Teams Seek Safety in Numbers
It’s a word we hear often this time of the year in NFL circles. It starts at The Combines, flows through to Pro Days, individual workouts and throughout the NFL Draft. Analyzing the measurables helps teams to project an amateur prospect to the next level.
At least that’s what they tell us.
Too often production on collegiate fields gets lost in the projection of potential – potential rooted in the analytics of speed, agility, strength, length, height and weight.Teams seem to seek safety in numbers.
As if that wasn’t enough, teams will mix in medical reports, Wonderlic scores and personality tests. They will drill down to poor decisions made by players as teenagers, seeking for clues that just might translate to some deficiency in the NFL.
It’s as though teams look for reasons NOT to draft players.
Paralysis by analysis!
And then there’s the misinformation that comes from a variety of sources from all angles, some of which are disingenuous. Maybe the source is anonymous; maybe a clandestine team official or a sinister agent that spreads rumors with the hope of increasing the odds of drafting a targeted player. And social media is a great platform for such deviants.
Oh and what about heart, desire, a thirst for greatness or the ability to overcome adversity? Shouldn’t they factor into the equation? And if your answer is “yes”, how do you reduce such intangibles into quantifiable tangibles?
At the end of the day, NFL front offices, scouts and certainly the plethora of mock draft analysts seek to make the NFL Draft a science when maybe it’s more of an art.
As observers of the draft we get caught up in the mocks. We read, watch and listen to them for months and then fall into the trap of believing that they are accurate gauges of talent. Forget that teams like the Ravens have a staff of scouts who take to the road for over 180 days per year watching college games and practices; studying film; interviewing coaches and parents and teachers, all part of an effort to populate a draft board.
The scouts know what the coaches are looking for. They know the plan and they seek out players to fit the plan.
The Seattle Seahawks under Pete Carroll have been one of the best teams on draft day in recent years and they seem to have simplified the approach and don’t get caught up in what other teams think or do.
“We’re drafting for us and what we want,” Carroll said. “We don’t evaluate for the league. We don’t evaluate for the guys on ESPN and what they think. We evaluate guys on how they fit our club and our style of coaching and play.”
Carroll added, “We’re not looking at height, weight, speed and what other people think. We’re looking at guys at how we can best utilize them and how we can match their talents to our system and all that.”
So if while watching the draft this weekend and a team calls the name of a player far down on Mel Kiper Jr.’s “Best Available” list, it may just be a team executing a draft strategy, fulfilling an agenda influenced by the kind of team, the type of player they want to take the field with on Sundays – one that they believe gives them the best chance to win.
Some things on draft day just aren’t measurable.
And sometimes there isn’t safety in numbers.