The Training Camp Evaluation Process

  When NFL training camps open in late July the evaluation process of the current team begins. The process varies from team to team, but there are some similarities. One similarity is that all 90 players on the roster are evaluated on a daily basis. During the first seven to ten days of camps most of the college scouts are in town as they prepare for the college season. At many NFL camps the college scouts help evaluate their own team while in camp. A scout will be assigned to a specific position and then will evaluate each player in that position group before they leave camp. These reports often go to the general manager and help the GM when they are in player meetings with the head coach. In many cases if a coaching staff has been around for a few years the emphasis will be on the young players, especially the rookies. The veterans are still being evaluated, but the coaches already know what those players can do. They are evaluating the veterans to see if there has been a significant drop off in play. This can be difficult, as a veteran knows how to mask their abilities. Coaches trust players who understand their assignments -- so if a veteran player comes into camp and plays mistake-free football, even if he is losing some of his physical skill set -- he can fool the coach into thinking he can still play. This is where a second set of eyes is needed to help the coach with the evaluation. This can be a scout from the pro or college scouting department and/or the GM and scouting director. Many veteran players whose play is on the decline know how to get through camp without letting evaluators know their skill set is eroding. This can be dangerous for the club because that vet may play fairly well for a few games during the season, but as the season continues,  their level of play declines. Many head coaches and general managers believe it is better to get rid of a player a year early than a year late. Keeping a veteran too long can be costly. On teams with a new coaching staff the evaluation process is a little different for the coaches. Besides watching tape from the previous season, the position coach is unfamiliar with the players in his group. The veteran player must work harder in camp to show his new position coach that he can play. Often in new coaching situations the first camp is a little more physical than others because the staff needs to find out the talent level of all of their players. It can be a lot harder for a veteran to fool a new staff. With rookies, the process is a little different. Coaches know that they are new to the system and are often lost mentally at the beginning of camp. Coaches and scouts want to see daily improvement in the rookie. With almost all rookies, there will be a time when improvement levels off. After a few days of leveling off evaluators want to see improvement again at each practice.   If they don't see improvement, then the player has most likely hit his ceiling and it’s time to move on. Before game tape was digitized clubs often sent scouts to many of the pre-season games to watch younger players who were at risk of being cut. While scouts still may attend some pre-season games, they don't attend as many as they used to. With digitization, clubs often have the game tape of every pre-season game played within 24 hours, which makes viewing the game tape extremely efficient for scouts. As long as they are somewhere with an internet connection, they have access to game tape. This makes the evaluation process of young players much easier than it was even 10 years ago. Not only is it easier, but much more thorough and there is no reason a club doesn’t have a good “look” on just about every player in the league…young or old.   Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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