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Buffalo Rumblings' 2015 NFL Draft coverage: college football preview

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Let's talk about the plans for NFL Draft coverage at Buffalo Rumblings this coming season.

The NFL preseason will be over soon, which means it's almost time for the NFL season to get underway. That also means the college football season will be beginning soon, which means that scouts will be shipping out to college campuses trying to identify their top targets for 2015. That's right: draft season is about to begin.

Those who know me as DanRoc are well aware that I take a lot of interest in the NFL Draft, and part of the reason I joined the Buffalo Rumblings writing staff was to help expand the site's draft coverage year-round. Before I delve into the planned draft features for the 2014-2015 season, let me give you a bit of an expanded intro to me as a scout, so you can get familiar with my style and experience.

Dan's Golden Rules of writing about the draft

Rule No. 1: I am going to be wrong. A lot.

Scouting players is like trying to buy those scratch-off lottery tickets after taking a tour of the factory where they're made. You'll get some hints; if you keep looking, you might figure a pattern; and if you learn enough and study intensively, you might actually get pretty good at figuring out a system. But there will always be something that you completely missed that trips you up. The most respected draftniks acknowledge when they're wrong and stick to their guns during a debate, which gives them a proven track record and allows people to see what their weaknesses are.

Rule No. 2: I don't know nearly as much as I'd like to.

I am obviously not a professional NFL scout (at least, I hope that was obvious; in case you were wondering, though, I do this as a hobby). I think I have a lot to learn in the process. Scouting NFL prospects requires a lot of knowledge, not just about X's and O's, but about playing technique and decision making. I did not play football while I was in school, other than intramural flag football. Everything I know is what I can learn from reading other sources and understanding what a particular item looks like on film. I (and other draftniks) will make mistakes because of holes in our game knowledge. It happens. As one online draftnik likes to put it, our evaluations "are produced by a ludicrously unqualified amateur, privy to not even the tiniest fraction of coach's tape, scouting expertise, face to face interviewing, experience, or inside information enjoyed by the professionals."

Rule No. 3: My team will pick terrible prospects (in my opinion) just as often as they pick amazing prospects (in my opinion).

The last major rule I follow is to do the best I can to divorce myself as a draftnik from myself as a Buffalo Bills fan. That means grading players objectively, not necessarily because of scheme fit. That doesn't mean I can't do a mock draft for the Bills, but it means that whoever Buffalo drafts deserves my support and cheers. Even if I see a terrible prospect or a hated college rival going to Buffalo, all I can do is shrug my shoulders, hope the team knows what they're doing, and move on to the next round. As noted above in rules one and two, the Bills probably know more information about any given prospect than I do, and either way one of us could be incorrect about the eventual outcome of a player.

Draft coverage at Buffalo Rumblings

The goal with the coverage here is to keep this site Bills focused during the regular season, while ramping up draft coverage once the season is over to give everyone insightful content to work from as the discussion turns to the next set of rookies to be entering the NFL. Here's a list of the types of features you can look forward to in the coming year.

Saturday open threads

With the college football season beginning, the draft research follows. One of our regular features this fall will be a weekly open thread spotlighting each weekend's best matchups with a scouting perspective, allowing all of you college football fans to watch and chat. When I'm available on the weekend, I'll stop in as well, although I usually do my scouting away from game day when I can re-watch the plays more easily.

Scouting reports

As I collect data on prospects, I will write up my thoughts in scouting reports. These reports will usually be for players the Bills might select, guys who are being talked about as top picks, or just prospects that catch my eye. Like most of the draft coverage, expect this to be very light during the regular season, with more volume being written up as the NFL Draft approaches.

Mock drafts

Mock drafts are a cornerstone of NFL Draft writing, and unfortunately tend to create a very polarized set of opinions. Here are my own opinions about the value of mock drafts, which will help explain how they will be worked into the draft coverage:

  • Any mock draft done before the end of the NFL season is a waste of time, since there is so much learning to be done about prospects and team needs during that time.
  • Any mock draft trying to predict an outcome of the draft is likely going to be terribly incorrect, even if it is written the day before the draft.
  • A one-round mock draft tells you nothing more than the latest permutation of the consensus top 32 prospects.
  • The placement of a player in a mock draft is a function of the importance of the school he went to, the hype he had before the season, his college stats, his Combine measurements, and his offseason exhibition game performance. That is to say, it will change frequently from January until April, it is often wrong, and it misses several key factors that actually matter to NFL scouts.

I will be writing mock drafts as part of the draft coverage here, but I don't plan to start until after the Super Bowl. My mock drafts will never be predictive (with one exception), and will cover a full seven rounds, giving Bills fans a healthy list of prospects to learn about. I will do my best to place prospects in a space that I believe is realistic to their perceived value, but also reflects my own grade for a player. If you don't enjoy reading mock drafts, you can treat the articles as collections of several miniature scouting reports, or skip them altogether if you'd like.

Connections

The Bills have tipped their hand a fair amount by setting up their list of pre-draft visitors over the last five years. At this point, I believe I have developed a fairly strong method of zeroing in on which players the Bills would like to draft, using the pre-draft visitors as a baseline. If and when the list becomes known, I will use it with my scouting data to try and predict Buffalo's eventual draft choices.

Other features

Of course, along the way there will be other features produced as notable events take place during the year. The Combine and Senior Bowl will get plenty of coverage, we will continue to provide the latest speculation and comments from around the league, and draft retrospectives and other features aren't out of the question. Have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

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