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Football Statistics or a trained pair of eyes? Which one is better when evaluating talent?

Advanced statistics and metrics are growing in popularity in football but can they beat a good pair of eyes when evaluating football talent?

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Evaluating players is a difficult process. There are a wide range of factors that go into evaluating players. From figuring out whether or not they will fit in with what you are trying to do as a program to seeing, if in fact they do fit in once they get here, where they will make the biggest impact, evaluating players is a full-time job. How do you go about evaluating players? Player evaluation is often narrowed down into two categories: statistics and eyes. Although both are beneficial, the latter is more useful in evaluating players.

Statistics while helpful can often be misleading. For example, it is very hard to tell just how good a quarterback is by looking at statistics. If he throws for 400 yards in a game, that looks tremendous. However, if he throws 60 times in a game, than it is easier for him to throw that many yards given the fact that he has more opportunity. Especially for quarterbacks, it is easier to confuse numerical inflation with talent.

Using the game quarterback example, eyes are much more beneficial in telling what kind of ability he has. How did his arm look? Was he using short screen passes that went for big yardage, confining himself to a smaller area or was he able to stretch the field? Not to be lost in the shuffle is the quarterbacks pocket presence. As soon as pressure came, did he stay calm in the pocket or did he panic when he felt pressure? How were his mechanics? Are they rusty or polished? Timing too is something else to look for. How were his reads? Was he on the same page as his receivers or did he develop "tunnel vision" and force the ball to his favorite target? These are the types of things that cannot be measured by statistics.

Wide receivers too also benefit better from an actual eye test than statistics. It is important to look for a few things when evaluating a wideout. How does he run his routes? Are they crisp and clean? Perhaps one of the biggest things to look for is how he comes off the line of scrimmage. Is he able to get on top of his defender and come clean out of his break, or does a bump from a defender rattle him and knock him off course? Using the eye test, you can see what kind of athleticism and speed he has as well as if he can run after the catch or if he is more suited as a possession receiver, one that possesses the toughness and grit to get you the couple yards you need on third down.

Especially now with sites like HUDL, which allows high school prospects to upload their film into the internet, there is no excuse not to do the eye test. It is easier than ever now. Plus, the eye test could involve a face-to-face interaction which can put a name to a face and help with recruiting in the long run.

Although statistics are beneficial, the eye test is a better indication. It is the most accurate way to make sure that you are getting the best prospects available for your program.