There’s only one question to answer in this off-season series: do you think this Young guy is for real?
The cautious approach to evaluating draft picks is to gauge them after 3 years of tape. In a sport with 1) colossal swings in momentum and team performance, 2) devastating injuries, 3) Young Players coming in needing to learn the nuances of the game and becoming professionals, and 4) the sheer fact that there are only 16 regular season games for each NFL team creating small sample sizes, the “3 year rule” is a level-headed approach in assessing a player’s development and subsequent value to the club.
However, NFL teams aren’t always afforded this world of black-and-white. There’s perhaps no more fundamental of a pursuit for an organization than to identify “the young nucleus”: those young studs who provide talented, cheap labor, and allow the team to start finding solutions to other problems. Gauging the collection of these young players, though, can take on different shapes (more like an amoeba) - but the utility is paramount since it influences everything regarding roster construction.
In a “what have you done for me lately?” league, coaches and front offices don’t necessarily have time to let things run their course. Adjustments and roster decisions can be drastic depending on the situation, and since we’re bloodthirsty for wins and could not care less about “the process of growing”, front offices and coaches will continue to make knee-jerk decisions if they feel their career is on the line.
This was a long-winded way of saying: screw the 3 year rule, we have a young nucleus to evaluate.
We’ll start with Xavien Howard.
And you might be surprised, but I’m not going to break down tape or share stats in this series. YOU watched the games just like I did, so I don’t necessarily care if your perception derives from a hard look at the metrics and data or you simply have a feeling about the guy (although I’d like to hear about your take in the Comments Section).
You saw the ups (having the flu and picking off Tom Brady twice) and you saw the downs (getting picked on early in the season, both giving up sizable plays and getting flagged for big penalties).
The question remains: is Xavien Howard for real? Is this a member of the “young nucleus”?