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The Problem with Anonymous Scouts

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Are the anonymous scouts and execs shaping the draft through gut feelings?

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Chuck Anderson-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft has become such an incredible event. We now have days, upon weeks, upon months, upon years of research that goes into these. You have players being ranked on draft boards before they have even taken a snap on a college field. You have mock drafts happening around the clock. Players being picked apart for months at a time. Lives being discussed, questions being asked. Information is being sought after and these reporters are hungry for the new scoop. They have people who want this information, who want to know who their team is going to draft. That is where this phrase comes from:

"An anonymous scout says"

We have become so accustomed reading these words around draft season that we do not even think about what we are reading. It has become a tradition that these draft experts. The McShay's and Schefter's and Kiper's of the world have their text messages blowing up with front office staff and scouts in the world talking about this player and that player. They have a wealth of information at their fingertips but the ones sending these messages ask that you redact their names so that they can keep their job. The reporter agrees, knowing that if they have that extra bit of information in their hit on ESPN or the article on their site then traffic will tick up. It is a give and take that happens all the time and has happened more and more over the last few years.

Let me just say, I get it. I get the appeal on all sides. I am the site manager here and I know that I want to have more people read the articles on this site. I want you to share it on Facebook with your friends. I want you to debate the picks and the takes in the comments. If I can get you guys to do that then I am happy because I get to keep doing what I love, which is talking to you, talking about sports.

On the other side, I am a fan. I spent the entire weekend, hell, the entire month reading everything I could on the draft. I am debating with strangers at bars about where Cook should end up. I am talking about the Eagles moving picks. I am enthralled with the Tunsil drama, I am reading everything on insider, SB Nation, everywhere. I have a buddy who writes for a local paper and I am glued to his feed. Every bit of info I have read is interesting and I am hungry for that little tidbit I had not heard.

Now the anonymous source is obviously nothing new. I am not a journalism major but I know all about Woodward and Bernstein. I get what benefit this has to the reader in the disclosure of information. I however have seen where this goes, where it has gone in the past 5 years of online journalism. From your gossip columnists hearing "whispers" to entertainment and political writers with someone "close to the source" to your "anonymous draft scouts" there are plenty of people who do not want names revealed to reporters who have ways of painting the narrative.

I was recently listening to Louis C.K. on The Bill Simmons podcast and he was talking about reports that he went broke producing his direct to internet show "Horace and Pete". He talked about how things move so fast that he noticed people are not even thinking before printing anymore. No one called him or his publicist to see if he was broke (which he isn't by the way). They ran the stories and then other people ran their stories on the backs of those first stories. Perception defined the reality, that was not a reality at all.

That brings us to Connor Cook.

Connor has been the source of so much scrutiny in the last few months and none of it is for what happens on the football field. On the field he led a top school in a power 5 conference to 2 Big Ten Championship games (where he won MVP in both games) led the team to victory in the Rose Bowl (where he was the offensive MVP) and set a school record in wins for a starting quarterback, touchdowns thrown, and games with over 300 yards passing. That is not what has been consistently talked about for the last few months though. Instead the things we keep hearing about were comments about him not being voted a captain. The fact he snatched his MVP trophy from Archie Griffin's hands. Then there were the quotes from the anonymous sources.

"There's something off"

"The lifestyle's more important to him than the actual grind and the process."

"There is just something put-offish about him."

Almost all these quotes also come with something about "this is just my gut" or "I have a feeling" or "I could be wrong". But does anyone actually read that part? Is the headline of the article "Scout Could Be Wrong About Cook, but Pretty Sure He Isn't"?

No. The headlines are about why he is going to fall. About how teams are unsure. And this isn't from some beat writer in Bath, MI or some blogger from Normal, IL. These are writers for the USA Today. These are people from The Detroit News. These are talking heads from ESPN and Fox and all the other big boys on TV. All of these paints a picture that is never confirmed with Connor. They are not going to Mark Dantonio for comments. Want to know why? Because they know what they are going to get from Mark. They are going to get comments on how Connor was there day after day. How he wanted to put in the work and the record of 34-5 represents the true character of the man, not what scouts and execs are saying to reporters under the protection of anonymity.

Now that being said, it doesn't matter anymore. Cook is a Raider and the way too early mock draft for 2017 is living somewhere, but this is something that needs to be fixed. I am all about getting the most amount of information I can, but not at the expense of a kid who is trying to live his dream.

If you ask my gut, Cook is going to be a great player in the NFL. Not a fact, but hey, go ahead and quote me on that.