One cook’s recipe for Draft Preparation
by Ted Sundquist
“Too many cooks spoil the broth”, said when there are too many people doing the same piece of work at the same time, so that the final result will be spoiled. From the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.
Draft preparations and evaluations can be quite an interesting progression, given the different angles that coaches and scouts approach the same process. From a broad perspective there must be extensive involvement from the coaching staff in putting together a draft board. A degree of “ownership” only makes sense and ultimately is vital to the smooth transition of a young player into a club’s overall system. Scouts, by their very nature, tend to look at players with a different eye. The crossover or “gray area” is sometimes difficult to define, but scouting tends to view a much broader picture in terms of personnel (mostly long-term) than does coaching.
There are currently 32 different ways to structure draft meetings throughout the NFL, but over my tenure as a General Manager we tended to use this format;
Scouts meet prior to formal presentations to the coaching staff.
The grades or “checks” were melded together to create a “starting point” per se, with regard to the draft board. These meetings usually took place for about a week and were very helpful in getting myself, our “capologist” and other office personnel up to date with the latest information and evaluations on the college prospects. We would analyze the reports, filling in any blanks that might have been identified or missed over the fall evaluations.
Formally presenting the prospects to the coaches.
By now the coaching staff had done their own evaluations and we had a complete report (including any pro days, the NFL Combine and character/personality tests). The scouting staff met with each side of the ball (usually for one week) and reviewed the reports and highlight tapes made by the assistant coaches.
Conversations, debate and overall evaluations lead to a “new” posting of the draftboard (set by the GM & Head Coach)
It was interesting to get the assessment of the different assistant coaches on other positions than their own, but at times that presented a challenge in getting the players set in the right rounds, at the right value.
There was a tendency for the “offense” or the “defense” to vote as a block on a particular player, thus overruling the grades set forth by the scouts. This is where the “final decision or say” with the head coach would come into play. The sway would be mostly to the coaching staff and we sometimes placed players evaluated as 4th or 5th round prospects as high as the 2nd round. That tends to explain some of the club’s draft “misses” over the years.
The Offensive and Defensive staffs come together without the Scouts in attendance.
Here the board tended to get rather “jumbled” with the other side of the ball’s input (i.e. offense to defense, defense to offense). Scouts went home prior to the draft and came back just a day or two before. It was up to myself and the directors to emphasize the points of the individual scout & overall Personnel Department opinions in final draft preparations.
Ultimately, there’s a place for both the area/national scouts and assistant coaches’ evaluations in the overall draft preparation process. However the final decision should be made by the GM, Personnel Directors and Head Coach, keeping in perspective the broader picture of “current roster and financial obligations”.
Ownership should be encouraged to become involved with the procedural aspects of the draft. It’s an interesting and informative way to observe Football Operations (scouting, cap, coaching) work together in a critical decision-making process. Certainly the General Manager and Head Coach have to be communicating and on the same page. Two different recipes can easily lead to one side or the other being forced to make “chicken salad out of chicken…”.
I think you know the final ingredient. “Bon appetit!”