The thought is a bit along the lines of the often repeated maxim, “Life is a journey.”
And so is a player’s path to and through the NFL.
We’ve heard many times before how difficult it is to project players into the NFL and how the draft is an inexact science. While that may be true NFL scouts and personnel directors can study the plight of not only successful NFL players but just as importantly those who were unsuccessful.
The Ravens will tell you that their research suggests that they should draft players who were productive in college. Ideally they want those players to be smart, tough, fast, love the game, possess a solid work ethic and are high character guys.
Now that is a hefty wish list for any player and the reality of the situation is that the Ravens won’t find many players that are plus in all areas.
Yet productivity suggests competitiveness and those with an insatiable desire to compete are tough, love the game, will work to improve all of which points to plus character guys.
Such characteristics also describe a coachable player and that is key to a player’s ascension through the ranks of the NFL. It also doesn’t hurt to have solid coaching – men who can recognize and harness talent and then latch on to a player’s built in tenaciousness to push him to unanticipated limits.
If you look at some the great Ravens’ success stories: Bart Scott, Will Demps, Priest Holmes, Mike Flynn, Kelly Gregg, Adalius Thomas, Jason Brown, Mike Flynn – all late Day 2 picks or undrafted free agents, who compete and take to coaching.
Conversely players like Travis Taylor, DeRon Jenkins, Duane Starks, David Pittman, Yamon Figurs and Patrick Johnson all Day 1 picks weren’t plus in enough of those categories and perhaps only Starks and Johnson could be described as tough and competitive.
In today’s NFL under the guiding hand of Roger Goodell, character is more important than ever before and clearly the Ravens have made great strides in that area over recent years particularly since the arrival of John Harbaugh. But with the free flow of information in our society and the electronic gadgetry that can pinpoint anyone’s location at just about any time in a way that would make George Orwell proud, it’s difficult not to find dirt on a prospective draft pick particularly when the NFL teams send their espionage units out to collect data on players they may invest big dollars in.
It’s enough to make your head spin and this unpredictable variable supports the notion that the draft is a crap shoot – an inexact science.
And while that may be true, that doesn’t stop teams from continually refining their approach based upon history – based upon their mistakes.
Eric DeCosta and his staff have studied why some teams fail at drafting receivers. Part of the problem they’ve determined is the position of quarterback. Teams with proficiency and stability at the quarterback position seem to have more success drafting receivers. Perhaps the Ravens’ fortunes will change at that position with the emergence of Joe Flacco who by the way is going the extra mile for his team by touring campuses and working directly with wide receiver draft candidates – a rarity in the modern day.
But DeCosta and his staff don’t stop there. They don’t rest on their laurels and gloat over the good picks or the diamonds in the rough that they’ve found. Instead they question the failures and challenge themselves to unearth what went wrong.
The scouting proficiencies are an ongoing work in progress with perpetual refining. The coaching staff isn’t far behind. Together they work to find collegiate players who possess the desirable plus attributes. Then when the drafted players arrive all three groups work together to nurture productive NFL players who will determine the outcome on the field and ultimately organizational success.
It’s all part of a dynamic process. And the Ravens want to keep it that way. They look for good players to develop and to make them better once they become Ravens. They also look in the mirror and challenge themselves to be better.
That is the growth of the Ravens as an organization.
It’s all about placing the right people – scouts, coaches and players in the right “room” together.
It’s all about improving a player’s chances for a successful life journey through the NFL and ultimately the success of the team that shares his room.