Knowing when to seek quantity or quality in your team selection is critical.
In professional football, acquiring players through the NFL Draft or signing a player through free agency are the two dominant ways of acquiring talent for your team. In the corporate world, there is no draft day, but college graduation can be the equivalent and being able to evaluate talent and knowing what you need is just as critical to success.
My journey in professional football allowed me to experience various evaluation techniques and philosophies.
- The first thing the organization must determine: Is your team relatively close to championship level talent or do you have a long way to go?
This determination cannot be done lightly. Quality or quantity is the question. If it is determined your team is close, that could dictate a path of acquiring only a few game-changing or high quality acquisitions that could bring your team to a championship level.
This is sometimes a very risky path because those types of players required a high-dollar and high-profile commitment. When their production matches the financial commitment, it is a positive experience for the team and organization.
- Then there are a couple of negative ramifications if these high-dollar and high-profile commitment players do not perform at an elite level.
The first is the simple fact that the expectation level of your team is the championship and anything less means your commitment to those few players was a failure.
The other negative could impact the chemistry of the locker room. When a newly acquired player is signed as one of the highest paid players on your team, if they do not produce to match their pay it creates friction in the locker room.
If the evaluation of your own talent points to many weaknesses, the philosophy to acquire talent would lean to quantity. Requiring as many draft picks as possible and possibly unloading high-priced team members as you build for the near future.
- Regardless of the quality or quantity path, there is an evaluation process that takes place to identify the players or candidates your organization will target.
The initial stages of evaluating talent is similar in all organizations:
The personnel department and its team of scouts evaluate draft eligible players in their area and give them a grade.
The position coaches are given a list by the personnel department of players that are draft-worthy of their position and they will give those players a grade. This first level process is common.
It is from here I’ve seen the techniques branch off in many directions.
- The one technique that proved extremely effective was having the personnel grade, rate, and list each player by position. So the Quarterbacks for example were graded and then listed from best to worst. Each position was ranked in that manner, the grades were determined by watching game video of each player. A minimum of 4 games was necessary to assign a grade.
- The more game video or data, the closer you were to gaining a clear picture of the player’s talent. Once the coaches finished their grading and ranking each position, the coach would be called to meet with the GM, Head Coach, and scouting department.
- The coach would present his ranking and a brief description of the player’s strengths and weaknesses. When the coach finished his presentation, the personnel department’s rankings were revealed.
- Any major discrepancies would then be evaluated in a case by case fashion. This was done by watching the player’s best games together and then the GM would adjust the ranking if he felt it was necessary. The personnel department’s ranking served as the baseline.
The Process of Elimination
Their particular system also had a unique way of eliminating some players:
- Through thorough discussions with the coaches on the most important characteristics of their position based on height, weight, and speed were determined.
- Any player not satisfying that minimal and maximum parameter would not make the draft board.
From my standpoint, this was the best and most successful of all the systems I experienced.
The minimum and maximum parameter does not imply that all players who didn’t fit that category couldn’t make a team.
The GM believed that anyone not fitting the parameters should be tried out by another team and let them assume the risk. If the player proves himself on another team, they could still be acquired in free agency at some point.
There are other evaluation methods that were used that I will discuss in future posts. I chose this format because it proved to be the most effective in the percentage of hits on talent.