Welcome to the duality of Rang's existence. A high-school teacher in Tacoma, he's also a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com.
The lights are off in Room 603 at Mount Tahoma High School.
It’s Monday morning, and Rob Rang has 35 minutes until he leads a fourth-period poetry review for his ninth-grade literature class.
But before Rang gets to Edgar Allen Poe, e.e. cummings and the rest, he needs to conjure up two sentences on Cam Thomas, a defensive tackle from North Carolina, for a mock draft.
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Welcome to the duality of Rang’s existence. A high-school teacher in Tacoma, he’s also a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com. He works at the same high school he attended, teaching literature and world history as well as advising on the yearbook. Last week, his poetry review included Robert Hayden’s poem, “Those Winter Sundays,” while his mock draft included Florida cornerback prospect Joe Haden.
Rang is a homegrown expert in what has become a national pastime. The NFL draft has been referred to as a cottage industry, but it’s actually much larger than that. The draft has become its own economic subdivision replete with its own vocabulary, analysts and grading scale.
Rang, 34, is a draftnik, a term coined for someone whose yearround focus is scrutinizing what will happen in those seven rounds. He watches film, talks to scouts and personnel executives and interviews the prospects to learn all he can about that year’s crop. This month, he has spent countless hours trying to forecast who will go where leading up to the first round, which begins Thursday.
“I’ll lay awake at night and this is what goes through my mind,” Rang said. “It’s hard-wired into my head.”
Of the first 32 players picked last year, Rang accurately predicted 28 of them would be chosen in the first round. That doesn’t mean he forecast exactly where they would be picked, but it shows how accurate he is in gauging talent.
And it’s not just the top-tier prospects. Last week in a radio interview, he was asked about LeRoy Vann. Did you know he’s a defensive back from Florida A&M who is a potential return specialist? Rang did.
His knowledge is encyclopedic, the result of all those hours of study, separating the wheat from the chaff and seeking those prospects who have been overlooked or underestimated. In that way, Rang sees a similarity between the way he dissects a draft class and his work in the classroom.
“The idea of untapped potential, whether it be a player or a student,” he said. “That feeling of seeing an undiscovered superstar.”
Rang’s got a knack for that on two fronts.
On one, he identified Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as the top prospect for the 2010 draft — last May. “Suh is short for Superstar,” read the headline. When the draft starts Thursday, Suh is likely to be the No. 2 overall choice.
On the other, he was recently named Mount Tahoma’s teacher of the month.
It takes a scout’s eyes to see a player with the physical traits to succeed at the next level, and a fortune teller’s prescience. And for all of the precise measurements that are taken in regard to size and speed, for all the hours of tape watched, there’s still a fair bit of alchemy in the process.
Rang has the eyes for the job. It’s why several teams have talked to him about taking an internship in their scouting department, the first step in making his opinions on football personnel a full-time profession. But while he entertains that thought, there’s a reason he’s still in the classroom.
“I would miss these guys so much,” Rang said, motioning toward the classroom of desks that are beginning to fill up.
Lunch has ended, and Rang’s fourth-period students are filing in. Rang tells one student he must finish his chicken strips outside the classroom. He reminds another he must take off his baseball cap. The bell rings and the poetry review is about to begin.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org