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The Scouting Season May End at the Draft, but the New Season Begins Right Away

Greg Gabriel pulls from over 30 years of NFL scouting experience to give us his unique insight to what goes on behind the scenes of an NFL franchise.

NFL: APR 26 2018 NFL Draft Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When I started working in scouting in the early 1980’s, the scouting season came to an end right after the NFL Draft. One of the main reasons for that was the availability of film/tape. Unless a scout was making a school call, his access to tape was minimal at best. With technology the way it is now, tape is as far away as a scout’s laptop.

The almost three months between the Draft and training camp used to be downtime, but not any longer. Except for a few weeks for a vacation, those summer months now mean getting a head start on the fall.

Before the month of May closes out, both of the scouting services will have had their spring meetings and the prospect lists for the 2022 college football season will be out to each club. When the clubs receive the prospect lists, it used to only include seniors to be, but now it also has selected underclassmen. When each Draft has well over 100 underclassmen in it, Clubs have to be prepared for who to evaluate.

The prospect lists that a club receives from the two different services (Blesto and National Football Scouting) have basic information. Each player has a preliminary grade along with some basic character and medical information. The scouting service scouts are not scouting for a particular club, so they don’t grade a player as to scheme fit for each particular club. That job is the responsibility of each club scout. If one of the services have a player rated as a first round talent that does not mean that player will eventually be drafted in the first round. Conversely, a player with a low rating does not mean that player won’t be drafted high. Over the years I have seen several players with lower round spring grades gets drafted in the premium rounds and several so-called top prospects get drafted late or go as undrafted free agents. The spring scouting service grade is very preliminary.

If a scout knows his area, he is quite aware of who the underclassmen in his area are who may be tempted to come out. During the summer months, they will begin doing tape work not only on the seniors to be, but the top underclassmen. That way when they start to make school calls in August, they will already have a good idea as to who the best players are at each school in his area. There is no reason to not to have most of the players in each area ranked by levels.

When the current draft is over, the club’s decision makers already know what many of the needs for the next draft will be. This is because of age and contract situation of the team’s current roster. That being the case, the national scouts and scouting directors will often spend the summer doing preliminary work on players at positions of need. This can give them a jump start on the players at those positions and give them an idea as to how deep the next draft class will be at those positions.

In reality, the real scouting season is a 12 month cycle and the day after the current draft, the new cycle begins. In fact, some clubs have a group of their scouts starting work on the next class right after the NFL Combine ends. Teams that follow the New England Patriots system often do that. It’s not to say one way is better than another, but rather just a different way to a means.

We often hear during the College Football Season that certain players are “first round locks”. That’s nonsense as the evaluation process is just beginning and clubs are just starting to receive important pertinent information on these players.

It is during school calls in the fall that scouts begin to find out the character of the prospects in their area. Not only are the scouts looking for personnel character, but they also want to know about football character. Strong football character can make the difference between a player having a strong career or being a bust.

During the fall, evaluation grades are still very preliminary as scouts are missing two important factors. First, for the most part they don’t have verified measurables (height, weight, speed, arm length etc). Second, and this is most important, they don’t have the medical and that won’t be done until the Combine. Until final medical results are in, no grade can be final. I have seen far to often in my career, players that we have had high grades on being taken off the board because of poor medical results.

Last, contrary to what many believe, Draft Boards aren’t close to being finalized until shortly before the Draft. Grades are always fluid and as more information comes in, it can and does affect the final grade. The Scouting process is a long and sometimes tedious process but also a very fun and rewarding process. Within the next few weeks, scouts will be hitting the road for school calls, and we will begin got hear different rumors about certain players. Do yourself a favor, and don’t listen to any of them.