From Thursday night to late afternoon Saturday, decisions were made in the “board rooms” of franchises across the NFL that will resonate for years. Drafts are pipelines of talent, forming the infrastructure behind frontline players that will hopefully become that front line in the near future.
What never ceases to amaze me is the amount of man hours and money spent to bring a handful of players to the squad. I remember a time at the Packers when Ron Wolf couldn’t understand why a player’s standing broad jump distance didn’t fit with his measurables. So the day before the draft, he dispatched a scout to measure the player’s broad jump again. Just a small example showing the incredible attention to detail that this process entails.
With that in mind, here are five “trusts” that a decision-maker in the war room must have. The basic premise is the draft is not a time for gut instinct; too many people have done too much work for someone to rely on “feel.” This process requires unemotional and calculated decisions.
1. Trust your board
This is the ultimate trust on draft day. A dozen people have put in thousands of hours over the past nine months and over the last three months have grinded to create and fine-tune the board – the listing of players by position/round/rank -- to be the ultimate arbiter for draft decisions.
The board takes impulse out of the equation, allowing for a team effort that the entire scouting staff feels a part of. Nothing deflates a staff more than when a decision-maker veers off the board due to a “feel” about a player. That has happened before and will happen again, and the stories all are the same: The air is taken out of the staff, their work rendered meaningless by an instinct of an owner, coach or general manager. The college scouting personnel mantra is clearly, “Trust the board!”
2. Trust your staff
This is the corollary of the above. Draft day should be a calm process. The hard work has been done in copious detail by area scouts, national scouts, scouting directors, general managers, cap/contract managers, psychological consultants, etc. This is the time to let that work play out. It’s empowering and emboldening for staffs to feel valued for their hard work; nowhere is that more felt than on draft day and the trust the decision-maker shows to the staff.
3. Trust your cap/contract manager
A prepared cap and contract person has detailed scenarios of contract requirements for all picks in the draft and what kind of values would be suitable for trades. The old “trade value” chart now been adjusted to take into account financial consequences of the picks since looking at value based on the pick alone is not enough. The decision-maker must be aware of the financial ramifications of the moves made in the war room, as they can have lasting effects for years to come.
This person is also involved in potential contract negotiations that may be done in time-pressured situations involving trades. I spent much of the 2007 draft working on a contract for a potential trade involving Randy Moss, a trade that didn’t happen because of the Packers’ refusal – and the Patriots’ willingness – to give Moss a one-year deal.
Many more trade and contract negotiations occur than people know. Last year, when consulting with the Eagles during the draft, I worked on several potential contract negotiations, none of which ended up being executed due to trade negotiations not being consummated.
4. Trust your doctors
There’s a reason all those players came to the combine in February and had physical after physical with team doctors. And there’s a reason players who had issues at that time came back to Indianapolis in April to be re-checked and given thorough physicals again and again. The medical staffs of each team put medical grades on players, from 1 (clean as a whistle) to 5 (medical nightmare). Some teams will not go near a 3; others have higher tolerance for injury. Ultimately, the doctor and trainers are there to provide the disclaimer about players with medical risks and let the decision-maker go from there.
I remember one time with the Packers, we were about to hand in the card for our pick, only to realize that our doctors had ruled the player to be a high risk. With seconds to go on the clock, we tore up the card and found another player (that’s how defensive lineman Corey Williams became a Packer).
5. Trust your depth chart
It’s easy to say that a player should be taken. However, when one player comes in, especially a player picked high, it usually means another player is going out. The team needs to know the ramifications of that pick on the depth chart.
When the Packers selected kicker Mason Crosby in the sixth round in 2007, we were making a decision on the kicker that year since only one was going to make the team. The special teams coaches were put on the spot about whether Crosby would beat out the other kickers. When they started analyzing the other kickers, they were interrupted with this question: “We’re thinking of taking Crosby with this pick. If we do, he’ll be our kicker. Do you agree with that? Yes or no?” They said yes, we took Crosby, and he was/is the Packers kicker.
Every action has a reaction. The players picked this past weekend will push players off NFL rosters. Teams must be prepared to shed existing players to welcome new ones.
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