Words to live by: Combine Glossary 2.0
INDIANAPOLIS -- The first rule in becoming an NFL scout or a draft guru is to speak in a way in which no one has a chance of understanding what the hell you're trying to convey. For instance, my pal in the Baltimore Ravens' scouting department often says things to me like, "Miles Austin is a sudden receiver who knows how to create leverage at the top of the route."
What he means is Austin is incredibly fast and strong enough to outmaneuver defensive backs when the ball arrives. But it's important for the scouts and the mock draft artists to create a sense of mystery around the entire process. Fortunately for you, the loyal reader of this fledgling column, I've been allowed unparalleled access to what goes on leading up to the draft. One of the most revered scouts in the league, the Titans' C.O. Brocato, once let me shadow him on the road for several days, in part because he was trying to get me to stop calling him on his land line.
I gained a huge appreciation for scouts across the league during that assignment, and that's why the NFL scouting combine is probably my favorite event of the year other than my daughter's birthday. It's one of the rare occasions when the entire NFL community gathers in one place to collect Marriott points and dine at St. Elmo Steak House, which features one of the most underrated shrimp cocktails in the nation.
If you sit at the St. Elmo bar long enough (trust me), you're liable to run into at least six or seven coaches in the same evening. If you don't believe me, ask Sean Payton. But let's get back to the scouting process. A few years ago, while writing a once-promising ESPN.com blog called Hashmarks, I delivered a draft glossary a week before the combine. For those of you who plan to tune into the NFL Network's wire-to-wire coverage of the three-cone drill, this could serve as a helpful guide. I encourage you to use some of the following words and phrases in passing while communicating with co-workers and loved ones in the coming days.
I now give you The Unofficial Draft Glossary 2.0, which can be used as an addendum to my '07 column:
* Anchor: The ability to hold one's ground. Ex: "That former student-athlete really anchors well for a 370-pound man who can barely get out of his stance."
* Bubble butt: Large buttocks and thigh area. Ex: "We have to get our hands on more of those bubble butts -- so to speak."
* Cuts through trash: Does a good job of maneuvering around pileups to make plays. Ex: "Former University of Texas players struggle at cutting through trash."
* Double-catch: Bobbling the ball before securing it. Ex: "Double-catches give defenders time to break up plays. See: Former Longhorn Roy Williams."
* Flatten the corner: The ability of a pass-rusher to lower his inside shoulder and bend his knees while turning the corner on a blocker who's leaning on him. Ex: "Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware knows how to flatten the corner against offensive tackles -- especially if they're wearing burgundy and gold."
* Gathers to cut: This refers to a receiver who has to take chop steps before breaking into a route. Ex: "T.O. gathers to cut before running a viable route."
* Hangs in plant: When a defensive back hesitates in planting his feet and driving to the ball. Ex: "Cowboys safety hangs in plant for seasons at a time."
* Initial quicks: Describes how quickly an offensive or defensive lineman gets off the ball. Ex: "That nose tackle appears to have a high IQ."
* Knee bender: Scouts prefer this type of player to a waist bender. Ex: "Baylor center J.D. Walton might be the best knee bender in this draft."
* Long strider: Player who doesn't take quick steps and often has a tough time getting in and out of breaks. Ex: "The Cowboys' Roy Williams is a long strider."
* Motor: Refers to a player's energy. An annual nominee for the most overused word during the draft. Ex: "This kid has an unbelievable motor -- both on and off the field."
* Nubs: A special type of shoe that supposedly improves a player's 40-yard dash time. These are not allowed at the combine, but players try to sneak them in during pro days. Ex: "Isn't it wonderful to see an athlete with nubs succeed?"
* On the ground: Not a phrase you want showing up next to your name. It's typically used to describe offensive linemen who can't stay on their feet. Ex: "Baylor's J.D. Walton is rarely on the ground."
* Plays the piano: Linemen who do a good job moving up and down the line of scrimmage. Ex: "Russell Okung plays the piano like John Tesh -- on his best day."
* Quick-twitch player: Phrase used to compliment a player on how quickly he reacts. Ex: "Plaxico Burress has a quick twitch when he's in the Latin Quarter nightclub."
* Road grader: Wide-bodied and powerful blocker. Ex: "The Dallas Cowboys love road graders such as Leonard Davis."
* Straight-line player: Player who is effective running in a straight line but has trouble making cuts. Ex: "Emmitt Smith is the opposite of a straight-line player."
* Utility back: A running back who has the skill to produce at numerous positions in the offense. Often a smaller player who provides a change of pace. Ex: "Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster has a chance to be an excellent utility back."
* Zone blocker: An offensive lineman who works well in space. Ex: "He's an excellent zone blocker because he senses defenders entering his area even when he's engaged with someone else."
* Wood hauler's butt: Usually refers to an offensive lineman who has no appreciable rear end. When you arch your back while carrying firewood, this is the result. Ex: "Cowboys right tackle Marc Colombo has a wood hauler's butt."
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Matt Mosley writes weekly on the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.