Up next in our great series of interviews is sideline scouting’s rep. Craig J. Vanderkam. Sideline scouting is one of the fastest growing scouting sites on the web. They have a great succinct scouting style that paints a good picture of many of the draft eligible players available.
Despite having a full time job and also responsibilities to the site Craig was able to find some time to answer some questions I asked him about cam Newton, Mike Pouncey, and much more about the 2011 nfl draft.
Tell me a little bit about how the site came to be about?
The site actually started in 2008, operating under the name NFLDraftU, with the slogan, “Earn Your Degree in Draftology.” However, due to some complications with a relatively unknown yet existing site called NFL Draft University, we started from scratch again as Sideline Scouting in 2009, with the 2010 NFL Draft as our first year of coverage. With the late start that draft season, we just wanted to make a name for ourselves and set the site up to continue getting better and more popular this year, and I think we accomplished that.
How many hours a week do you spend watching film?
We watch as much football as our schedule allows for, from games on DVR, to ESPN3 and anything else we can find. Now, I want to make one thing clear, this is done as a hobby and not a full time job but we try to provide an accurate yet unique assessment of NFL Draft information. But, everyone on the staff works a full time job so operating the site is viewed as a side job though obviously we take it very seriously.
Do you have an N.F.L. Team you follow/root for?
Everyone on the staff has a different favorite NFL team. For me personally (webmaster), I grew up in Michigan and have been a lifelong Lions fan. Bottom line though, we all love football and watch as many games as free time allows for.
We can’t talk NFL Draft and scouts without mentioning the Big Enigma Cam Newton…what kind of pro do you think Newton Will be?
I think Newton will be a fine pro, in the right offense. Obviously his physical tools are off the charts. In our newest mock draft, which will go live sometime this week, we’ve got him going to Buffalo at #3 (Gabbert and Dareus are 1-2). He’d be a perfect fit there — he fits the Gailey profile, and Ryan Fitzpatrick can write his papers (ha ha). It’s not all going to click for Newton right away in the NFL but in time I think he’ll be a very solid starter.
Who are your top three Most Overrated players in the draft?
Tough to choose just three as there are several I think are overrated as well as several that are underrated but I’ll say Von Miller, Jake Locker and Mike Pouncey. Miller, special athlete but was a bit of a one-trick pony as a pass rusher at Texas A&M but is a liability against the run and his weaknesses will be exploited if he goes in the top ten. Locker has obviously fallen after getting #1 overall hype last year but could still go in the Top 15, due to so many teams needing a quarterback. There have been so many excuses made for Locker all season (receivers, offensive line) but he didn’t play any better than a mid-rounder this year and eventually some of that has to be his own responsibility. Not that they’re similar prospects, but Jevan Snead was thought of as a potential first round pick prior to the 2009 season and no one made any excuses for him; he went undrafted. Mike Pouncey looked no better than a mid-round guard this year and is still getting some misguided consideration at center, and I don’t think without the success of his brother he’d be talked about as a first round. Casey Matthews is another — fourth or fifth round grade on him yet there is some talk of him being a “day two steal” and it’s unwarranted.
How about a few players do you think can be late round steals in the draft?
I’ll name one at each position, we have scouting reports on every one of these guys on our site. QB Greg McElroy, RB Mario Fannin, WR Cecil Shorts, TE Mike McNeill, OT David Mims, OG David Arkin, C Jake Kirkpatrick, DE Markell Carter, DT Anthony Gray, ILB Mario Harvey, OLB Mark Herzlich, CB Korey Lindsey, S Will Hill. There are a lot of small school prospects I’d take a chance on and some are included on this list. Others have outstanding measureables, a low ceiling but high floor, some will drop due to character concerns, and some are just overlooked for one reason or another. Now, there are other guys I like such as Jeremy Beal and Greg Jones that will probably fall to the third day but I tried to keep this list to sixth or seventh rounders.
Editors note: Craig is predicting Herzlich will fall to the 7th round, whats your feeling of where he will be drafted?
Is the safety position really that bad?
It’s pretty bad. If you combined last year’s safety class with this class, I don’t think anyone with the possible exception of Rahim Moore would go in the first four rounds. Safeties usually don’t go very high to begin with, and last year’s class was actually decent, you had a guy like Taylor Mays going in the second round.
Which G.M. do you question the least after a draft is over?
Ted Thompson. He has a proven track record and has built two Super Bowl contenders in the last decade (Seattle, Green Bay). You look at the way these teams were built, and it was through the draft. The Packers had so many injuries this year but built incredible depth through the draft. With the exception of Charles Woodson, Green Bay has never made a big splash in free agency.
What is your personal philosophy on drafting running backs in the first round?
I usually wouldn’t. They’d have to be a guy that would carry the ball 250 times a year, in which case they’re featured as a huge part of your team. There’s so many guys that went late or undrafted that have had huge success in the NFL, that it’d be tough to draft one early if you’re looking at adding one as a complimentary piece. But there are exceptions — rare prospects like LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, and Reggie Bush.
You have to be stuck on a secluded island (with T.V. access) for the rest of your life talking draft with either Mel Kiper Jr. or Todd McShay…who do you choose to life on the island with?
Kiper, he’s older (by 17 years) and I won’t have to deal with him as long; also, because I would want to see him go without hair gel. I’d choose Kiper, but that’s not meant as disrespect for McShay. I think both do a tremendous job although as is the case between any two draft guys, I don’t always agree with them, so being stuck on a secluded island for too long might be tough. I’d love to chat with either for a short period of time. Kiper really is the godfather of the NFL Draft. It wouldn’t be nearly as big as it is and definitely not primetime material if not for him.
Anything else you want people to know about your site?
I want to add a shameless plug to check out our 2011 Draft Preview PDF. It’s 391 pages, features a seven-round mock draft, big board, over 300 scouting reports and combine results. The cost is $5 through PayPal and available for immediate download.