Raw Traits Vs. On-Field Produciton

In recruiting, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to success. For football players, they are typically analyzed in one of two areas: raw traits and on-field production. The weight by which each of these components factor into athlete’s recruitment fluctuates. It’s a spectrum.

Recently, a question was posed on The Athletic that aimed to compare how NFL teams analyze college players, and then how this same ideology is applied to college programs analyzing high school athletes. The answer to these questions is relevant educational information for Signing Day Sports users. 

Some recruits post eye-popping statistics, and regardless of their stature or measurables, college coaches are forced to take notice. Others may have struggled to produce at the high school level for one reason or another, but their raw traits and potential to shine at the next level is enough for college coaches to take a flyer. 

How are raw traits and production evaluated in recruiting?

Some of our users have wondered why it’s common for athletes with strong individual statistics to get less of an opportunity than someone with seemingly lesser stats. The answer is due to the aforementioned spectrum – raw traits vs. production. 

It’s very hard to compare talent levels in high school football. College coaches, and their NFL counterparts, are constantly trying to deduce whether production at the lower levels is due to superior ability or an imbalance in talent level. 

“A kid can have the biggest heart in the world and show up every single day outworking his competition and still never sniff a Power 5 offer. Why?” asks Ari Wasserman, The Athletic’s premier recruiting writer. “Because you have to have a certain baseline of size and speed to be considered at most big-time programs.”

So, there’s your answer. Sort of. Maybe not that cut and dry. 

On-field production is weighted heavily, as evidenced by Wasserman. Not everyone can break records or accumulate thousands of yards of production. But in order to get the attention that some feel entitled to after reaching a certain statistical threshold, you need to reach the baseline of physical traits. 

“I’d say it comes out to around 60% raw traits and 40% production,” said a former power-5 recruiting coordinator. “But we have to take into context the league they play in and the teammates they play with.”

How does this apply to recruits?

Unfortunately for some, raw traits matter. Your height and weight matter – no matter how unfair it may seem. Coaches still tend to veer toward the bigger, stronger athlete over one that may have produced better – be it ever so slightly. 

High school football recruit being measured for their height

Recruit being measured for his verified height at Signing Day Sports combine.

If you fall into the category of players who are considered “untapped potential” or “raw,” good for you. You’ve got a leg up. On the flip side, players who lack certain inherent advantages need to prove that they can make up the ground.

Why are players with “raw traits” preferred? Generally, these players are able to run faster, jump higher, lift more – you get the point. This isn’t always the case though. In many cases, smaller athletes can actually outperform their bigger counterparts. They just lack the attention necessary to prove it. 

This is when the onus falls on the athlete. There are ways in today’s day and age to show your athletic prowess without appearing to possess “raw traits” to the naked eye. 

What can I do if I’m lacking in one of these areas?

First, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world. Plenty of highly successful football players lacked in one, or both, of these areas. What’s important is proving that your shortcomings don’t matter in the grand scheme of your recruitment. 

Statistics don’t tell the whole story. And raw traits mean nothing if they don’t translate to production. Like we said, everything is a spectrum. The key is finding the right balance. 

If it means extra time in the gym, so be it. If it means putting in extra time in the film room in order to exploit opposing defenses, so be it. 

For those who are physically disadvantaged by their size or build (relative to their sport), it’s imperative to show your worth in other areas. This could mean on-field production. But remember, your statistics are only as impressive as your competition. 

In the case that your competition is weak, you need to market yourself using the tools available to you. Platforms like Signing Day Sports grant the ability to do just this. In fact, our service is geared towards this archetype. Illustrating your athletic ability and character outside of the context of high school football or its fluctuating talent-levels goes a long way in bridging the gap.

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