Split Ends are usually the bigger, taller WideOuts who line up in the X Position, on the Line of Scrimmage.
SlotBacks are usually the quicker, smaller WideOuts who line up at the Y Position, off the Line.
FlankerBacks are usually the faster WideOuts who line up at the Z Position, off the Line.
The Split End prototype would be about 6030/225 or so. Big. Possibly Fast. Chain Movers and Red Zone Targets.
The Flanker prototype would be about 6000/200 or so. Fast. Big Play Threats.
The SlotBack prototype would be about 5010/195 or so. Quick. Chain Movers.
The Slot End is a sub-category ~ and a former category ~ of WideOut that is essentially a slow Split End who thus lacks the Speed to play outside very effectively, but who's big enough and hopefully agile and wily enough to navigate Traffic in the middle of the field. There aren't enough to warrant their own category, so I'll include'm with the Split Ends.
However a given Coach chooses to deploy the Soldiers at his disposal is of course entirely up to him, and most WideOuts will see Snaps at multiple positions and in multiple alignments, but I am hopeful that it's helpful to categorize them in terms of classic Skill Sets, to better define the differences in the kind of impact that they might make.
I've immensely enjoyed learning about this Great Game, and there's always something new to learn. One fascinating truth that I stumbled on, many years ago, was the realization that Formations have gradually spread out over the last 150 years or so, evolving from a compact scrum very much akin to its Brother Sport, Rugby, to Formations with still tough centers, but spread out in all sorts of directions. WideOuts represent that evolution in multiple ways.
It fascinated me to learn that Split Ends are just that ~ former "Offensive Ends" very much akin to Defensive Ends, who gradually became far less about Blocking for the Running Game and far more about Receiving, as that aspect of the Game evolved over the last 100 years or so, since the legalization of the Forward Pass in 1906.
And I was astonished to learn that SlotBacks and FlankerBacks are just that ~ Backs ~ who's status as Backs gives them, frankly, exponentially more tactical flexibility than most Coaches ever take advantage of.
This is how I break things down when I'm evaluating all WideOuts:
Separation: Getting Open. This encompasses Power, Combat Skills, Fluidity, and Short Speed or Acceleration against Press Coverage, Route Running Precision, Acceleration, Fluidity, and Ricochet in navigating Traffic, Tempo, Deception, and Processing Speed and Field Vision for Timing Seams and Open Zones. As way I see it, Separation dwarfs all other considerations of a WideOut's Job Description, more important than the other WideOut aspects combined.
Catch Point Capacity: In Transition or Contested: Hands, WingSpan, Vertical Agility, Combat Skills, and Timing. Timing is of course derivative of Processing Speed and Field Vision, and affects both Transitional Catches and Contested Catches. Its importance In Transition is obvious ~ catching the Ball in stride is the goal, of course ~ but it's also crucial on Contested Catches, both in terms of timing one's jumps and in employing Combat Skills to work free at the right moment.
Chunk Yardage: A highly overrated Aspect of the Game, I believe, so much so that in fact I didn't even include it in 2016. It is not a negligible aspect of the Game, however, so I'm bringing it back as a category. It's gravy, mind you. Power, Fluidity, Ricochet, Speed, Combat Skills, and Processing Speed or Field Vision all play into Chunk Yardage.
Blocking: Blocking of course breaks down to Power, Agility, Frame, Combat Skills, Processing Speed, and Motor. Most of the WideOuts that I've profiled suck at Blocking, and it's a small enough component of a WideOut's resume that I've previously excluded it from my analysis...But to Hell with that. It's part of the job, so it gets graded.
Broken down into SubCategories, it'd go something like this:
* Combat Skills
* Field Vision
Catch Point Capacity
Catch Point Capacity
* Combat Skills
* Vertical Agility
* Combat Skills
* Field Vision
* Combat Skills
* Processing Speed
Please note: For purposes of time and space, and to avoid boring the snot out'f y'all, I'm not going to include Prospects where my opinion was the same as The Market, whether that was determined before The Draft by my research, or afterwards, based on where the Prospect was actually drafted. There are literally hundreds of such Prospects.
My thinking is that by concentrating on the far fewer Prospects wherein I and The Market had a divergence of opinion, this will not only be far more interesting to you and me, it'll also be far more educational...mostly to me!!
