I can still remember literally biting my tongue as I sat quietly next to
fellow Rams scout and longtime friend David Razzano at our scouting meetings in
mid-April of 2005. The scouts had just completed our linebacker evaluations and
now sat intently as our new coaching staff voiced their opinions on the players
we had deemed to be the top prospects in the upcoming player draft.
For the most part in these types of exercises, coaches generally concurred
with the scout’s opinion. In this instance, from the coach’s opening
statement, I could see that my evaluation of University of Alabama linebacker
DeMeco Ryans differed greatly from that of our defensive staff.
“I don’t see what this guy can do for us, he’s undersized, not a
take-on guy, gets muscled and covered up inside, lacks playing instincts, misses
tackles and is suspect in pass coverage,” was the coach’s take on DeMeco to
everyone present in the team meeting room.
In less time then it took to put a video tape into a deck and wait for the
overhead projection lights to come into focus, my second-ranked linebacker
behind Florida State’s Ernie Sims was unceremoniously removed from the top of
our draft board and put into a category where he could never be given any real
During our next break, I remained in the room and whispered to David that due
to a system that puts more credence to a coach’s tape presentation than it did
from an area scout and cross-check perspective, we had essentially just talked
ourselves out of an outstanding football player. David just sat there quietly
and shook his head. After a dozen years on the job he had seen the same scenario
played out many times.
With this particular player, I had gotten a head start by writing a summer
report in training camp based on his junior season. During the fall, I attended
an early season game and in mid-November I scheduled a two-day school visit to
view tape, practice and visit with coaches. In late January, I had the
opportunity to again view DeMeco along with most of the top linebacker prospects
in the country at Senior Bowl practices. Finally, I had a chance to view him in
Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine, and along with other members of our
staff, watched him work out in Tuscaloosa at his school workout.
DeMeco Ryans with the Houston Texans
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Given the exposure to this athlete, I had essentially earned a master's
degree in DeMeco Ryans and was tempted -- after briefly interviewing him
following his workout -- to ask him for his social security number in order to
claim him as a dependent on my 2005 taxes.
When discussing and evaluating football players, I often think about a couple
of brief statements made to me from two truly outstanding football people -- the
late George Young and Jim Finks. The frequent mantra of the longtime
Giants GM George Young was, “There are no virgins in the scouting profession,”
and from the venerable Finks came the statement, “Show me a scout that hasn’t
made a mistake and I’ll show you a man who has never scouted.”
I’ve certainly been wrong before. Tim Worley over Barry Sanders, Blair
Thomas over a guy named Emmitt Smith, and finally, rating Hugh Green (the
greatest college football player I have ever seen) over Lawrence Taylor are just
three potential draft-day errors I’d like to forget. That being said, I was as
certain then as I am today that I had made no such error in my evaluation of
Today, Scout.com readers are going to have the opportunity to make a decision
on a prospect based on the humble opinions I put forth in my original report on
DeMeco Ryans for the Rams as shown below:
Born in Bessemer, AL, DeMeco attended Will Lanier High School, and although
he was an outstanding prep player, was signed by Alabama only after his prep
coach Willie Ford literally begged the staff to give him an opportunity.
Good decision Tide! In 2002, DeMeco became one of only two true freshmen to
see action. Playing primarily on special teams, he started in the team’s
finale vs the University of Hawaii and never looked back.
After an impressive sophomore season where he was credited with 126 total
tackles, DeMeco in his final two seasons was named an All American, first-team
all SEC, the league's Defensive Player of The Year, an Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports
Scholar, Cotton Bowl MVP, the winner of the prestigious Lott Award, and finally
was given the NCAA Top Eight Award.
On the home front, he also earned the Mel Moore Leadership Award, the
Sylvester Croom Commitment to Excellence Award, and was the recipient of the
Paul Bear Bryant Award, the athletic department’s top student athlete. Not too
bad for a player who was barely recruited by the Crimson Pride!
Ryans, the most complete student athlete to attend the University of Alabama
in the past quarter century did not just excel on the football field. He is also
an honor student who graduated Cum Laude in just seven semesters. Although
his parents (Martha and Morgan) were no longer together, both were very
supportive and through their examples, instilled in him the values that he lives
by today. Off the field, DeMeco quickly became the type of player that
coaching staffs throughout the country could only dream about. He never missed a
game, practice or meeting. He was always on time and was respectful and
accountable to all. His game preparation was first rate and he was totally
focused, organized and dedicated to his craft. DeMeco led by example, was a
strong FCA spokesperson, and was described by an assistant coach as the person
you would want your daughter to marry.
On the field, I saw DeMeco as being highly competitive player who strived to
be the very best in everything he did. He loved the game of football and showed
an innate ability to play through adversity.
Strong Points: Ability to read and react / First step reaction and
instincts / Ability to step up and both take on or slip blocks on the inside.
Leverage on blocks (doesn’t linger on blocks) / Lateral Movement and range /
Angles to the ball / Good use of the sidelines / Explosive tackler (good to
secure – flexible hips, knees and ankles) / Backside close and effort / Blitz
timing and overall skills / Outside run ability and playing range / Pass drops
(depth and movement) / Zone awareness / Ball reaction and hands to secure the
football / Has the speed and hips to effectively man up with a back down the
field / Durability and consistent in his game to game play / Play speed and
special teams potential
Weak Points: Is well proportioned, but I wouldn’t consider him an
imposing figure physically (medium frame athlete with thin, smooth, high knotted
calves, big wrist, biceps, and a solid bubble) / Good but not exceptional weight
room and playing strength / Was muscled some by big people on the inside (who
isn’t) / Saw what I considered some change of speed in his secondary pursuit.
In summation, I basically reiterated the things I said above along with the
fact that I felt he could and would factor for the Rams very quickly and that he
had top-round draft potential as a “will backer.”
Okay, based on the information you have at hand, where would you have
selected this player? The answer should be quite easy, particularly when given
the fact that as a rookie with the Houston Texans in 2006, he started every game
and led the team and league with 155 total tackles. At year’s end, he also was
named by the Associated Press as the NFL Defensive Rookie of The Year.
Barring injury, I believe today that DeMeco has a chance of becoming an
outstanding football player within the league. And it wouldn’t surprise me if
future professional linebacker prospects are one day given the distinct
privilege of having a scout compare them in some ways to former NFL star and
Hall of Fame linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
Tom Marino has over 35 years of experience as a professional scout working for the NFL's Bears, Saints, Rams, Giants and Cowboys along with both the WFL and USFL. As Scout.com's Lead NFL Analyst, he has primary responsibility for network reporting, the NFL Draft, Free Agency databases and rankings.