Practice tape viewing for day 3 at the Senior Bowl fell through. I am bummed too.
Rather than extrapolate off the live practice action, I want to take a slightly different approach. Try something new.
Via all types of media members, from the top to the bottom, you hear from anonymous scouts and executives. We all know some of these “conversations” do not actually take place (fabricated is one word I might use), however, the results are consumed.
I do not talk to many NFL employed evaluators, perhaps partially by choice, but likely not. My overall focus is on my work, my evaluations and my process. There are plenty of minds outside of the NFL I trust (Matt Waldman, Matt Harmon, Lance Zierlein, Dane Brugler, Sigmund Bloom, Zach Whitman and many others), and each offers a different look or approach that I find refreshing and am learning to absorb.
For those of us outside the NFL, our evaluations can be more pure and football focused. The NFL would call them incomplete.
After I interned with an NFL team’s scouting department and spent the 2011 NFL Draft in an actual draft room, all I wanted to do was be an NFL scout. That did not work out. For the next two years the goal was to emulate an NFL scout or NFL team using this platform.
That is impossible, and it took time to learn.
Since that lightbulb moment my approach to the process has shifted; who I seek out and take time to read, questioning if a statement is clouded or shaped by an NFL source, opening up to other styles of evaluations and much more. But above all, I realized I am not a scout. I am not a report writer who travels to campuses to uncover layers of information on 21 and 22 year olds. I do not have the resources to interview nearly 750 prospects, if not more, every single year. I cannot consult a team doctor to hear how an injury should impact an evaluation, or consult a psychologist who skyped in during Combine sessions in the hopes of understanding a human being more effectively in 30 minutes.
Very little information about prospects actually makes it to public consumption. But that one to five percent of actual info is blown up to exaggerated proportions and then ripped apart in the form of dissection and judgment. Many of you will disagree, but I firmly believe we do not have the necessary information to critique these prospects as people, but it happens every year. As Sigmund Bloom has put it, people don’t like seeing what is inside the sausage or how it is actually made.
Hopefully that did not come across as a rant. It was not intended to. A similar conversation sprouted while sitting with, humorous enough, a couple NFL scouts in the stands of Ladd Peebles Stadium during one Senior Bowl Practice, so it is fresh in my mind.
These conversations and interactions can be tricky. Usually it starts with knowing just one of the scouts, and he or she introducing you to his/her peers who obviously do not trust an “outsider.” Not maliciously, but a natural skepticism is there. How could it not when media members are in the stands eavesdropping on conversations and tweeting out the noteworthy bits? There are fewer jokes, longer periods of silence, more note taking. “Winning” them over might be a bit of a strong term, however, something similar needs to happen in order for the conversation to progress.
What did we talk about? I noticed the scouts were watching and taking notes on prospects that obviously did not fit their team, for scheme and/or threshold purposes. So I posed this question, “At what point do you eliminate them from your evaluation process?”
“Not soon enough,” one said. The reason caught me a bit off guard, and I could tell there was some built up frustration behind it. He told me teams worry about what the other 31 clubs are doing or going to do far too much. “If we get our shit right, everyone else’s stuff really doesn’t matter.”
These evaluators explained they are covering their backs by completing the work on players that obviously will not be under consideration for their team, just to have a sense of who the prospects are when another team adds them.
Does my fourth paragraph on NFL scouts make sense now? Talking with NFL personnel people can give a sense of where a player might be projected in the draft, even though that can vary wildly across the NFL, but from a pure football standpoint I am comfortable in my ability, and that of my peers, to purely evaluate football. Those outside the league placing NFL scouts’ evaluations on a pedestal can be comparable to the scouts’ complaint of teams spending too much time worrying about other teams, when that time could be better spent focusing on your own work.