Football fans are getting excited for the 2015 National Football League draft, which begins on Thursday. Each year, competitive college players are selected by professional teams to start their careers during the draft. Very often, players who are away from the spotlight get drafted first and players who are widely popular among fans don’t get drafted in the first few rounds. This phenomenon leaves us wondering: what is it that the scouts see and we don’t? The scouts watch the same game as we do, but what else do they see in the game? Why don’t team draft players that are fans-approved? What are they looking for in a player? Based on Sports Illustrated writer Andrew Perloff’s guide, here are some tips for watching football like a pro.

Football games attract scouts all across the country, but what are they looking for? PHOTO VIA FLICKR USER DANIEL X. O'NEIL

Football games attract scouts all across the country, but what are they looking for? PHOTO VIA FLICKR USER DANIEL X. O’NEIL

Let’s start by looking at the 2015 mock draft. Even though the actual draft hasn’t happened yet, it’s clear that Jameis Winston of Florida State University will be the first pick. A lot of fans aren’t happy to see this. Their reason is simple: Marcus Mariota performed a lot better than Winston at the NFL Combine in February. Mariota was faster, more explosive and more agile than Winston, and he had decent accuracy when he threw the football. So why do the scouts want to draft Winston instead?

The key is one word: Detail. Scouts really focus on every single detail of the player’s performance. When we look at the quarterback throwing a football, we often perceive the image as a whole. However, for scouts, arm strength, footwork and space management are a lot more important than the posture itself. In other words, a quarterback can throw a football in any weird ways he wants, as long as he can achieve two goals: find his target and not get sacked. In order for this to happen, the conditions are pretty much set. Mariota is not as talented when looking at him in terms of how he moves after the snap and how he throws the football. Mariota’s accuracy isn’t something to brag about, either. Fans may say that a quarterback’s accuracy might increase as his career develops. The truth is, the learning curve for accuracy is steep at the beginning and flattens after a certain amount of throws. In other words, you have it or you don’t. Practice gives you the experience of dealing with different potential situations, but it doesn’t help with accuracy. Certainly, Winston has great accuracy and a very beautiful curve when the ball travels in the air. Winston’s throw also has a good spiral, which makes it a lot easier for the receiver to catch the ball. Compared to Winston, Mariota’s throw is a little more jarring and rough. It’s fast and straight to the target, but there’s a potential to easily slip your grip. Therefore, although Mariota might have better stats in the combine and the way he throws might look cooler, but scouts wouldn’t define him as the first pick.

Compared to quarterback scouting, the process of scouting other positions isn’t that complicated. You can pick the good players from the bad by following one rule: don’t look at the ball, and instead look at the players and how they move. For instance, watch how the receiver turns around to catch the ball and how he runs along the sideline. If a receiver can execute a series of motions smoothly, he is a good pick for the draft. Also focus on how an offensive player tricks the defense. When a receiver runs, look at the routes he takes and how he gets rid of the cornerback.

I’m sure that with these tips, you can become the person in your friend group who really knows football.