Reassess returning players ahead of 2022 season
It’s July, and that means the 2023 NFL Draft is technically a month closer. Our PFN scouting notebook this week details what it takes to reevaluate prospects who played with entering the 2022 NFL Draft but ultimately returned to college for another season. Once again, NFL Draft analyst Oli Hodgkinson is absent this week, so Ian Cummings is here to update the notebook with some new entries.
2023 NFL Draft: The importance of reevaluating returning players after early viewings
Ian Cumming: We talked a bit about shelving observations for future cycles in the last notebook. It is absolutely important to document what you see. Every piece of information is valuable. But in this next section, I want to caution against relying too heavily on pre-existing assessments. A reassessment is always necessary, even if you already have detailed notes from the past.
It’s a process that everyone goes through. Sometimes there are eligible players that you assess and rate and then they go back to school. While you shouldn’t dismiss your past observations, don’t just repackage them. Reassessment is key because there are so many little details to consider when scouting. And as a scout, you always learn more about the game and how to apply that knowledge to prospects.
This is something that I have already experienced this cycle. I wrote Will Levis into the 2022 NFL Draft cycle before he went back to school. When it came time to write to him again last month for the 2023 NFL Draft cycle, I had a better understanding of QB mechanics and the overall process than I had in the 2022 cycle. So I applied that understanding to the Levis band, reassessed, and came away with some valuable new insights.
The same is true for each position. For example, I plan to write the scouting report for Syracuse CB Garrett Williams soon – another perspective I wrote about in the 2022 cycle. Since that time, I’ve learned more about the nature of the CB technique in the press man, as well as the importance of taking advantage of the hips in space and managing space effectively. It’s knowledge I didn’t have before that I can now apply to prospects and gain a more holistic understanding.
It’s a process that never really ends. Football is such a complex and detail-oriented sport, and with every position comes dozens of contextual factors and minute details that affect performance. There is always room to refine your understanding. So keep learning, and as you do, apply what you’ve learned in new assessments each cycle. You never know what you might see next time that you haven’t seen before.
2024 NFL Draft: A look at what makes 2024’s top prospects what they are
Ian Cumming: If you’re a project analyst, you know how tempting it can be to peek into future cycles and predict the curve. It’s a dangerous temptation, because there’s so much information to take in every year. It is safer to focus on the current cycle and only focus on future cycles.
Do not worry. We’re not moving into the 2024 NFL Draft just yet. But each year, some underclassmen are pushed aside and penciled in as preliminary prospects for future cycles. We identify these players based on their early success and production, but we don’t always go the extra mile and identify why they deserve so much praise. Watching these players for diagnostic purposes can help, and also allow you to put movie sightings aside for when they finally become eligible.
That said, here are some highly rated 2024 prospects that I decided to look at with a diagnostic mindset.
Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
Bowers is already considered a potentially generational TE prospect when he becomes eligible, and that’s not a mistake. He may not be the elite size at 6’4″, 230 pounds, but he still has a very dense frame. Even more impressive is his rare explosiveness and speed for a TE.
Its burst in the open is dangerous, but it can also cut stems with fearsome speed and efficiency. Beyond that, Bowers is a bull after the catch, and he has very natural body control and ball tracking ability. This is a full three-tiered receiving threat with an elite boost ability.
Xavier Digne, WR, Texas
Worthy will be a fascinating assessment once he reaches the draft circuit. It is long cocked but dangerously light. And yet, it doesn’t look outdone by heavier DBs at all. Worthy’s high-end explosiveness and speed are his well-known hallmarks, but he’s also far better at getting through arm tackles and absorbing the initial contact his frame would suggest.
He is a slippery runner after capture, which can also explode at his maximum speed once he finds space. It’s a dangerous combination for defenders. It gets you thinking – if Worthy can add weight and maintain his athleticism and lateral contraction, the sky really is the limit.
Andrew Mukuba, S, Clemson
Andrew Mukuba may not be as renowned as the prospects awaiting him, but it’s only a matter of time before he gets the respect he deserves. Playing in the back of what could be a dominant Clemson defense in 2022, Mukuba has all the hallmarks of modern NFL safety. He’s not an elite-sized threat, but he’s extremely versatile.
Mukuba can play deep cover in two-high and single-high looks, and he also has the fluidity and explosiveness to get into the slot. Mukuba deals quickly, manages space effectively, closes with an intense flurry, and isn’t afraid to impose his will. He is an early favorite to be one of the top safeties in 2024.