Before the draft, we always talk about anonymous quotes from scouts. A lot. Their reliability is always dubious: plenty of scouts are bad at their jobs, and plenty of them will simply lie to reporters in an effort to deceive them. Teams benefit from misinformation, or at least they hope they do. Still, those quotes tend to fall by the wayside after the draft -- so I thought it'd be interesting to dig up some of those quotes on Noah Spence, the pass-rusher the Bucs drafted with the 39th overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft.
The godfather of anonymous quotes is Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Somehow, he always manages to get scouts and executives to say the most ridiculous stuff. And every year, he gets some of them to compare a black quarterback to Jamarcus Russell, without fail. His sources delivered the goods on Noah Spence, too -- slagging him somewhere, but still ranking him as the second-best outside linebacker in the draft.
"Talented guy, but you have to decide if you want to put up with him," said one scout. "He reminds me coming out of college of Bruce Irvin. He had some mud in his history, too. He's better suited to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. He has get-off acceleration, fluidness, body control and back-door skill." [..] "He's not an arrogant type guy," said a third scout. "Only question I have is what will happen when he starts having success like he did at Ohio State." [..] "He doesn't know how to play the run at all," a fourth scout said. "My biggest concern is, this guy runs under blocks in the run game. He's just a DPR (designated pass rusher) right now. He's a boom or bust."
I'm not sure what happened to a supposed second scout who offered quotes. "Back-door skill" also sounds kind of iffy, but this is fairly solid overall. The interesting thing is that none of these scouts seem overly concerned with his ecstacy addiction. Even someone who told Robert Klemko of the MMQB that he was very concerned with Spence's off-field issues talked about his public drunkenness incident while at Eastern Kentucky, instead of his ecstacy issues at Ohio State. No one knows how any prospect will react to having millions of dollars dumped in his lap, so that's not of specific concern for Spence.
Other anonymous sources did see his off-field issues as more of a concern, though. Teams told NFL.com's Kimberly Jones that his combine interviews did not go well, and Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reported that a team told him the same. Of course, that may well have been gamesmanship by some team hoping he'd fall, perhaps even the Bucs themselves. For what it's worth, Tony Pauline ascribed the shaky interviews to simple nervousness. The Bucs certainly met with him often enough to have gotten a good feel for whether that was the problem, there.
The on-field concerns mostly seem to revolve around his combine 40-yard dash time, which was certainly disappointing -- but his 10- and 20-yard splits were still outstanding, and those matter a lot more. Klemko cited one coach who said he thought Spence would jump off the tape more, which is curious to me given that he jumped off the tape more than any other pass-rusher in this draft, to me.
Also interesting: complaining about his run defense. Pass rush specialists are becoming ever more valuable, but it's not like they used to be a problem: Robert Mathis, who's the same size as Spence, spent the first three years of his career and some alter periods as just a pass-rush specialist, and he racked up 10-sack season after 10-sack season. If Spence can do that, no one will care about his run defense.
In all, these anonymous quotes are actually pretty mild for someone who had as much baggage as Noah Spence. It's not often that players get kicked out of their college, and then go elsewhere and still become a top 40 draft pick. And when they do, they often get murdered by anonymous reports -- see Newton, Cam. The criticism Spence has fielded is comparatively mild.