As a fifteen year personnel man, ten of those as an NFL Executive, I created my scouting philosophy from my mentors Bill Polian, Dom Anile, Jack Bushofsky and the late Bill Walsh. When promoted to Director of College Scouting I wanted to separate the scouting season and overall process into three phases, 1.Planning, 2. Developmental 3. Execution.
PHASE I Planning
Halloween weekend marks the half-way point of this phase which starts in May and ends in December. It begins with spring meetings, where clubs that belong to a scouting organization like Blesto or National Football Scouting, receive their list of prospects. In June, I assigned the college scouts several professional teams to evaluate. This gives the Pro department more eyes and allows the college scouts the ability to keep up with the talent in the NFL. It is extremely important when comparing college to professional players. I always gave the first three weeks of July, as family time, vacation or gear up for the season, because it is a long road to April. August through December is the scouting evaluation period, where the college scouts spend a lot of time on the road, turning over every rock, looking for that diamond. I would pick a week in October to fly all the scouts into the home base, or wherever the team was playing for Cross Check meetings. I held these meeting for two reasons. One to assign cross check assignments for the scouts. For example the west coast scout would flip areas with the Southwest Scout, both would evaluate the top graded players in those areas. The other reason, so the scouts could see our team play, and feel a part of what we are doing. The first few weeks of December triggers our first personnel meetings.
PHASE II Developmental
January is College bowl season, followed by the senior All Star games as well. This is the phase where the scouts dot the “I” and cross the “T”, as well as start the interview process of all prospects that are invited to the post senior All Star games (East/West, Senior and Texas vs Nation). The Director and Scouts will meet with the Coaches and prep them on the quality of talent and background of the prospects prior to the Combine. The NIC (National Invitational Camp) or Combine is held in February at Indianapolis, IN. Spring workouts start in March, where scouts and coaches make a game plan and criss cross the USA working out talent and getting to know the prospects.
PHASE III Execution
April is the month where all the hard work pays off and the nuts and bolts meetings start. Character is HUGE with me. I work closely with our security director on all 335 players that attended the Combine and those that were non-combine prospects. After you return from the Combine, Personnel Executives and Head Coach meet with the medical staff in hopes that the board doesn’t bleed (a player with major medical issues, gets his name highlighted with a RED marker as an alert). The final draft meeting with Scouts and Coaches, we discuss every player on the front board, from highest grade to lowest, by position. Once that process is over Draft Scenarios begin. Questions from A-Z, and the what if’s based off Value vs. Need.
The NFL draft is truly not an exact science, as Bill Walsh told me several times, there are no genius in football, else none of us would be working in the league. The draft is truly a projection of the future and possible prediction based off past production, skill set, mental-concentration, college statistics, Combine Data, Wonderlic test score, Psychological data. The bottom line for me, always go back to their DNA = Film.
Some interesting data shows that over the first five years, players drafted in the first round spend about as many seasons out of the league (8%) or not starting a single game (8%) as in the Pro Bowl (9%). The evidence about an individual player is highly diagnostic of a player’s NFL future.