(This is a transcription of a @zachsports247 podcast made one week before the 2020 NFL Draft that proved to be pretty spot-on!)
I hope you and your family are doing well right now with the Covid pandemic. What’ve you been doing to keep yourself busy and sane?
- Gardens, Guitar, Gourmet Club, FaceTime with Grandkids, Yoga, and Heavy Drinking. We have almost an acre of land, and it’s half gardens. I’m in a Garage Band so I brought my guitar into the Family Room to practice. Gourmet Club is just three couples who try some difficult recipes –for now, we just talk in a Zoom meeting with wine. Grandchildren zoom and message us a lot; they live in Austin and Boise.
Oh that’s awesome… my wife and I love to cook, too. Nothing that fancy, but we love all of the cooking shows on The Food Network. What’s the most gourmet type of meal you’ve whipped up to date?
- My go-to is Thai. If it’s my turn to cook, we have Massaman Chicken Curry with chick, red curry sauce, coconut milk, a little ginger, Worcestershire, peanut sauce, bell peppers, red onion, sweet potato, and lime. I’d serve it with a choice of Freakshow Cabernet and Bogle Chardonnay.
And you’re in a garage band, do you guys have any original hits or do more covers? Anything like a Spotify page? I’m always looking for good royalty free tunes.
- We play old stuff–Beatles, Clapton, Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville, Everly Brothers, Martin Sexton. We haven’t played at open mike night in a long while. I have written 8 or 10 songs. One was dedicated to my friend and guitarist Bob, who lost his battle with ALS.
Now how long have you been assessing college football athletes and for how long have you been with DraftTek?
- I think it’s been 14 years. I’ve been a Bills fan for 50+ years, so DraftTek found me in The Stadium Wall online forum, and asked if I wanted to be Bills Analyst. I taught special ed for 44 years, and thought I could help edit the weekly comments on the DraftTek picks, so I instantly became Managing Editor. Our site has grown to almost one fan-analyst per team now.
I was hoping you could share some of what you guys do for the audience to help increase your online footprint.
- DraftTek emphasizes quality first and foremost. We share analytics sites, interesting articles, news stories but also human-interest stories. When writing about a selected player, the analysts always have to include an interesting stat, a cool link about the pick, and mention new or surprising information. If you’re citing a YouTube video, for example, instead of just including a link, cue it up to the specific play that illustrates your point. My job is to help the fan analysts become great sportswriters, and DraftTek will continually grow because of that quality. Our fan analysts are passionate about it because it’s their team, and passion grows your audience.
I completely agree. Passion makes all the difference in the quality of the product. I don’t care what you’re doing or what the product. I know you said you guys ALMOST have one fan-analyst per team. You got anyone currently covering the Jets? If not, I’d be very interested. If so, let me know if that guy ever falls off the face of the earth.
Now, you mentioned that you do human interest pieces. What’re some of the captivating stories you’ve come across for this year’s draft class?
- I wrote one for BillsMafia.com on LSU’s D-Line 3-tech Breiden Fehoko of LSU, and the angels that have helped him. He and his father are famous for their Haka Dance before LSU games. If you Google “Billsmafia Fehoko” it pops right up.
How did you like the trade for Stefon Diggs from a draft standpoint with them having given up their 1st, 5th and 6th round picks this year in acquiring him? Would you say the trade was better value than any prospect that they would’ve selected at 22nd overall?
- It was most definitely worth it to go get a WR that is already known for great separation. You’re not getting Diggs’ experience from, say, Reagor, Jefferson, or Mims, the guys that’d be there at #22.
Building off of that, what do you feel that Diggs is going to bring to the table that one of these other receivers can’t, and do you have any concerns about how or if his persona may affect the locker room?
- Diggs brings elite separation and catch rate, especially on deep targets. Josh Allen has been bottom 4 in those deep completions, and Diggs is top 2 in deep catch rate. Diggs was truly unhappy in the situation he was in, and the family focus, team-first ethos, and leadership he’ll be immersed in here will work its magic. Just watch.
I know your data tracking is SUPER in depth. What’re some things-trait wise- that you look to assess when reviewing a prospect as a whole?
- The Bills place a great deal of value on grit, character, work ethic. Hard to measure, right? But you can. You want to watch at least one interview of the player to see how smart and reflective they are. You want to see if their performance has grown each year. How’s their availability in terms of games played vs games injured? Finally, you can also measure grit by ESPN’s split data …how’s their performance vs AP-ranked teams compared to non-conference games? There’s actually a stat in the split data to see the player’s performance by quarter. Does his effort lapse if the game is decided early? How about their performance in losses vs wins?
That being the case, who is someone that sold you on them and their character that you may have had concerns about previously?
- I made a huge mistake in my early judgment of Zack Moss. I thought he was a goon, basically. I listened to a couple of interviews and discovered the opposite…he is a team-first, humble, patient guy, and more of a fit than I first thought.
