutes of fame? It’s actually not that hard to do, but these individuals have to find a way to market their product differently than everyone else’s and inflammatory is the order of the day.

What I would like to do is take a stab at rewriting Anonymous Scout’s report on Eli Apple. I do not share Anonymous Scout’s assessment of Apple, but I do think that he could have gone about stating his point in a more professional way. It really isn’t that hard to do, so let’s give it a shot, shall we?

Original Statement:  “Some there (OSU) were worried he wouldn't break 4.6 and then popped the (4.39). They were surprised he ran that well. I worry about him because of off-the-field issues. The kid has no life skills. At all. Can't cook. Just a baby. He's not first round for me. He scares me to death."

Professional Statement: “There was some initial concern by some at Ohio State that Apple wouldn’t break the 4.6 barrier, but then he ran 4.39 and it surprised a few people. I have worries about his ability to handle the pressure of his situation. At just 20, he is still learning and growing in this world. He will need to learn basic life skills like cooking, but these are things most young men are struggling to learn and Apple seems to have a strong foundational support system within his family such that it increases the likelihood of him mastering those concepts sooner than later.”

Critics and scouts mistakenly believe that harsh criticism is the only way to stand out in a crowd. The more inflammatory their Draft report, the more people on the internet share it and give it legs.This article obviously works against that idea, but there is a healthy amount of loaded language in Anonymous Scout’s report, and I’m not certain all of it coming from an altruistic place.

Anonymous Scout mentions that Apple has “off-the-field issues,” but he fails to expand on them. All the reader is left with is the image of another black athlete who might be trouble, can’t perform basic life functions, oh, and he’s stupid. The report made sure not to forget his low Wonderlic score right next to phrases like, “off-the-field issues,” “can’t cook,” “has no life skills,” and the most important phrase of all, “scares me to death.”

Does anyone else see a bit of a problem with that? An actual newsworthy publication printed those words without bothering to fact check them. While the cooking aspect may be true -- even though Apple has since taken to Twitter to defend that claim -- why on earth does an individual’s lack of cooking ability scare this person to death? Think about that phrase for a second before you reply.

I do not understand why a publication like the MWJS would give these words more power by printing them, but they genuinely provide nothing to narrative on Eli Apple. Had this individual bothered to elaborate on some of their points with more serious accusations than “can’t cook,” then one could understand the newsworthiness of the quote. As it currently stands, this is an anonymous individual spouting out some awfully loaded language and letting the MWSJ take the heat for him. Smart, but ultimately bad for the sport.

These narratives have gone on long enough in the NFL Draft. It’s easy to see through them for what they are and it’s time for media outlets to begin passing on Anonymous Scout when he offers up these burning missives. There are genuine and honest ways to express that an individual might not be ready to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL or that the player may need to be brought along a stricter developmental path.

For what it’s worth, that doesn’t even really appear to be the case with Apple. I truthfully don’t know if the Scout has an ax to grind with Apple or if they’re just imaginative and happened to be in the right place at the right time to be asked by an MWJS reporter about Apple’s stock. Either way, it doesn’t matter. It was garbage.

Anonymous Scout isn’t going anywhere. Their reports will only get worse and the takes will only get hotter. Apple has proven his worth over several seasons for the Buckeyes. His body of work is evident and he’s putting himself out there for the world to judge.

Why doesn’t Anonymous Scout join him.

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