NFL scouting is perhaps one of the most demanding jobs for front office personnel. It can make or break any general manager, assistant GM or even a head coach if those trusted scouts miss more than they hit come draft day.
For the Ravens, they take the draft personally.
“[The Draft] is the lifeblood of this organization, and we take it very seriously,” assistant general manger Eric DeCosta stated via the teams draft guide.
“We try to make it a science, we really do,” added the veteran draft guru. “But in the end, it’s probably more of an art than a science. There’s a lot of nuance involved.
“It’s a big-picture thing. It’s a lot of bits and pieces of information. It’s gut instinct. It’s experience, which I think is really, really important.”
Important indeed. In keeping pace with the other 31 teams in the league, the Ravens scouting process has been adjusted, influenced in part by technology, in order to adapt to the modern world. GM Ozzie Newsome admitted that things are much different than when he first started in 1996.
“You have social media now, so we have to add that to the process. We didn’t have social media in 1996 as much as we have it today.
“So, we do add that to the process, but we can’t minimize how a guy plays. How he plays on Saturdays or on Thursdays, or whenever they play. At the end of the day, that’s what you have to look at.”
No longer are these crucial decisions based on the players ability to perform between the lines on the football field. Instead front offices are constantly in search of high-character players — ones who make their teams better not just on the field but off as well.
Ravens fans are all to familiar with the term, high-character. Far too often the Ravens organization has found themselves in some tough spots over years regarding player conduct. In fact it’s become a part of their eight area scouts process to learn all they can about potential draft picks.
“I think that’s one major change, probably over the last 10 years, is because of the internet and because of social media and because of all of these different things. We have spent more time looking at the player’s personality, getting a feel for who he is,” DeCosta noted. “We challenge our scouts to go into schools and talk to at least four different people to generate a profile on who the player is off the field.
“We look at specific things like durability, personality, coachability, intelligence, football intelligence – which is a little bit different – leadership and things like that,” continued the assistant general manager. “That is a big part of being a scout – going in and doing that. It’s not just watching tape.
“It used to be that we would go into a school and spend, probably, seven or eight hours watching tape and maybe one hour talking to people. Now, because of things like the iPad and the iCloud and video being stored, you can use your iPad and basically watch tape at any given time in the course of the day”, added DeCosta. “So, our scouts go into the schools and really focus on some tape watching, but also talking to people, building contacts, and then watching the guy practice in the afternoon.
“That’s a big part of it, and we’re fortunate that we’ve got some really good coaches who have good connections to different college coaches, and we have really used that in the past, in terms of building relationships and just kind of creating a network of people who we know we can call when we need to get some information on a player.”
While there is no definitive way to conclude how a draft pick will perform on or off the field, the Ravens take every measurable available to them, to find talented athletes of character.
They truly leave no stone left unturned.
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