I am currently putting together a very extensive NFL Draft Watch List for the upcoming the season. The Watch List will consist of every position from Quarterback to Kicker and it will have Seniors, Juniors, Sophomores, and Freshmen on it. For the majority of the positions I will have 20-30 prospects for Seniors, a few less for Juniors, a few less for Sophomores, and ultimately the fewest for the unproven Freshmen.

I am currently working on the offensive part of my watch list. I have adequately completed my watch lists for QB’s, RB’s, FB’s, and WR’s at this point. I am working on TE’s right now, and then I have the majority of the Offensive Line left to go through. I have been working on this for about a month now, so it is a pretty big undertaking.

You might be asking why I am spending all of this time gathering information on so many different prospects, some of which won’t even be quality NFL Draft prospects. Well, namely I don’t want people to sneak up on me when I could have known about them beforehand. I, like most everyone else, like to be prepared. This is the second year I have been working on this, and my hope is that by casting a wide enough net by watching a solid number of Seniors, Juniors and some Sophomores and Freshmen at each position I will not only get a chance to see NFL Draft Prospects from the current year, but I will have some notes and thoughts to look back on before the new season starts the following year. By having a list, or a database of sorts, of players to look to after a NFL Draft is completed will allow me to look forward during the summer before the College Football season starts and watch film of any of the prospects I want to know more about before I begin to evaluate them during their Junior or Senior years when the vast majority of prospects leave for the draft. So even if I end up scouting a player who doesn’t project to be a Hall of Famer, a Pro Bowler or even a starter, my hope is that I will get a feel for his ability before the season gets here, so I can consider how much he has improved (or regressed) from the previous season.

Not to mention, if I get the feeling that a player is a late round prospect, but I think with some development he could really make an impact, I can make sure to keep an eye on him and see if he develops like I think he can. This exact case occurred last season with Ben Tate, a RB from Auburn. I had not seen many Auburn games, but I read what I could find on him and determined that he was going to be the workhorse back for Auburn during his Senior season, and I liked what I heard about him and from what little I had seen of him I liked what I saw. So even though he was projected as a 7th round pick on most draft sites (if that) I deemed him my sleeper at the RB position. It is rather rare for guys like him to catch fire and fly up NFL Draft Boards (Clay Matthews is a prime example of this as well) but lucky for me Mr. Tate made me look smart and took full advantage of being the primary back as he rushed for 1,362 yards (with a 5.2 ypc average), and 10 touchdowns. Subsequently he started to get a lot of attention from the media and scouts alike, and he ended up being selected #58 overall in the 2nd round by the Houston Texans this year. He went from barely being projected to be drafted to a 2nd round selection, which is a truly astounding jump. But I thought he was capable of a breakout season so I was not very surprised to see him doing well, and I am glad he got drafted as high as he did.

Long story short, I saw what Tate was capable of with less consistent touches earlier in his career and I thought he would be able to take his game to the next level and prove that he was worth far more than a 7th round draft pick, and he did that. I informed myself about him before the season started, I watched a little film on him and began to monitor his progress. Watching him produce like I thought he could was very fun for me, and it motivated me to expand my efforts so I could attempt to project more performances like Tate’s.

That is why I am doing this Extensive Watch List, and that is why I am taking my time gathering accurate height, weight, and speed measurements, along with the players production from the year before (if there is any). Then if I can find any news or tidbits of information about him, I can just add that to my notes on him in my Watch List. Then when I come back to my notes on him later when I am watching him I can inform myself about what I thought he was capable of, anything else that I deemed pertinent, and then begin watching him during the most important time of his career as an informed observer, not as someone who has never seen him before. I want to be prepared as much as I can be for unexpected improvements during a player’s Junior and Senior season, and this Watch List is something that I think can help me be more prepared.

It is inevitable that I won’t catch every surprising improvement, but that is what makes the talent evaluation process fun and challenging at the same time. However, I will be well informed on may more prospects this way than I would have been otherwise, so the true long-shot prospects who finally have the light come on during their Senior seasons will still catch me by surprise. I can live with that, especially since there will often be no indication that they would finally make that kind of improvement. But I want to be able to forecast, as well as I can, what a large number of players will be capable of so I can monitor their progress and evaluate them when it comes time for them to enter the draft.

So, that is what I am doing with this Watch List. It will probably take me another week or two to finish the Offensive Watch List, and after I do so I will do my best to put together my Preseason Rankings for each of the Offensive positions before I delve into the subsequent Defensive Watch List. Naturally I will post these rankings here so you all can read them and comment on them.

Thanks for reading all of this, and even if you had to skim over the boring parts thank you for taking the time to check out my blog. I really do appreciate it.

–Tom Melton