The best scene in the movie “Moneyball” comes when A’s general manager Billy Beane’s character is at a table with a group of scouts who are trying to figure out how to replace the players from the previous year’s squad.
One name comes up, and a scout looks dubious. “He’s got an ugly girlfriend,” the scout says.
“What’s that mean?” asks another.
“Ugly girlfriend means he’s got no confidence.”
And so on and so forth until poor Beane slumps over in his chair and shakes his head.
In baseball, hitters who could use more muscle have “warning-track power,” finesse players are “all glove, no hit,” while aging players will be “lucky to hit their weight.”
But baseball doesn’t have a monopoly on colorful jargon and head-scratching idioms.
For the past two weeks, NFL scouts and coaches have been sitting in their own meeting rooms, cutting down some prospects and championing others with a language of their own. Perhaps the most famous phrase to describe a player is, “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane,” which means that a player’s on-field performance doesn’t match his beach-body physique.
In advance of this week’s draft, I asked NFL scouts, ex-scouts and draft gurus to submit their favorite examples of scout-speak. Here are some of the printable ones:
▪ “He runs around like a blind dog in a meat market.”
Translation: A defensive player who has excellent energy and movement skills but has difficulty locating the ballcarrier.
Source: Dee Ford used the expression last year to describe fellow pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney. It wasn’t a compliment.
▪ “He’s built like a Coke machine and is just as tough to move.”
Example: University of Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton, expected to be a top-10 pick in the opening round of the draft Thursday, is 6-foot-2 and 339 pounds.
▪ “He needs to add more glass to his diet.”
Translation: The prospect needs to show more toughness.
Use it in a sentence: Former 49ers wide receiver A.J. Jenkins had some unique skills but needed to add more glass to his diet.
▪ “He’s so skinny, he’s got to run around in the shower to get wet.”
Example: NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock last week said it about Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, who is 6-3 and 196 pounds.
▪ “He’s so quick, he can get through a car wash without getting wet.”
Example: This expression was used to describe running back Warrick Dunn before he was drafted in the first round in 1997.
▪ “He turns the corner like an 18-wheeler.”
Translation: Defensive ends and outside linebackers need to quickly and smoothly get around offensive tackles on their way to the quarterback. Those who do it in comparison to a big rig will struggle.
Bonus idioms: Pass rushers who turn the corner quickly are good at “trimming the fat” or “running the arc.”
▪ “He has hands like feet.”
Bonus idiom: While a wide receiver with bad hands has “hands like feet,” one who catches everything thrown his way has “Hoover hands.”
▪ “He carries the ball like a loaf of bread.”
Translation: You want to carry the marbled rye you bought at the bakery gingerly so you don’t leave indentations. You want to squeeze a football as hard as you can if you’re a running back.
Example: Draft prospect Ameer Abdullah lost 16 fumbles over four seasons at Nebraska. Why? The running back carries the ball like a loaf of bread.
▪ “The first guy off the bus.”
Translation: For the purpose of intimidation, the first player to step from a team’s bus ought to be the biggest, most imposing player on the roster.
Use it in a sentence: Lawrence Okoye (6-6 and 304 pounds), has yet to play a regular-season snap for the 49ers, but he’s the guy you want to be first off the bus.
▪ “He leads the league in high fives and butt slaps.”
Translation: A player who never makes outstanding plays but is always in the frame celebrating when somebody else does.
Use it in a sentence: Tully Banta-Cain had only one-half sack for the 49ers in 2008, but he led the team in high fives and butt slaps.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at sacbee.com/sf49ers.