Yesterday concluded Senior Bowl practices for the week before tomorrow's game. The Redskins were well represented in Mobile, Alabama, with Team President Bruce Allen, Senior Executive A.J. Smith, Director of Player Personnel Scott Campbell, and Director of Football Operations Paul Kelly in attendance. New Redskins GM Scot McCloughan was also there along with the scouting department that he inherited. Our own Steve Shoup has also been in Mobile and has been providing updates and photos from practices, including the cover shot for this article.
McCloughan has not spoken with the media since his introductory press conference on January 9th, but he took the time to speak with Redskins beat reporters who are covering the practices yesterday. He echoed some of the things he said in his presser, the draft is the foundation of a team, and it starts this year.
McCloughan spoke about the importance of meeting with players this week.
"It's been exciting," McCloughan said Thursday following the morning practice session. "The good thing about it is my major background is college. And this fall I did a lot of tape work - not seeing guys in person or school call. So it's nice to get to the East-West, nice to get here and see a lot of guys that I wrote during the fall and seeing them in person and see them move around, see how big they really are, see how strong they are, how big, how fast, how quick. It helps out quite a bit."
McCloughan will tell you repeatedly that you always go back to the tape when evaluating a prospect, but other things help to build the whole picture of a prospect.
"You've got them for 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes. It's great just to start the whole portfolio," McCloughan said. "You see the talent on tape, but to see the person - what really drives him and the passion and competitiveness, what they've overcome in their life, what's the family situation is like. So, yeah, it's just building the whole package, and as we go through the draft process, you keep adding to it and keep adding to it, and the more you know a person individually, the better chance you have of being right when you draft him."
Evaluating players and finding the right players for your team involves a lot of time, and tape study, but it also involves gut instinct and a little bit of luck sometimes.
"That's why it's not an exact science," McCloughan said during an interview with reporters Thursday at the Senior Bowl. "And that's why there's no manual you can sit down and open up and read that says ‘Okay, if you do this this way you're going to be a successful team.' It's not that way. A lot of it is gut and a lot of it is past experiences and seeing guys not just physically."
McCloughan talked about quality players at certain key positions leading to strong teams, but didn't elaborate more than that.
"I don't want to name one, two or three positions," McCloughan said. "But I will say this: We just want to have good football players at any position. I don't care if it's a kicker. I don't care what it is. If the guy is a dang good football player that gives us a chance to win, not just for this year but for the future, then that's what I'm going for."
There is talent in every round of the draft, whether it's a future starter, key depth or special teams. Personal interactions with players allow you to get a better feel for a player's potential and desire to play.
"I guarantee you every time we make a pick, one through seven rounds, there will be a player on that board that ends up being a good NFL football player from the standpoint of a starter, a quality backup, or a dangerous special teams player," McCloughan said. "You can identify that, and a lot of that comes from sitting around here and getting to know these guys."
Talent isn't everything, and success at the college level is completely different than at the NFL level.
"It's easy to figure out who has talent and doesn't have talent. Who can do certain things and not certain things. But it's what's inside them. What's in their heart, what's in their mind," McCloughan said. "What's gonna make them push themselves to be not just good, but great. And that's what's hard to figure out. And that's why you see what people call ‘bust'. And it's not the kids' fault where they get drafted... You can see it on tape to a point, but that's on the college level. When we step in the NFL it's a whole different game."
Scot McCloughan's history shows that the teams he's worked for value the draft, and have had success finding the kind of players he's talking about here. Players found in the mid to late rounds have found great success on the Seattle Seahawks, and they are going to their 2nd consecutive Super Bowl next week. Being able to identify the players who aren't rated high, went to small schools, or don't have the same hype as the higher rated players, but have "it" are one key to building teams.
The Redskins rarely find and develop players in the mid to late rounds. They pick the DeJon Gomes of the world, while the Richard Shermans go 8 picks later in the draft. Rearview drafting is always depressing when you're a Redskins fan, but with a new GM who's been on the right side of many of those WTF scenarios, there's a little hope that the draft will no longer involve a dart board, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and a handful of Forget-Me-Now pills.