From “Camp Body” to “Big Bubble” to “Wood-Toter’s Ass”: A Glossary of Scouting Terms

I first got to know about scouts about four years ago in 2018. I was attending a northwest football game and trying to meet some scouts to help me with an NFL draft column which I was writing at the time. So I approached a scout to ask him what his responsibilities were in this game. At the time, I didn’t know much about what scouts actually did. This scout told me he went on the field before the game for “body typing”. Type of body ? It sounded interesting. The scout explained to me that he stands as close to the players as possible during warm-ups to get a good view of a prospect’s body, which he would then describe in his reconnaissance report. I asked him what he had just written about a player. He looked at his notes and said “smooth calves”.

I had to laugh. Smooth? As if he had shaved? No, no, said the scout. Smooth as in very little muscle definition – not what you expect from calves.

Since then, I can’t get the expression smooth calves out of my head. Sometimes when I see a person with very few calf muscles, I find myself noticing it in my head. Yes, smooth calves.

Where am I going with this? Scouts are a bit like journalists. They watch players, ask questions about players, and write player reports for their bosses to read. When a scout talks to a general manager about a player in his area, chances are the general manager isn’t as familiar with the player and may not have watched the tape yet. Thus, the scout must use descriptive language to paint a picture of this player for the GM. What does this player look like physically? How does he play?

And like journalism, scouting has its problems and shortcomings. Scouting reports are littered with racial stereotypes and racially coded terms, and implicit racial bias clouds the entire judging process. Scouting is an inexact science, and a Scout’s personal biases or experience can inform much of their opinions. Someone else could look at a smooth pair of calves and see real muscle definition.

Like the adjective “smooth,” Scouts have developed their own glossary of phrases to talk about prospects. You’ve heard a lot of these in rough conversations before: high motor skills, a me guy (vs. a us guy), ballhawk, pocket balance, etc. But what about the lesser-known terms that are used regularly in the draft rooms? I collected this list by asking a group of scouts for their favorite and most interesting scouting terms.

This list is by no means exhaustive and each scout has their own style. Some GMs won’t accept these kinds of analogy-laden descriptions, as it can create more confusion if they have to ask a scout what exactly he means when he writes, “This guy looks like a bed water undone. Some scouts get straight to the point, and others like to have a little fun with it.

POINT (n): Just a guy. Scouts love acronyms. It’s a prospect that doesn’t stand out athletically in a meaningful way. camp body.

Use it in a sentence: not worth a draft pick, total JAG.

field body (not) : A prospect with no long-term future in the NFL, someone who will just fill space in an NFL training camp and is sure to get cut.

Use it in a sentence: He’s had a good year at FCS, but he’s probably just a camp corps.

Our guy, our type of guy, he’s a [TEAM NAME HERE] (not): This one reminds me of sorority rush. I really wanted to be a Pi Phi at Northwestern (it didn’t work out), and I later found out they had a code word for a girl who’s a total Pi Phi. The word was “Tube Room”, which meant that she was the kind of girl you wanted to hang out with and watch TV with her in the tube room at home. If a girl got three votes for Tube Room, she was definitely a Pi Phi. Any variation of Our Guy, or Our Type of Guy, or That’s a Commander is the NFL version. Each team has its own style. But there will be a sentence which, if spoken, will convey to all participants in the meeting that we want this guy.

Use it in a sentence: it’s special. He’s our guy.

Life skills issues (phrase): Any long-time NFL fan has heard this phrase. Scouts will tell you that it’s meant to indicate that a player will need help from his NFL team as he transitions out of college life. Maybe he doesn’t have a driver’s license, or he’s never had to find his own apartment or manage his own money. The league office and others within professional football also use the term, usually to describe the programs they offer as evidence that they are doing their best to keep players out of trouble.

But, like many of these words, it is extremely subjective and subject to bias. Most infamously, Dez Bryant was tagged with ahead of the 2010 draft.

A team manager explained to me that he hates this term because it often has a racist connotation when used to judge a player’s education. As he told me, “It’s the white guy token line that says black guys don’t know what they’re doing for a living.”

The executive asked why it matters in a scouting report if a player can’t cook, pay bills or doesn’t have two parents at home. This term is often used in conjunction with “immature” but, he wondered, what 22-year-old could really be considered mature and prepared for professional life anyway? The executive does not use the term himself and says he is frustrated when he hears it from colleagues.

