These are very difficult times in our country. While it pales in comparison to what is going on in our nation’s collective fight against the Coronavirus, it is also a very challenging time right now for NFL talent evaluators.
Even before the pandemic hit, this year’s Combine was a little different than normal with players being asked to do their testing quite late in the evening. The collective 3-cone times were very low compared to other years, more players chose to sit out the testing and some speculate that we didn’t see the best results for those that did run and jump because of the long day endured before they performed. The collective bargaining agreement situation also changed much about free agency this year. It has been a weird offseason.
Those issues were challenges to overcome, but nothing like what has ensued since. Not having regional combines for smaller school players hurts their chances of being noticed and discovered. Not having the traditional medical recheck in Indianapolis for the players that had medical issues at the Combine makes finding out proper diagnoses challenging. The lack of Pro Days means that the league simply doesn’t have proper athletic testing numbers on more players than ever.
Lastly, not being able to bring a player into your building for a visit is a massive change. There is much to learn in spending a day with these young men. It could have eliminated or exacerbated character, medical or intellectual concerns the team may have previously had about a prospect. For example, are teams going to be as willing to invest in a quarterback to lead their team for hopefully the next decade without this valuable information and time spent together?
Also, every one of these players had a plan as to how best present themselves to the league. Maybe they wanted to arrive at the Combine with extra muscle and mass to look good at the weigh-in with the intention of dropping a few pounds before their Pro Day where they would then do the athletic testing in a very familiar environment. Well, such a plan and nearly every other, quickly went out the door.
But the draft is going to occur, albeit in a different format. So, who does this benefit? There are four factors here that come to play with the NFL’s talent evaluators that could make or break this draft class and possibly set them apart from the pack.
First off and this is the least important, but those in charge are forced now to embrace technology. Of course, every organization has IT people to coach up the coaches so to speak, but that doesn’t mean that old dogs are going to learn and embrace these new tricks. It seems like a minor thing to many of you youngsters out there, but the inability to sit in a meeting room to voice your opinion will not go over well with many scouts and executives.
Secondly, continuity is going to be huge here. The teams that have experienced little change over the years and have been doing things the way they do them with great continuity are going to have a leg up. The reasoning behind this is since day one of this 2020 scouting process, everyone in the organization knew what was expected of them and what exactly the team is looking for. Organizations such as the Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers come to mind in this capacity. As for the Giants, they do have a new head coach obviously which brings upon sweeping changes, especially on the field, but this organization from an ownership and general manager perspective does certainly meet the criteria mentioned here as a stable unit that knows what is expected.
Thirdly, along those lines, teams with highly experienced area scouts should be able to uncover more information from their sources than those with less experience. Information is more difficult to uncover right now and engrained area scouts will know exactly where to look to find the prize intel. Such skills and connections always have great value, but this year, it is like gold.
Lastly, teams are going to be forced to change. Throughout history, in times of crisis, many new positive innovations have come from such trying times. The old school scouts, such as the Giants Dave Gettleman, might have a leg up because we might find that the old way of scouting was the best way. But the point here is that change is very difficult for everyone. And even the most entrenched and solid front offices are going to be forced to change. Those that embrace it and explore new ways to do this difficult job will likely come out on top in the end.