Many NFL scouts have a sore spot for failed NFL scouts who enter the media and attempt to critique the work of NFL scouts who have not yet failed.
Even more NFL scouts have a sore spot for guys who were never NFL scouts, couldn’t be if they wanted to, and then attempt to critique the work of folks who became NFL scouts.
Once upon a time, Mel Kiper was the primary target of NFL scouts; Kiper has been supplanted by his on-air protege/rival at ESPN, Todd McShay. As McShay’s profile increases, and as he takes on the likes of quarterback Jimmy Clausen for reasons that many league insiders believe have no merit, McShay becomes a magnet for criticism.
“Most people at my level feel he is a joke,” a veteran NFL scout told us via e-mail. “People in the league respect Kiper. He is not a true scout but he does work at it. A lot of his info he gets from connections in the league, and over the years he has made quite a few. When he was younger he used to burn some bridges. He doesn’t do that any more.”
So what about McShay?
“McShay does not have any good connections,” the source opined. “Higher-ups in the league think he is an arrogant asshole. A know-it-all. And he really knows nothing. Whatever he says about a quarterback, take it to the bank, it will be the opposite. Remember, last August he stated that Jevan Snead was better than Colt McCoy and would get drafted in the top five. He has yet to publicly retract that statement.
“One of the reasons the kid came out was because of what McShay said. The family thought McShay knew and everyone else was wrong. . . . He has problems with game management, accuracy and leadership among other things, but pretty boy Todd thought he was great because of one good game (the Cotton Bowl) a year ago. McShay is a pretty face who comes across like he knows what he is talking about. He does have good presence, but knows nothing.”
A common name we’ve heard when it comes to McShay is Andre Woodson. McShay championed Woodson during the 2007 season. Woodson ended up being a sixth-round pick, and he’s now out of the league.
The teams knew that Woodson wasn’t as good as McShay was saying. The problem is that the player and his family don’t have access to what the teams are thinking. The player and his family see and hear the stuff that gets played on television, and they tend to believe it when ESPN attaches to the talking head the phony, official-sounding title of “director of college scouting.”
But not all draft experts fall into that category.
“The best guy in the amateur scouting/draftnik business in Mike Mayock,” the source said. “Mike does more film work then any of those other guys put together. He is the only one who has access to the NFL dub center where all the college tapes go before they get distributed to the teams. He watches hours and hours of tape. You might not always agree with his evaluations but he works hard at it and you have to respect that.”
The source ended with a prediction regarding Clausen’s prospects.
“On draft day McShay will look like a fool because whether or not you like Clausen as a person he is very talented,” the source said. “He has more training and game time in a pro system than any quarterback in the draft. His improvement from ’08 to ’09 was tremendous. If Notre Dame had a defense, Charlie Weis would still be there coaching. Offense was not the problem. I will agree that Clausen may have some A-hole in him but he is extremely talented. He has a strong arm and is very accurate. Plus he has played a lot in a pro system.”
In our view, McShay does present well on television, where the requirement isn’t to know what you’re talking about but to seem like you know what you’re talking about. But we’ve heard from more than a few people who work as NFL scouts that McShay doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Right or wrong, those voices will only get louder in their criticism as McShay gets more air time -- and as he becomes more pointed with criticisms of players that NFL scouts regard as erroneous.