Tue, Mar 25, 2014
By Phil Savage
SIX WEEKS FROM NFL DRAFT
Every NFL organization needs these six 'insurance polcies' to ensure they have a quality draft.
This starts in training camp when you evaluate your OWN team and continues all the way through the regular season, the college evaluation process during the regular season and all-star season, and through the NFL Combine and Pro Days. You have to have everyone on the same page. So, when teams make changes at the end of the regular season to the coaching staff or front office, it is really difficult to get everybody speaking the same language about prospects in the 3-4 month period before the draft. So, teams need a sound approach to scouting and a sound philosphy in terms of what it is you're trying to identify in a player.
This is an area that depends on if the head coach is in charge of the organization or if it's a 'GM-centric' organization. The bottomline is, you need the coaches to be involved in the process and you want them to like the players the scouts like so that when the players get there, they'll be willing to work with them. If there's ever an issue that develops, it always ends up hurting the player, which ultimately hurts the organization. So, you have to have to get coaches and scouts on the same page, working together.
This is huge because if you live in the scouting world for multiple years with the same group of scouts, everyone starts speaking the same language and you begin to understand which scout is good in recognizing talent at particular position groups, etc. As the GM, you have to be able to assess that, in terms of putting your board together. And, that only comes through time and being in these meeting rooms discussing players.
This means everybody -- from the GM all the way down to the interns. Back in my Baltimore and Cleveland days, I can remember we had our interns pick up visiting players at the airport and shuttle them in a van to the team headquarters -- and the interns would be all ears in the van. They'd come back and say, 'hey, such and such was really a good guy,' or 'so and so was really a jerk, we don't want him in our locker room.' And that plays a part in terms of the overall picture of a potential player. The interns can even offer a nugget of info that can help you play the odds to increase your chances of getting the right person on your team.
That includes the area scout grade in September, to the intern's van grade, to a 40-yard dash time, to a vertical jump, to some nugget you get from a trainer or graduate assistant at a campus. Try to utilize it all because everything means something. You don't want your scouts and your coaches wasting their time on the road. You want them accumulating as much information as possible and you have to take it into account or they're not going to get that info next year because you didn't use it this year.
On draft day, you'll see teams sometimes move up to get the player that they absolutely want or you'll see teams move back because they're not in love with any of the three or four players that are available. The idea for them is to get into a position to draft the best available player for them -- regardless of the position. You hear about teams talking about drafting for need -- I think you can do that sometimes in the later portion of the draft, but again, if a player has talent, he will find his way onto the field. You will figure out how to utilize them. Often times, teams will take a player just based off need at a spot that they think he can plug-in to play -- and he's not that good. Ultimately, they would have been better served to take another player at a difference position even though they may have somebody at that position already. But, what happens if that player gets hurt the first day of training camp? I've seen it happen numerous times over the last 20 years. Take the best player available. Most of the time, need has already been factored in to the way a team sets their board, so ultimately in the first round they take the best player available and it just so happens to fill a hole that they have on their roster.
|Phil Savage is the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl. He worked 20 years in the NFL as a coach, scout and executive, including two years as the Director of Player Personnel for the Baltimore Ravens and four years as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns.|