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.”
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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.