The draft has come and gone. The months of work put in by the coaches studying, interviewing, and writing evaluations of potential picks is now playing out on the practice field.
The scouts’ investment into talent acquisition has now transitioned to practice field evaluations. Coaches and scouts watch the rookies intently as they evaluate every aspect of their game on the field and off.
It has however, somewhat baffled me that there are setbacks with some top choices and surprises with some players who were late round picks or college free agents.
As I pondered the reasons for this it forced me to review the evaluation process and its evolution over the years.
The NFL Scouting Combine has always been one of the major steps in evaluating prospects apart from viewing and grading players on their game video. The next step 20 years ago was to have position coaches go to the prospect’s campus for a private workout.
This method was completely unique to each team:
- How long the workout lasted
- The drills and interview process
- Film viewing
Some of the projected 1st to 3rd round picks may have workouts scheduled every day of the week for a number of weeks. This would take its toll physically on the player.
Most players now only workout at the combine and on the school’s designated pro day. Occasionally there may be private workouts for the top 20 picks.
Private workouts are not merely important for evaluating a player’s physical skill, but also to evaluate a prospect’s work-related interest and endurance.
The benefit of the college campus visit and workout went well beyond the physical aspect. Teams are now using sophisticated and expensive psychological and personality profiling testing to project an athlete’s success.
These test results are interesting, but they cannot replace a position coach’s opportunity to spend a full day with an athlete evaluating every aspect of the prospect’s work mind and heart..
A typical schedule would include meeting for breakfast, viewing a weight room session, coaching the players through specific movements and techniques on the field, having lunch, and finally spending 2-3 hours viewing video and grinding through a board session.
After spending a full day with a potential acquisition in this manner, there are few questions that go unanswered. These on-campus private workouts have become few and far between. I absolutely loved those times and it was certainly revealing as to whether the prospect loved it as well. What you’d learn:
- Will the position coach and player have the proper chemistry?
- Does the player grasp new board strategy or field techniques quickly?
- Does the player have the baseline football knowledge to easily transition to the pros?
- Will his personality mesh with the position group?
- Will he be a team player?
- Does the player have the endurance, focus, and passion to maintain interest through a tough workday?
All of these questions are more easily answered through these personal workouts. No single test is a substitute for this.
Why are there setbacks and surprises? The shift away from personal workouts is one reason.