by Jack Bechta
April 16, 02014
Now that all the hype associated with the shorts and underwear Olympics (Combine, pro days and individual workouts) is over, a reset of evaluating draftees is underway. It’s time to sober up!
During the football season, the majority of GMs, and all the coaches are immersed with the day to day of running the franchise and trying win. For ten months, the focus is on shaping a roster, managing and having answers for injuries, claiming, cutting, forward scouting, self-evaluation, hiring/firing coaches, budgeting the cap, signing/resigning vets, free agency and dealing with the media. Although the decision makers attend the Combine and the Senior Bowl their focus is on managing the big picture, not specifically just on 500 potential draftees.
I represent five draft picks this year and I, like many other seasoned agents, are working hard to get teams to focus on my clients and their individual traits, resume and story. It’s a lot like campaigning. We know the evaluation process from team to team is imperfect. If it were even 75% accurate there would be no real “bust”, no underachieving 1st round picks, and every middle round pick would become a eventual starter. Unfortunately, it is a process driven by human nature and emotions with lots of noise and distractions.
On that note, do football decision makers listen to agents? Most do, some don’t! Do they listen to their own area scouts who usually know players the best? Most do, some don’t. Do they make pressured emotionally driven picks influenced by hype, the media, their owners and their coaches? Many do, some don’t. However, this is the time in the process where things start to settle down for the top decision makers and they can focus on the draft picks without many distractions.
This is the time of year where everybody starts hunkering down in draft meetings and focusing on the draftees. Most important of all, it’s the time where everyone gets back to watching tape and giving the draftees the attention that they deserve.
Watching more and more tape starts to erase any hype and helps to clear out the biases that develop during the Combine, pro days and individual workouts in shorts. Emotions start to settle while the debates, discussions and rechecks on players’ character, health and intelligence takes center stage. While the media is still hanging on to bad pro days or a negative one liner by a talking head expert, the best evaluators are letting the tape influence them the most.
It’s also the time where area scouts make their pilgrimage back to headquarters to voice their opinions. As a side note, some organizations really let their area scouts have a lot of input on shaping final grades for a team’s draft board. Others simply take the information they’ve gathered and say “we’ll take it from here”. The latter styles are usually detrimental to a team having success on draft day.
In a few weeks, we will also have the medical recheck in Indianapolis. For any player, who has suffered an injury, is recovering from an injury or there is suspicion of a serious medical issue, they will be flown to see team doctors and be reexamined. Those findings are then sent to each and every team. For those teams who really do their homework and dive into the details of the medical issues they will find players who many teams have red flagged but by now are completely healed.
A player such as my client OT James Hurst from UNC is a great example. After playing in and starting most of 49 straight games for the Tar Heels, he suffered a non-displaced fibula fracture in his left ankle in his bowl game/last game of his college career. The injury took him out of playing in the Senior Bowl, participating in drills at the Combine and only being about 80% back to form for his pro day. Prior to his injury James was consistently in the conversation for being a top 5 O-lineman pick. Now 100% healthy, only those teams going in to work him out and revisit the medical will reset his proper draft value.
Many teams don’t peel the onion back enough and/or are too lazy to go back and learn the details of the medical issues. Those teams who do, end up getting steals on players that other teams still have discounts on due to a perceived medical issue that has been cleared up.
Other teams are diligent about calling college coaches, trainers, strength coaches and agents to get even more details on character, work ethic, football IQ, and leadership traits. Once again, those teams who do get rewarded with additional intelligence will have more success on the majority of their picks.
There are teams in the NFL who are consistent in hitting on about 75% of their draft picks. Most teams are happy with hitting on 50%. Those who are successful aren’t swayed by: hype, average or sensational testing numbers, one big national game, a few highlight plays, their owners or even their own coaches. The successful drafting teams tune out all the noise, keep digging and digging, debating, and keep watching more film right up the last day before the draft.
This is the time of the year where the college players who were great on film will start stealthily rising back to where they belong.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta