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Posted Dec. 20, 2009
The Michael Oher Lesson
I was speaking with someone at media night in Mobile, Ala. at the 2009 Senior Bowl, and I asked him what he and other teams thought about Mississippi offensive tackle Michael Oher.
"I think he is crazy - the NFL is worried about him psychologically."
I asked this person why and he said it was in reference to his childhood.
Another friend - who is close to the league - said teams were really worried about his intelligence and level of awareness on the field. They doubted whether he could improve his technique.
Eleven months later, I think most knowledgeable NFL fans would say Baltimore made away with a complete steal in the 2009 NFL Draft and Michael Oher is completely worthy of being the unanimous Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Percy Harvin has been a very effective kick returner for the Vikings, but he only has 681 yards receiving and six receiving touchdowns (as of Dec. 18). This is not an Offensive Rookie of the Year resume for a skill position.
NFL voters will probably be lazy and select Harvin, but Oher has been nothing short of dominant this season.
I say shame on NFL teams for discriminating against Oher's upbringing and not seeing the highly competitive, mentally tough prospect that he was. Oher was a physical player at Mississippi and while he occasionally did give up a sack, he was much more consistent than they wanted to give him credit for.
Teams overanalyzed Oher and nitpicked his flaws. When Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith sat on their butts at home, Oher went to work and actually competed at the Senior Bowl.
It was extremely unfair to Oher that teams judged him based on his past that he couldn't control. He never got into any sort of trouble at Mississippi. If you want to question his work ethic, then I think that is fair - but to think he suffers from some kind of psychosis is a very unfounded way to judge a human being (with no such evidence); much less an NFL prospect.
While Ozzie Newsome enjoys watching another great draft pick of his play on Sundays, some other NFL teams need to really regroup and do some serious soul searching.
No offensive line or Southeast scout for these teams really stood up for Oher (except maybe Baltimore) - either they didn't have the critical thinking skills and guts to go against the consensus of Oher's huge inconsistencies.
Maybe these teams get too much information on these prospects and it hurts them, but you have to wonder how an offensive tackle prospect that never played in the three-point stance in college goes No. 2 overall and Oher fell into the 20s.
If Oher doesn't get the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, then they should stop giving the award out.
So, if you are a draftnik, what can you take away from this?
Based on the Oher lesson, you need to think critically about a player's draft stock, value, talent, intangibles, etc. Most draftniks, some of which are the most popular in the world (Mike Mayock, Todd McShay, and Mel Kiper all had Oher in the 20's of their Big Boards in this scenario), just go with the flow.
I think a great scout wouldn't really care what anyone else thinks. Why? Because a great scout has confidence in his abilities and he has strong opinions. A great scout doesn't waver his standpoint based on something he hears or reads - he takes it into account, but he also has to remember what he already knows (and don't discount this).
We are in the business of the present. People forget the past very quickly because of the mass media, and the mass media generally doesn't remind people of the past because integrity doesn't get ratings or make money.
For example, you just aren't going to hear many teams eat crow on Oher; Oher will just dominate their defenisve linemen on Sundays for the next 10 years and remind them why he fell so far - because that's what great players do.
When teams sit back and ask themselves why the passed up on what was in hindsight a great prospect, I say, "Because you didn't want to think he was great - you wanted him to fail."
I believe that's what Oher's draft stock all came down to. The book The Blind Side exposed Oher's upbringing. Due to this, the NFL thought Oher was crazy - and sometimes people only see what they want to see. Now, they are going to have to deal with swimming in a pool of their own ignorance for the next decade.