The Gut Check No.501: From the Gut

Matt Waldman shares his early-summer version of From the Gut. 

The analysis you typically see here and at the Rookie Scouting Portfolio is based on layers of analytical work. Processes with meticulously-defined details that are carefully weighted undergird my film observations and projections.

Yet, to be honest, I often have strong gut feelings about what I observe on the football field. What's difficult to explain is whether all of the analytical word has enhanced or sharpened that intuition or if the intuition operates independent of the tens of thousands of hours spent studying the game over the past 15 years.

There's a story that former NFL and college head coach Dave Wannestedt saw a handful of plays from Dion Lewis' high school tape and told the Pitt staff to award Lewis a scholarship. To a critic of Wannestedt's record as a head coach, this would be an anecdote used to criticize the man's process.

To someone who has spent a lot of time in a film room, Wannestedt's story has merit. If an individual watches football in a systematic fashion for thousands of hours, the idea that the brain begins to process the the details of the methodology fast enough that it begins to recognize what it needs to see more efficiently.

The problem is that we don't know the quality of the process. The methods Wannestedt used to learn about offensive and defensive line play could be great and had a direct impact on what matters for running backs.

On the other hand, Wannestedt might have gaps with what he knows about route running and it makes his intuition about receivers, quarterbacks, and defensive backs less reliable.

An observer's intuition could also be limited to a style of player at specific positions. Wannestedt might have had a better feel for scat backs with between-the-tackles expertise like Lewis because he spent thousands of hours observing Emmitt Smith but he can't identify a big back this way.

This isn't to say Wannestedt or anyone evaluating player performance leans on a handful of plays to provide a complete report on a prospect. However, there are what Footballguy and RSP contributor Mark Schofield terms, "put-the-pen-down moments," where you see a player execute enough intricate and/or important details during a play that you know the player has NFL ability.

We shared a few about Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in this YouTube video (bookmark it for later...).

The first time I saw Patrick Mahomes II, I had finished studying a game recorded on my DVR and as I was finishing up my report of the player, a bowl game between LSU and Texas Tech was playing in the background. Before I started the report, I saw Mahomes make throw that caught my attention and about 10-15 minutes later, I saw other.

At that point, I remember letting out a big sigh as I said, "Oooh boy...." and turned off the television. I couldn't wait to see more, but I knew it wasn't the time. Mahomes was a more than a year away from draft eligibility and I had a lot of work to do for the current year's class. If I kept watching it, I knew I'd be sidetracked and would want to watch as much Mahomes tape as I could get my eyes on.

This has happened with a number of players. Some that come to mind include former Giants wide receiver Steve Smith, Adrian Peterson, Preston Williams, and Alexander Mattison. There were also players who required methodical study to arrive at an accurate but dissenting conclusion from the crowd, including Matt Forte, Marqise Lee, Mitchell Trubisky, Darren McFadden, Lamar Jackson, and Russell Wilson.

This post features analysis "from the gut" about 10 players. Regardless of whether this analysis coincides or differs from my projections and rankings, it's adds another dimension to these players that I'll use as a tiebreaker if and when the opportunity exists to draft them in a re-draft or dynasty setting.

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