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Like the Seahawks, the Buccaneers are trying to find athleticism, because you can't teach that

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A secret formula to evaluate players sounds very intriguing, but it's no different from the plain old theory of finding unique athletes.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, NFL.com published a story on the Seahawks' use of a "secret formula" to find successful draft picks. It all sounds very conspiratorial, but it's mostly just the Seahawks maybe using Nike's SPARQ rating to evaluate athleticism. That conjecture was based on the work Davis Hsu's been doing for Field Gulls, which is pretty interesting if you like lots and lots of numbers.

But the specific method the Seahawks use is a lot less interesting than the general philosophy behind it: find great athletes, because you can't teach athleticism. It's something Lovie Smith does too: find fast players, because you can't teach speed. It's something they applied this draft, too.

SPARQ is just an approximation for athletic talent. Every team in the league applies analytics to figure out which drills translate to success in which positions most, and the Seahawks are no exception. They just happen to have some affiliations with a measurement system branded by Nike. The Bucs may use the same formule, or other numbers, but the end result probably won't be drastically different.

I'd calculate the Bucs' draft class's SPARQ rating but, well, I can't. Nike took their online calculator offline, and I can't find a formula for this measurement anywhere. But I can tell you this: the Bucs drafted (and signed) athletic talent. With the exception of Charles Sims, nearly every player the Bucs drafted can be described as "athletically gifted, but a little raw".

After drafting Mike Evans, Lovie Smith emphasized that focus on measurables. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a guy with great speed like Mike has, with the great vertical - it's just not the speed, it's the vertical, the long jump - all those numbers were very good for him."

After the draft, general manager Jason Licht said the Bucs felt they had to get "faster, bigger, more athletic" and even pointed out Josh McCown as one of the key parts of that makeover. He's certainly a better athlete than Mike Glennon, though athleticism is hardly the first thing you'd look for at the quarterback position.

Lovie Smith also adores speed. It's the one thing he always talks about, and it's one of the many things he picked up from Tony Dungy. You can teach many things in football, but you can't teach speed. Even in undrafted free agents, the three things Lovie looks for are "toughness, speed, passion for the game."

That's not just limited to the Bucs, either. Some general managers certainly prefer looking for more finished products, but almost everyone has some prototypical athletes they're looking for. Bill Parcells had the infamous "planet theory" -- the idea that there are only a few men on the planet who are big and athletic enough to play on the defensive line in the NFL, so you'd better find them.

The Seahawks aren't using a secret formula to get production out of their draft picks and their undrafted free agents. They're picking up athletes they think they can develop. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But it's the same thing the Buccaneers and almost every NFL team tries to do, too.