How we picked the HomeTeam 100
I've had a few people ask or email how exactly we came to picking the best 100 football players in Tampa Bay. Since there's not one criteria we used, it's a tough question to answer.
But it started in spring, with an initial list I created of about 150 kids, based on 2011 production. The one thing we did not want this list to be was a recruiting list, based on potential or offers, or one guy's opinion from watching alot of film and practices, though we did utilize both to make our list. We used everything at our disposal. So I put the players I targeted on a file created for the HomeTeam staff to jot down notes. We hit every team at least once in the spring, and covered every spring game, and modified the list based on our observations and conversations with coaches and players.
* A major requirement for this list was production on the football field, not at a combine or in a workout setting. If a kid ran for 1,200 yards last year and I felt pretty strongly he would do it again in 2012, he's probably on the list. If a kid ran for 500 but has the potential for 1,000 but I'm not seeing it, then he's probably not.
* We followed the camp and combine circuit, analyzed every college offer in a special report that ran in the paper, covered a few big 7-on-7 events, like the IMG Nationals and the USF Sling-N-Shoot. Our opinions of a few players changed. Some rose, some dropped. But the non-padded stuff, while helpful, had a minimal effect on our list.
* We reconvened at HomeTeam Headquarters, and tried to make sense of the almost 200 names we now had. The first 40 or 50? That was easy. The last 50 was brutal. If I had to guess, I'd say the list changed and was tweaked hundreds of times in the last few weeks. My co-workers stopped responding to my revised lists. I think Joey Knight created a spam filter for my emails.
* I shared the list with a few high school football people I respected. A couple of recruiting analysts, a bunch of coaches, a few friends who used to play in the area and still follow along closely. I always asked this question: "Who do you think are the best football players. Not best prospects, not the fastest or strongest, not the physically most imposing. I don't care who runs the fastest 40, who was MVP at a combine or 7-on-7. I want to know: who are the best football players."
Even as we've been releasing the top 100 in 10-player chunks, the list has evolved. I made some last minute changes in the 91-100 group (and still feel like I could have picked 20 other kids for those spots), and the order of the remaining groups of 10 still changes daily, before they are finally published. It's a tough process.
Why did we pick 100? Well, why not?
Picking the top 10 is easy, the top 20 or top 40 is not too difficult. But with Tampa Bay so ripe with quality football players, why not pick 100? It's not like we're forcing bad football players on the list to get to 100; in fact, we were cutting good football players to keep it at 100.
Given the opportunity to feature 100 football players in the newspaper and on the web, we took it. We will be featuring 20 players with their own story and photo during the rollout.
It's bigger and better than any list we've ever done. Any list anyone has done. It's the perfect kickoff to the 2012 football season.