Ah, the tired maxim of the spread offense’s alleged inability to get high school prospects into the NFL strikes again:
Speaking of recruiting — in this case the negative variety — check out this quote in the Palm Beach Post from Pahokee receiver De’Joshua Johnson.
“I dropped Florida and West Virginia because of the spread offense,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to play in the spread offense. I’ve seen how it affected receivers in the NFL draft.”
Johnson is reportedly leaning to Florida State and is considering Tennessee.
For his part, Pat Dooley has a decent and brief retort, though it comes off as Florida-homer rebuttal, rather than rebutting the actual claims themselves:
He might want to check his facts.
Didn’t Percy Harvin go in the first round? Chad Jackson? Meyer has had five receivers drafted from Florida during his tenure (six if you count Cornelius Ingram), the most for any school in the nation. FSU hasn’t had a first-round skill player in seven years and two receivers taken in the draft during Meyer’s tenure. Tennessee has had three during the same span.
This is a good start, but it doesn’t really hit the point at the very crux of this matter: You are what you are. Percy Harvin didn’t get drafted where he did because of the spread offense, he got drafted because he has Size X and Skill Set Y, which the NFL interprets as NFL Potential Z. Harvin has had Size X and Skill Set Y at his disposal, and would have had them regardless of where he went to college (we can debate the minor-ish point of a different strength coach at some other school helping Harvin achieve his potential to a different degree, but that’s outside of the discussion of offense – though I’d contend that some spread schemes demand a better strength coach).
The main things that an offensive scheme will affect are:
- Production. Depending on the type of spread, a receiver may play a larger or smaller role in the offense, affecting production. One of the the things that the NFL might look at is “Well, he has X and Y, but his production hasn’t matched that. Does he have a good excuse for this, or does he not bring it on game day?” Spread offenses are even more creative in terms of ways to get receivers the ball, in Harvin/Johnson’s specific cases.
- Preparation. Sure, a college QB who runs exclusively from the shotgun won’t be quite as ready to play right away in the NFL, and a receiver might run fewer or different routes, and have simpler reads of defenses playing in a spread offense. These players don’t come to the NFL ready to compete on day 1, perhaps. However, I’ll let Mike Leach take this one:
“I only need a three-hour window. I’ll have a great clinic for all the NFL coaches who are so horrible that they can’t teach a guy to take a snap under center and go backwards.”
Yeah, so Mike Leach is awesome, and an offensive scheme doesn’t have a huge effect on where a player is drafted (and oddly, this is especially true for receivers, whose responsibilities probably change the least out of anyone on the offense with a spread v. pro-style offense).
Let’s take a look at every receiver drafted in the 2009 NFL Draft. I’ll vaguely lump their college offensive schemes into “spread” and “pro-style.” This may seem a bit simplistic at first, but then, isn’t the criticism of the spread offense writ large simplistic itself?
|Michael Crabtree||10||Texas Tech||Spread|
|Hakeem NIcks||29||North Carolina||Pro|
|Brian Robiskie||36||Ohio State||Pro|
|Derrick Williams||82||Penn State||Spread|
|Brandon Tate||83||North Carolina||Pro|
|Mike Wallace||84||Ole Miss||Pro|
|Ramses Barden||85||Cal Poly||1-AA|
|Deon Butler||91||Penn State||Spread|
|Brian Hartline||108||Ohio State||Pro|
|Johnny Knox||140||Abilene Christian||1-AA|
|Kenny McKinley||141||South Carolina||Spread|
|Brooks Foster||160||North Carolina||Pro|
|Quinten Lawrence||175||McNeese State||1-AA|
|Brandon Gibson||194||Washington State||Pro|
|Dominique Edison||206||Stephen F Austin||1-AA|
|Sammie Straughter||233||Oregon State||Pro|
|Jake O’Connell||237||Miami University||Pro|
Take a look at that! 13 Receivers from spread offenses and 17 from pro-style offenses were selected, with 4 from 1-AA teams, which I didn’t include because 1) I don’t know what type of offense most 1-AA schools run, and 2) If they’re taking a guy from a 1-AA school, offensive scheme is probably not on the forefront of NFL GMs’ decisions. Considering that more schools run a pro-style offense (particularly in power conferences, from which most NFL players are likely to come), that’s not bad at all. In the first round, the same number of players from each offensive type (3 apiece). When you consider that some schools that I placed in the “pro style” category also have some elements of spread offenses, such as Ohio State, LSU, and Oregon State, it’s a complete wash, at worst. And I guess that brings me back to my main point, which is not that the spread is inherently better for a wide receiver prospect’s chances of making it to the NFL, but rather than the offensive scheme on the whole is irrelevant.
So what’s the course of action? Obviously, a 17-year-old kid didn’t come up with this (bogus) assertion by himself. No, based on reputation, and the schools entering and exiting De’Joshua’s list, this almost certainly comes from one Lane Monte Kiffin. Of course, do I expect Rich Rodriguez to bore a kid to death with charts and whatnot? Probably not, but dispelling a meme, using whatever evidence is available, will certainly help.