- On the flip side, I had Denzel Mims and Chase Claypool lower than most people. They have size, but their catch rates were too low for RD1 or even RD2. But Brandon Aiyuk is going to be a star; he’s tops in FBS Yards Per Kickoff Return at 31.9 yards. Aiyuk led all of the FBS with 9.9 yards AFTER the catch in his career, and a team that wants to make use of short passes and screens is going to snatch him up.
I know you also track team contacts with players. Could you shed some light on who the Bills have been taking a thorough look at, and maybe even who you think would make sense for them in the 2nd and 3rd rounds?
- So, during the season I constantly search for credentialed scout visits. Part of that is following people like Chase Goodbread on Twitter, following college media personnel, and player agents. I use one Google spreadsheet to keep your info, tab it by position, and keep all info on each player on a single line.
Seems effective. Do you have an inkling based on your tracking methods of what the Bills might be looking for come rounds 2 and 3?
- I think it’ll be on offense (again, I’m running against the grain here). If the Bills see a RB or tall receiver dropping, Brandon Beane has been known to pounce. For the last two years, Beane has let the RD1 player fall to his pick, then has moved back up after his first selection (getting Tremaine Edmunds after Josh Allen selection, then getting Isaiah Ford after the Ed Oliver selection). Same holds true in RD3. Two out of the first 3 picks will be on the offense, and he’ll use his 7 picks to wheel and deal for 3 or 4 players he wants.
As of right now, how do you view the overall layout of the Bills roster now, where you think they’ll finish in the division and could you see anything happening in the draft that might change that outlook?
- I think the holes are depth holes.
- EDGE is a legit possibility, as Jerry Hughes is getting up there in years and free agent Mario Addison is 32. Quinton Jefferson and Trent Murphy are behind them. I still think Beane has one more splash free agent signing either before or after the draft.
- RB also needs a big guy to replace Frank Gore, TJ Yeldon isn’t it, International player Christian Wade is still learning American Football.
- The WRs don’t have a big guy for the red zone apart from D’haquille.
- At RT, you have Cody Ford, who might be a Guard, and his backup is Ty Nsehke, who might be 34, and they signed former Panther Daryl Williams to a one-year contract.
- The CB position has Tre White in his contract year and opposite him it’s undrafted Levi Wallace and two 1-year contract free agents, Josh Norman and EJ Gaines.
I’ve actually thought to myself the biggest concern on this team is the depth. Having rattled off some of the names that you did, do you feel that there may be a concern with the front office’s ability to draft good OT and WR talent having somewhat whiffed on Tackle and Receiver since taking over? To me it seems that they definitely have a better pool on the defensive side of the ball. (Side note- I don’t think Ford or Dawkins are bad, but I do think they both would be better suited at Guard.)
- I think it’s still early to say that Beane and Pro Personnel are unable or unwilling to draft good OTs or WRs. They have brought in the right free agent linemen, so they know what they’re looking for. Ty Nsehke can hold down RT for one more year. He’s age 33, 70.9 (76.4 pass) At #54, they’ll check to see if Isaiah Wilson is there, he’s a RT to start, and he’s from a run-based GA offense. The Bills have La’Adrian Waddle, and he looked great before getting injured in training camp. Ike Boettger from Iowa still impresses me, too; he needed seasoning and strength. The O-Line doesn’t have to keep the pressure off Josh Allen for a long time; he’ll just take off, or throw to Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, John Brown, or our TE Dawson Knox.
Which other AFC East team do you feel is the biggest threat to the Bills this year in the division and why?
- I think it’s still the Patriots. Bill Belichick is a great coach, and we’ll all see that whenever we start up again in 2020.
That being said, what about the Patriots’ roster makes you so confident that they are the second-best team in the division? Belichick aside, on a pure talent basis and without Tom Brady, where do you realistically see the Pats ending up this year?
- The defense is still one to be reckoned with, and their players on both sides of the ball were selected specifically to do their unique specialty. They’re still a 9-7 team without Brady, and you can’t take Belichick out of the equation.
Care to give a pitch of how people can find you or follow you?
- Search for “Astro” on Twitter and you’ll find Dean Kindig. You can also go to DraftTek.com (two T’s). I’m the Bills’ Analyst there, and I edit the comments.
Why the term ‘Astro’?
- It’s not from the dog on the Jetsons… Astrobot Academy was the name of my educational software company. We made Math Invaders, where you are in your spaceship shooting invading math facts with your answers. We made some money and moved on when technology did.
Thanks for all of this. Can’t wait to see what happens next week!
- Thank you for having me on. This is the week before Christmas for football fans to be sure. Look for Astro on BillsMafia Twitter today for my “Pick 6” —six players I’d take at each pick.
- Stay safe! Stay home!