Scouting Football Talent – Now and in the future

Scouting Football Talent

As the draft process begins to wind down and clubs start to zero in on their selections for 2013, scouts are already busy planning for the 2014 draft.  In fact the overall process for this season started well in advance of this same time last year and the amount of club investment in time, work, and dollars for 7 young 21/22 year olds to add to their roster is at times unfathomable.  Yet the annual NFL Draft is thought to be the life blood of building any NFL roster.  Thousands of miles of travel, in most cases a budget well over $1 million dollars, and hundreds if not a thousand plus reports generated to acquire just a few young talents, not all of which are guaranteed to make the roster.

Piecing together the puzzle

Think about the hours of game tape observed, played back, and ultimately evaluated by scouts, administrators, and NFL coaches.  The All-Star games, NFL Combine, and college Pro Days that are attended.  The hours of staff meetings going over the various strengths and weaknesses in a young prospects game, along with how they might help or hinder an NFL club in their future efforts to attain a Super Bowl Championship.

Then there’s the interview process and personal visits scheduled to get an even closer take on what makes a particular prospect “tick”.  Will this player fit into our existing culture?  What type of work ethic does he bring?  Can he develop even further beyond his current abilities on the field?  These are all questions an NFL team tries to come to grips with in the overall process.

Only about 250 or so players are selected each season and that usually evolves out of a list of perhaps a 1000+ generated by National Football Scouting or BLESTO (the two recognized scouting combines).  The entire process of evaluation and the resulting media frenzy covering it seems like overkill in the long run.  But is it?

Timeline continuum

I constantly reminded my scouts that the information they were gathering today on ALL prospects would be used in the future in a number of capacities, regardless of whether we selected an individual player or not.  The career of a professional football player is a timeline continuum that is constantly being evaluated.  To try and capture who a particular player is at any moment in time is really…well, really unrealistic.

Players develop as a result of the ripple effects of numerous influences throughout high school, college, and professional football experiences.  Coaching, injuries, teammates, and all the other surrounding situations can have a heavy influence of how a player is currently performing and the likelihood of how he might perform in the future.  The genesis of understanding this timeline in a player starts with the thorough evaluation of club scouts in the field and continues on with detailed study throughout the draft process.

Predicting the future

It’s not overly wise to try to paint a player into a particular box surrounding his current situation and status.  So to understand his past in order to predict his future, and perhaps supplement your 53 man roster, starts with a firm understanding of who, what, when, where, and how this player’s football career began as he entered the professional ranks.  That is on the shoulders of the area & national scouts that scour the country looking for the best talent to fit your team’s own schemes and needs.

Some of the first players I would target as General Manager were RESERVE FUTURE candidates.  These were normally players that had already been subjected to the acquisition process.  They’d faced the “cold reality” of being waived/cut and were often more hungry than ever to prove their worth to someone, anyone, in professional football.  I targeted many of those young players that we felt fit our team’s needs & culture but weren’t able to select at the time for any number of reasons; not enough picks, drafted by someone else, current roster makeup, the scheme being executed at the time.

Doing your homework

And so even though each NFL club starts out with only 7 picks to their credit (then adds or subtracts to that number), the detailed work that goes into the individual evaluation carries on for years.  The ability to compare and contrast entering measurables and statistical data gave us a window into whom this player might be able to parallel over the course of his own career (both from our own players & the entire NFL).  The information also provided us statistical trends and positional standards as a result of the success or failure generated.  Ultimately it gives you a deeper understanding of the types of players that deserve to hear their names called out on draft day.

Here’s hoping that all 32 clubs have done their extensive homework for both now and in the future.

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  1. Ted,
    Would it be fair to say these scouting reports would have the dual purpose for playing against these players?
    As an example, we have seen John Elway taking a more than casual interest in Quarterback prospects since he became V.P. for the Broncos. Aside from seeking out a franchise QB, I would think thoise reports would have value in knowing the weaknesses in a partuicular player. For a QB, that should be of particular interest since they dictate much of the ball movement and where it goes during games.

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