SlotBack ~ Joshua Ferguson ~ Illinois Fighting
Illini ~ 5094/198
Split Ends are usually the bigger, taller WideOuts who line up in the X Position, on the Line of Scrimmage.
SlotBacks are usually the quicker, smaller WideOuts who line up at the Y Position, off the Line.
FlankerBacks are usually the faster WideOuts who line up at the Z Position, off the Line.
The Split End prototype would be about 6030/225 or so.
The Flanker prototype would be about 6000/200 or so.
The SlotBack prototype would be about 5010/195 or so.
However a given Coach chooses to deploy the Soldiers at his disposal is of course entirely up to him, and most WideOuts will see Snaps at multiple Positions and in multiple Alignments, but I believe that it is valuable to categorize WideOuts in terms of classic Skill Sets, to better define the differences in the kind of Impact they might wield at the next level.
This is how I break things down when I'm evaluating Split Ends, Flankers, and SlotBacks:
Separation: Getting Open. This encompasses Combat Skills & Fluidity to beat Press, Acceleration out'f the Blocks, Fluidity and Ricochet in navigating Traffic, Route Running Precision, the capacity to deceive Defenders, and Field Vision for Timing Seems and Open Zones. All other Aspects of a WideOut's Job Description are dwarfed by this one.
Catch Point Capacity: In Transit or Contested: Hands, WingSpan, Vertical Agility, Combat Skills, and Timing.
Yards After Catch are well and fine, but it seems to me that 90% of the Value of a Flex End and any WideOut is getting open and catching the Ball. Anyone who's read my Work extensively knows that I consider Blocking to be the Heart & Soul of FootBall, but that is a philosophical position, and I recognize that with most Philosophies, where it comes to Wide Receivers and Flex Ends...it's just Gravy. And so is Yards After Catch: Moving The Chains is What Wins.
Broken down into SubCategories, it'd go something like this:
* Combat Skills
* Field Vision
Catch Point Capacity
Catch Point Capacity
* Combat Skills
* Vertical Agility
Catch Point Capacity: Impressive. Good Hands. Exceptional Tracking & Timing.
Yes, indeed: I am categorizing Joshua Ferguson, erstwhile Illinois HalfBack, as a SlotBack.
Will he be reconfigured in the NFL as such? Highly doubtful.
But I write Prospects up as what I believe their optimum Deployment would be, as Veterans of this Site know, and then I pray that their Coaches will read my divine Words of Wisdom and See The Light!! Alas, they rarely do...
As a SpeedBack ~ his current and probably future Incarnation ~ Joshua Ferguson offers tremendous Potential to a Zone Scheme Team as a Runner and Receiver, but very little as a Blocker. His Core Power sucks, his Combat Skills are mediocre, and he doesn't seem to have much Interest in it. That's a 5th Rounder, as I see it.
But as a SlotBack...Well, I should probably take a moment to remind my prospective Audience: I don't believe that any SlotBack's Value is fully utilized unless he is deployed both as a Receiver and as a Runner.
As the Charter Member of The InterNational House of Use The Whole Pig, I see no Value in making it easy for one's Foes. A SlotBack out to be routinely set In Motion, and often ought to be handed the Ball. Everybody knows that SlotBacks generally suck at Blocking, so why compound your Tactical Liability by taking his other Weapon away??
SlotBacks are by Nature wily and spry. Give'm a Full Head'f Steam and let'm run. Do so routinely, and the Defense will never know if you're gonna Run or Pass, and your Tactical Advantage can be immense.
My current Plan is to keep pounding the table on this extraordinarily enormous and yet completely wasted Tactical Opportunity for as many Decades as it takes for the NFL to wake up to its Possibilities.
The difference in Tactical Disposition between SpeedBacks and SlotBacks remains huge.
But the difference in Skill Sets is pretty thin.
But I digress.
Obviously, it'd take Time & Training to convert an HalfBack into a Full Time SlotBack, and that Cost affects my Evaluation, even considering that it's very likely a theoretical exercise...But it seems to me that Joshua Ferguson's such a natural SlotBack that it's an easy Decision, especially if ~ theoretically ~ he's trained to develop his full Skill Set!!
Were Joshua Ferguson to be trained and deployed as a true SlotBack ~ as a Running/Receving Hybrid ~ his combination of electric Acceleration, serpentine Fluidity, explosive Ricochet, and remarkably well developed Routing would translate into an extraordinarily dangerous Threat, both as Runner and Receiver...and I will grade'm accordingly.
Grateful Thanks, as always, for the crucial Work done by the folks at Draft BreakDown!!
None of this is even remotely a Complaint, mind you, but rather a Warning!! Caveat Emptor!!