Draft Daily: How do you weigh character concerns?

Analyst Mike Renner explains his approach to off-the-field concerns when it comes to draft evaluation, and dives in on his favorite offensive lineman.

| 3 months ago
(Joshua Gately, Getty Images)

(Joshua Gately, Getty Images)

Draft Daily: How do you weigh character concerns?

The PFF Draft Daily will hit on a number of NFL Draft-related topics including recent news, scouting reports, PFF draft takes, and much more on a daily basis.

It’s Thursday, which means you’re stuck with me again for the Draft Daily. Today we get a bit theoretical in nature before diving into my favorite offensive tackle prospect.

Character concerns

One thing during the draft process that I go back and forth on is how much weight to give the dreaded “off-the-field issues” that tend to dominate the airwaves with nothing else new to talk about leading up to the draft. The question I keep coming back to is how much should I as an independent observer weight and discuss these in my evaluation? This hits especially close to home working for a company like PFF that champions quantifiable on-field performance as the be-all-end-all for football players.

The answer that I’ve come around on is this: I don’t want it play a role at all for me. This isn’t to say that I’m burying my head in the sand and acting like some players aren’t jerks. It’s more the fact that I’m inherently working with an incomplete data set. We don’t get to sit down with these guys, find out who they are, and if they’ve changed. We can’t talk to college staffs to find out how they were in the locker room. There will be guys with multiple arrests who go on to be fantastic football players. There will also be guys who tick all the leadership boxes in college who lose their passion and work ethic in the NFL.

At the end of the day, I don’t know any of the hundreds of draft prospects on anything bordering a personal level. For that reason, I’ll leave any psychological evaluation up to the NFL teams.

My guys: Ryan Ramczyk

Let’s get back to the on-field here and break down my favorite tackle prospect in this draft. The date was Sept. 20, 2016, and our director of college scouting Steve Palazzollo sent me a text message asking me to watch a certain Wisconsin left tackle. He thought he might be on to what was at the time a hidden gem and wanted a second opinion. I thought to myself, “How could the left tackle for Wisconsin be flying under the radar?”, but I did as Steve asked because he’s the boss and I want to keep my job. What I saw blew me away. He looked like a tight end the way he moved with some of the most gorgeously smooth pass sets I’ve seen from a college tackle.

I then went to see if he truly was an unknown in the draft world and found out that he was a transfer from Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point who had dominated on the practice squad the year prior. As the season went on, Ramczyk continued to dominate, ending the season as our highest-graded tackle. He allowed one sack, three hits, and eight hurries all season long against a stretch of pass-rushers that included Taco Charlton, Arden Key, Malik McDowell, and Sam Hubbard. To put his overall grade into perspective, the only left tackle who graded higher last year in college football was Cody Whitehair, and the only one in 2014 was Jack Conklin. That’s some pretty solid company for a man in his very first season of major college football. Ramczyk may not have the nastiness of Garrett Bolles or the perceived “upside” of Cam Robinson, but I’m taking the guy who got the job done better than anyone else in 2016.

PFF Podcast

Josh Liskiewitz filled in for me on this week’s PFF Draft Podcast, and discussed with Steve his scouting background prior to joining PFF in 2015. They also discussed the lack of sure-fire prospects at the top of the draft (outside of Texas A&M edge Myles Garrett), as well the depth and specialization of the tight end class.

Be sure to download and subscribe to the PFF Draft Podcast from your favorite provider.

PFF Draft Board

The latest installment of our draft board is in, and it should be no surprise to see how SEC-heavy it is at the top. Check back weekly for further updates, as we will continue to adjust as we get closer and closer to day one of the draft.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

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