May 19, 2015 - Greg Gabriel
What do Scouts do During the Summer Months?
The draft and rookie mini-camps are over, does that mean that college scouts have nothing but free time until training camp? Not really. While they aren’t on the road, there is plenty of work to be done. The cycle for the 2016 NFL Draft has begun. Spring Combine Meetings Between now and the end of May, the clubs who are members of either BLESTO or National Scouting will have week-long meetings going over the prospects in the upcoming senior class. During these meetings, each of the combine area scouts gives a verbal assessment of each of the players in his area. His report will include some character information, plus the strong and weak points of each prospect. The hard copy of these reports is also given to each member club as well as a school-by-school list of the senior prospects in each scout's area. This list becomes the starting point for scouts at each school for their summer and fall evaluations. I say starting point because there are always going to be players at some schools who are not on the list. These could be players who, until this upcoming season, have never been starters and really haven’t shown scouts that they are a potential prospect. The list also does not include underclassman who may be thinking about leaving school early and entering the draft. This is done by league mandate as the NFL does not want to encourage underclassmen in any way to enter the draft. Summer Evaluations With game tape availability being the way it is now, it is so much easier for scouts to get a jump start on their fall work. Five or six years ago, a scout had to have hard copies of tape made and sent to them from the various club's video departments in order to do tape study. Now, with technology the way it is, as long as they have a tablet and an internet connection, they can watch as much tape as they want, just about anywhere. Once connected to the club's master video computer, every game tape form the 2015 season and prior is there. It’s as simple as clicking on on the game. When the college teams begin training camps in early August, most scouts already have a strong idea of how each prospect has played, and they also have a good idea as to what their strengths and weaknesses are. Depending on philosophy, some clubs have some or all of their scouts working on the next year’s draft right after the Scouting Combine in February. Other clubs have the scouts working on the current class through the draft, and then they begin work on the next draft. It’s just a matter of philosophy on when they want to begin the scouting cycle. No matter what the philosophy, the summer months are still downtime to an extent, and scouts can do their work from home rather than on the road. With tape availability the way it is, there is no reason a scout doesn’t have access to two full years (usually junior and senior) of tape when making his evaluations. That makes scouting so much easier today than it was when I was a road scout. A scout no longer has to go to the school in order to watch video, he can do it at home, and when training camps open, all he needs to do is watch practice and talk to people who can gave him pertinent background information. There is no reason a scout doesn’t have a good evaluation of all the top players in his area at the beginning of the college season. Once the season starts, then his evaluation is more on if the player shows improvement in his play or declines. Tape availability also gives the scout more time to do background and character evaluations. That said, there is no reason for mistakes to be made come draft day. Underclassmen There are always going to be underclassmen entering the draft. By league rule, scouts cannot ask the colleges about an underclassmen unless the school offers up the information first. That does not mean the scout cannot begin doing tape evaluations of the top underclassmen at each school. As word leaks out that certain players will definitely be coming out, then the scout begins looking at tape of that player more earnestly. With league rules the way they are, club scouts cannot ask about an underclassmen entering the draft until after he is officially in the draft, and they won’t be until next January. He then has to play catchup as far as character evaluation, but the talent evaluation should already be thorough. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe