Laquon Treadwell, Self Reflection, and the Value of Film

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via FoxSports.com

My friends probably think I don’t care about my college classes. I’m here to tell you that they are not necessarily wrong.

I care about doing well enough to pass my classes at this point (I have nine credits left to obtain my Finance degree), but that is about it.

Look, I’m not a bad student — I just have interests other than listening to my professors ramble on incessantly about ideas from a textbook. I’m a 21-year-old who doesn’t like being told what to read. A typical millennial, perhaps.

Instead, I spend a great deal of my time reading, writing, and trying to get better at playing and analyzing fantasy football. Now that the 2015 season is over, I’ve been doing a lot of self reflecting and am trying to identify some things I need to improve on.

Along with that, I’ve slowly been dipping my toes into the water of the incoming 2016 rookie class and following the general consensus of opinions I trust on Twitter, reading articles, following Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception series, and looking at Kevin Cole’s models.

Through this, something dawned on me a few days ago. Everyone has a process for evaluating prospects — but there is a ton of subjectivity inherently baked into football. One of the reason’s I find Harmon’s Reception Perception series to be particularly useful is that it quantifies the things we see wide receivers do on a per route basis.

There is hardly any disparity with his process. It’s objectively based on Success Rates. Instead of random quotes while watching game film and coming away with things like “oh, this receiver has nice hands” or, “he runs good routes” or my personal favorite, “he can’t separate”, Reception Perception cuts through the bullshit.

Then I realized unless you have watched hundreds, perhaps even thousands of hours of film or are an expert scout and your eyes are trained to evaluate what is happening on the field, aren’t all film-based observations just opinions? Or worse, just subjective opinions?

Look, we’re human. Human eyes will distort our viewings every day.

Take this quote for example:

In my view, Pro Football Focus hires some of the sharpest football minds in the media and their analysts can still come to varying conclusions watching the same exact games. That’s astounding to me.

Football analysis is so tricky that ten people can come to ten different opinions on a player. How is that possible? Mainly because sports, sports writing, and actually watching them are, well, subjective.

Once more, our brains are wired as such that we filter positive and negative things in different parts of the brain itself.

Here is a quote from that article linked above: “It really does matter whether [an event is] positive or negative in that most of the time, if not all of the time, negative events tend to be remembered in a more accurate fashion than positive events.”

Even though I’m a “lazy” student, I still remember the exams I did poorly on stronger than the few I received an A+ on. In fact, research displayed in this article showed we remember negative events twice as strongly as positive events.

As a human and an amateur “film watcher”, I’m inclined to admit that I remember some of Laquon Treadwell’s shortcomings over some of the things he does routinely or exceptionally, for example. But I am not a professional scout nor do I have a rigid film-based process to evaluate players.

All of these players get put up under a microscope and nit-picked to death, but Treadwell rattled off an impressive stretch of 63-943-8 in nine games from Ole Miss’ third to 11th contest in 2015 before he could even have a drink of alcohol. This draft season I’m personally trying to focus on the things a certain prospect excels at, rather than actively searching for rubs against them.

To be clear, this piece is not intended to ignite a film versus metrics debate. Quite the contrary, actually. I will be the first to admit that I love throwing out random statistics on Twitter that generally lack context. Metrics, production, and film all used in conjuction can and will produce solid results for evaluating prospects. That’s basically my own personal starting point and what I shoot for in evaluating rookies.

The issue here is that some of the more data, stat-driven writers have to “prove” themselves before they are (for the lack of a better term) accepted — like baseball columnist and author, John Feinstien hinted at while “not buying” sabermetrics in this article . I agree that the fun in sports (and football especially) is uncertainty and that analytics does not have all of the answers, but traditions have their own flaws as well.

Not a single person’s process is infallible. That’s the point.

Football will always have a human element. Just remember, we’re humans watching other humans. Opinions can, will, and should change with more information. You don’t want to die on a hill with a bad opinion that is no longer based on current evidence. Subjective takeaways fueled by pessimistic remarks should never be the starting or ending point in a prospects evaluation.

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