As the director of college scouting for the Carolina Panthers, I was challenged to further develop an idea sparked by a conversation with then head coach/general manager George Seifert. My four years as a system analyst in computing at the Boeing Corporation and 11 years as a computer analyst for the Panthers’ scouting department for 11 years gave me a great foundation.
Seifert and I were having a conversation in the draft room after meetings had adjourned. It was still early in the evening and we both expressed our dislike for the current front board layout of a standard magnetic white board with magnets and labeling information of the prospects attached.
After bouncing ideas back and forth, he departed, leaving me sitting in front of the draft board with a large note pad. I found myself writing down any and all ideas that came to my head.
This went on for several hours and when I finished, I found myself staring at the note pad with several data flow charts, acronyms and notes on over 50 pages both front and back. The next morning when I arrived at the office, I called the director of computing (Roger Goss) and scheduled a meeting to go over my ideas for a Digital Draft Board.
In 2002, the programmers spent hundreds of hours on the digital draft board software and video interaction. After hours of alpha and beta (programmer and end user testing), implementation of my vision was realized in 2003 with the creation of the first Digital Draft Board.
As I told team owner/founder Jerry Richardson and his sons (Mark and John), I asked for the world and the computing department gave us the universe. We were light years ahead of everyone else in the league.
When the playing field is level, computer technology is the future and a major way to stay ahead of the competition, from Digital Draft Boards to hand-held computers used in film review to aid in evaluation. All of the data was downloaded into a laptop or a note-taking device when interviewing trainers, strength coaches and others within the athletic department.
The following equipment was essential for performance: SHARP XG-P25X conference series projectors; 20-foot auto roll screen; two computer towers, monitors and cable throughout the war room.
The following information was viewable during all pre-draft meetings and we ran the 2005 draft with this remarkable tool, allowing us the ability to view all data on a prospect by the click of a mouse.
Scouts & Coaches report summaries
Combine results and video
Spring workout results
All-Star fame video
Physiological testing (Tap/Human Resource Tactics) reports
Dave Te Thomas “Poor Man Reports”
DND board (do not draft internal board) prospects; major character and medical issues
Pick board (Internal board of all selections traded or picked)
Team board (Internal board displays final team selections)
There was a strict level of security to the digital draft board. The general manager, head coach and I, as the director of college scouting were the only front-office executives allowed viewable access in the draft room or via laptops in our offices. With the internet and cell phones, scouts feel they need to let information out, so the access was limited to the big three, and of the three I was the only one that had access and authority to actually move players around the board.
Once the draft was completed, all the above information was transferred to the pro system, which helped them prepare for training camp cuts, free agency and allowed them to track and maintain player data.
While several teams have embraced the digital technology era, and developed a Digital Draft Board within the clubs’ computer departments or have purchased systems software from outside vendors, all clubs will have to move quickly toward this new technology in order to maintain a level playing field with the other NFL teams.
While there are several outside vendors or software companies that are getting close, the ICE platform, which stands for Interactive Collaboration and Evaluation is the standard. The system fully computerizes a team’s draft and pro scouting boards, and allows almost instant access to everything from a player’s scouting report to his physical testing to his medical report to game videotape. The development of ICE began in 2008, and arose from talks between John Pollard, a former Microsoft software designer and now general manager-sports solutions of STATS LLC, and New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis.
Computer technology (storing and manipulating football data) is the wave of the future, while several, if not over half, of the 32 NFL teams still live in the dark ages on processing data manually. This results in poor time management, is not cost effective and lacks the most up to date information from a day to day scouting operations standpoint.