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The coach's guide to the most overrated and underrated buzzwords of the NFL Combine/Draft


Now that the NFL combine is done, and we enter the months leading up to the draft itself, words and phrases like "NFL ready," "high motor," and "character issues" are going be heard constantly coming from your television from draft experts from every major network.

While hundreds of descriptive words are thrown out there to describe prospects by "experts", there are some that are simply held in a higher regard than others, especially when we're talking about those in the coaching profession. Some phrases elicit eye rolls and instant headaches, while others certainly have merit.

For example, it's a personal pet-peeve of mine when experts talk about a college quarterback not being "NFL ready," and that drives me nuts for a few reasons. First of all it seems like a knock on the college coaches, and it's not the job of the college coaches to prepare their quarterbacks for NFL systems - they're judged on winning games, not sending players to the league.

Secondly, the term itself is just ridiculous, and this tweet I happened to see the other day from Smart Football author Chris B. Brown illustrates my thoughts on it perfectly.

Granted, many of these experts have never coached a day in their lives, but I thought it would be fun to come up with a list of buzzwords that carry weight for actual coaches leading up to the draft, as well as the top 5 most cliche and overrated words and phrases in the eyes of coaches.

Here are the top 10 most underrated for coaches. Think of these as the attributes that coaches would put a ton of stock in if they had 100% control of the guys they drafted, which only a handful of guys actually do (we're looking at you Chip Kelly).

  1. "High-motor" - Flat out aggressiveness and "want-to" is something you simply can't coach at any position. When players just want it more than their opponents, it shows on film as their "motor".
  2. "Playmaker" - Height, weight, and other measurables aside, if a guy can flat out make plays in the face of adversity, he's a guy coaches should want.
  3.  "Physical" - Like having a high-motor, teaching a timid player to be physical is another aspect that's difficult (and sometimes impossible) to coach. It's what sets apart great run blockers, physical running backs, and great tacklers and cover men in the secondary.
  4. "Proven Winner" - There's something to be said about adding a player to your locker room that that comes from a culture of winning big games. It's an attribute that can be contagious.
  5. "Character issues" - There's a reason that so much time is spent combing through the finer details of a player's background including disciplinary actions. Rarely do you see players with character red flags get drafted and shake that image to go on to long and successful NFL careers.
  6. "Passion" - There is no substitute for guys that take the field on Sunday's that have a true love for the game. If they didn't absolutely love it in high school and college, chances are pretty good they'll think of the NFL as more of a job than a passion. These are the first guys in the building and the last ones out.
  7. "Intangibles" - This may be the strangest, and most controversial on the list because no one can really define what intangibles really are, but it's that "it" factor that some guys just have and it's obvious after spending some time with them (especially on the field, in the heat of battle).
  8. "Work ethic" - Work ethic has the unique ability to make average players great, and great players average. Want a great example of an elite work ethic in the NFL? Look no further than JJ Watt - the poster boy of hard work.
  9. "Attitude" - Attitude is one of the few things on this list that guys have ultimate control over, and it's also something that takes zero talent. Attitudes have a tendency to be infectious, so coaches want good ones in their locker room.
  10. "Fundamentals" - If you can get your hands on a player that has a passion for mastering the fundamentals of the game, he's got a chance to be special.

Here are the 5 most overrated for coaches. Think of these as the cliche ones that drive most of those in the coaching profession nuts.

  1. "Freak" - The list of freakishly athletic/fast/strong/gifted athletes that have entered the NFL is long, and so is the list of busts. Being a "freak" doesn't even come close to predicting NFL success.
  2. "Strong arm" or "Can make all the throws" - Being able to make all the throws means nothing if you can't process complex fronts and coverages.
  3. "NFL Ready" - I've already stated my thoughts on this one.
  4. "Potential" - It's a nice way of saying "this guy could be good, but he's not that good right now"
  5. All of those weird measurements - Go ahead and put hand size, wing span, or any other odd measurement in this category. I've never understood why we try to equate combine measurements to NFL success, because everyone knows that it couldn't be further from actual science.
  6. "Speed" - Long ago, someone said "speed kills", and coaches (and GMs like Al Davis) everywhere bought it and have based entire draft classes on it. While it's important, and has its place, many coaches will opt for most of the top 10 underrated buzzwords.

I know there have to be some out there that I'm missing, so as you watch ESPN (or your favorite provider) over the next few days, pay a little closer attention and shoot me suggestions for each list to, or via Twitter @CoachSamz.