Nervous (adj.): Sudden speed. Movement of short fibers. Explosive movement in all directions. Very good term.

Use it in a sentence: this receptor is nervous, it goes out of position.

fat hips (n): If a player has fat hips, they are really fluid and flexible, and they have a greater range of motion in their hips. This will make it easier for him to bend into a corner or around an edge.

Use it in a sentence: Marcus Peters has fat hips.

Linear (adj.): The opposite of fat hips. He is a player who is somewhat robotic in his movements and is a straight line runner. It’s not easy for him to change direction quickly.

Use it in a sentence: I don’t know about this guy. It’s fast, but it’s stiff and linear.

golf cart (n): This is a single speed player. No gusts or acceleration.

Use it in a sentence: Dude, he got caught quick. It’s a golf cart.

big bubble (n): Bubble is how scouts describe a prospect’s glutes. It’s a good term. And, yes, scouts regularly utter the term bubble in a meeting draft, as in bubble butt.

Use it in a sentence: it’s really invigorating. It has a big bubble.

Wood-toter’s donkey: That is to say a player with a flat ass, the opposite of a big bubble. “Visualize a man carrying a bundle of logs in his arms and chest,” said a scout.

Use it in a sentence: this guy has no anchor, he has a lumberjack’s ass.

Shit (not): A prospect little appreciated by his teammates. A guy who sucks the energy out of the room and isn’t fun to be around. Scouts told me they call a guy a turd after talking to their coaches and watching their body language.

Use it in a sentence: Josh Rosen was not a jerk, he was misunderstood.

Overperforming / underperforming (not): An overachiever is a player who has limited athleticism but is truly productive due to their work ethic and intangibles. An underachiever is a player who has a ton of natural talent and physical ability, but they don’t work very hard or don’t have the right training. Teams believe they can get the most out of an underperformer if they devote more time to them.

Use it in a sentence: He probably peaked as a senior because he’s gifted.

speed bump (n): He’s a guy who can’t tackle or block for long. If he’s a defensive player, that means he doesn’t overwhelm offensive players when he tackles. He is a player who will rather lower his body and throw it at the guys to slow them down, like a speed bump. This is most often used for safeties that have trouble knocking guys down. It can also be used for offensive linemen who get beaten up quickly and consistently.

Use it in one sentence: it’s just a speed bump on the way to the end zone.

High floor, low ceiling (adj.): A safe choice but not a circuit choice.

Use it in one sentence: Kenny Pickett has a high floor and a low ceiling. Malik Willis has a high ceiling and a low floor.

It remains blocked (expression): Used to describe a defensive lineman or linebacker who cannot break free from a block.

Use it in a sentence: it’s not even doubled here, and it gets stuck.

Feel the blocking/fighting pressure (sentence): The opposite of remains blocked. He’s a DL with a good understanding of what the offensive lineman blocking him is trying to accomplish. “Maintaining leverage” or “gap discipline” are similar terms and are used to describe how well a defender plays in the pattern.

Use it in a sentence: He won’t let this OL win. He feels the block.

Feet stuck in the mud (phrase): A slow-footed player. Describing the movement of the foot is very important for specific positions, such as offensive lineman. Flat feet are good, playing on toes or straight legs is not good. Guys who play flat-footed are balanced, with their weight evenly distributed, which means they’re generally in control. (Yes, flatfoot is usually a term for someone who is clumsy, but NFL scouts use it as a positive sign when discussing the OL game.) Guys who play on their toes are generally too heavy and unbalanced. Guys who play straight legs are too high and tend to struggle with explosiveness.

Use it in a sentence: He got his feet stuck in the mud over there.

Waterbed not made (adj.): He is a very tall and flabby lineman.

Use it in a sentence: Have you seen that big guy run the 40? Rippling like a broken water bed.

Wrecking Ball/Turning Ball of Butcher Knives/Hair on Fire (sentence): He is a maniac, a player who has very high motor skills (ie a lot of energy) and who arrives with bad intentions.

Use it in a sentence: This guy is not afraid, total wrecking ball.

Stiffer than a honeymoon dick: Yes, that’s a real term. I heard it from two different scouts who said it was old school and very common. This means the player is tight, rigid, linear, not flexible. And, no, I’m not using in a sentence. You can figure this one out for yourself.

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