That year, the State of Tennessee sent perhaps the most talented yet flawed trio of WideOuts in the history of this Game to the NFL, and I suppose that because I red-flagged the other two ~ they're down below ~ I felt obliged to give a positive Grade to one of them. Rogers' talent certainly was equal to the 1st/2nd Round Grade I gave'm, but he was destined to educate me about properly accounting for Character Risk. He quickly flamed out of the league. Whoops.
I still believe in Cody Latimer, and he might yet develop the star talent that I believe he has, but 5 years later, even I have to admit that I got way carried away, giving a Top 10 Grade to this raw kid from the Hoosiers who's been little more than a Special Teamer. The Broncos spent #56 on'm, so I wasn't alone in lauding'm, but Top 10? Yeah, I'd lost my mind.
Oh, man, did I miss by a mile on this one. I loved this kid, too. He was a terrific Blocker, and I've got a weakness for scrappy FootBall Players. I gave Norwood a 1st Round Grade, and he flamed out and quickly. Whoops!!
Boy, did I miss on this one. Thomas is already a SuperStar, and I gave'm a 4th/5th Round Grade. Whoops.
Another big miss. I gave Carroo a 1st/2nd Round Grade. He is barely still in the league. Whoops.
The Vikings lost their minds and traded 4 Picks to the Patriots to move up and draft Patterson at #29. What a colossal mistake that was. He's a useful Reserve, but that's it. I gave'm a 4th Round Grade. Bull's Eye!!
Mega Talent. Mega Bust. I certainly wasn't the only one to express concern over Hunter's Game, but I was the only one to give'm a 4th Round Grade, baby!! The Titans took'm at #34, and he crashed and burned. Bull's Eye!!
Bill Belichick has no more fervent and fawning a fan than I, but he makes some ghastly Picks. Case in point: Dobson, who I gave a 6th Round Grade to, who the Patriots took at #59. Oy. His last Catch was in 2015. Bull's Eye!!
I love those California Bear WideOuts, baby!! They always seem to produce unusually refined Route Runners. Allen is one such, and that's the main reason why I gave'm a 1st Round Grade and a Beast Ranking in a year in which he went #76 to the Lightning Bolts. Allen racked up 1000 yards as a Rookie, and has developed into a genuine Star. Boo Yah!!
I'm proud that I placed a marker on this raw kid from Nebraska, giving'm a 4th/5th Round Grade and a Contender Rank. He went #209 to the Jets, and they wisely stuck with'm for several years. He's now developed into a solid Starter with considerable upside, and he's a nasty Blocker, too. Now healthy, he might even become a Star. Bull's Eye.
I categorized Perriman as a Split End because of his Height, but he plays like a Flanker, particularly an all or nothing threat who doesn't run routes very well. He went #26 to the Ravens, but I gave'm a 3rd/4th Round Grade, which proved to be perfectly spot on, as Perriman flashed, here and there, but ultimately flamed out, and brutally. Bull's Eye!!
Montgomery's career has been a mixed bag, so far. I'm calling this a Win, because he's proven to be one of only a few rare cases where the team that drafted him eventually followed my lead and changed his position. Of course, I'm not narcissistic enough to imagine that any of them are reading this blog and heeding my advice, but it's still extremely gratifying that the Packers wisely and courageously realized their initial mistake ~ and the opportunity ~ and converted Montgomery from Split End to PowerBack. And he's certainly made an exponentially larger impact since then.
Anderson's had trouble, but he has been very productive for 3 years on a bad team with horrible quarterbacking, and is clearly emerging as a potential Star, yet the Jets got'm as a UFA!! Me, I gave'm a 3rd Round Grade. Boo Yah!!
He may yet develop, but in 3 years, he's got exactly 1100 yards. That's not really what you expect when you spend #22 on a guy, as the RedSkins did in 2016. Me, I called'm Highly Overrated, and gave'm a 4th/5th Round Grade. Boo Yah!!
Golladay went #96 to the Lions, but I gave'm a 1st/2nd Round Grade, two full Rounds higher, and, despite his Division 47 pedigree, he's rapidly ascended, erupting for 1063 yards in 2018, and is poised for stardom, baby Boo Yah!!
My methodology in according Grades and Ranks has always been to assess what I consider a reasonable Pick Value for a Prospect, not necessarily where I, personally, would draft'm. That's a crucial distinction, of course. When I give a Prospect a 1st Round Grade, it doesn't mean that I would draft'm in the 1st Round. It only means that I wouldn't fault someone who did so, because I feel that his Risk/Reward Ratio warrants that Pick, even if I wouldn't make it.
Even so, some of my Picks have been...a bit aggressive.
...maybe two bits.