An interesting article about improving NFL scouting processes

After reading/hearing about the criticism of the Redskins scouting department from the media about how Mike Shanahan has not made any changes to the team's scouting department since he came in I did a bit of reading about how it can be improved. Now I have no idea how the Redskins scouting department works, their process, structure or any changes made by Mike Shanahan except that he did sign up the team for the scouting cooperative network BLESTO.

I came across an interesting article today based on an ESPN NFL draft confidential special by Bill Parcells in 2011. Ill do a shorter synopsis about what the article talks about as it is a bit long.

(Apologies if this has already been posted)

The article talks about how scouting/drafting college football prospects is an inexact science because the process is undefined leading to poor results. I thought it was pretty interesting how it incorporates and applies best practice methodologies from other industries. The initial concept about a poor scouting process is:

Undefined Processes + Process Variation = Poor Results

The article goes into how an NFL team can improve their scouting department by implementing a good scouting process by following these steps:

  1. Defines specifically in writing what the team values in players.
  2. Defines which settings scouts can use to grade players.
  3. Clearly defines a grading system.
  4. Uses a system that incorporates all skills and techniques that a team wants to see from its prospects into the grading system.
  5. Prioritizes the importance of those skills and techniques with a weighted score the contributes to the overall evaluation.
  6. Scores players as only meeting or not meeting expectations of those scoring criteria rather than using a highly subjective number system.
The article talks about how by setting up a more defined and less subjective evaluation process that addresses more specific player skills and traits can improve an NFL team's ability to evaluate talent. These specific skills/traits are graded in a more binary way and then this data is used and weighted to create more objective final grade. This is in contrast to a simple system where a scout uses 1-10 grading system where they watch film, jot down notes and come up with a final grade. Some examples of categories, skills/traits are:
  • Athletic skills (speed, flexibility, strength, agility, etc.)
  • Position-specific techniques (pad level, routes, blocking, etc.)
  • Conceptual knowledge of the game (vision, pocket presence, etc.)
All this makes me more curious about the Redskins scouting department how they go about evaluating talent. I know being the secretive coach Mike Shanahan is he probably would never reveal how they operate. He strikes me as a very smart coach who would stop at nothing to gain any competitive edge. With the past criticisms of his ability to evaluate talent, hopefully he has looked to self evaluate, improve and setup best practices with the Redskins since he took over.
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