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A Scout’s Take: What do NFL Scouting Departments do in the Summer?

Our resident NFL Scout, Greg Gabriel, explains what college scouts do during the summer months.

NFL Scout Jack Butler Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The NFL Draft is over a month behind us, and OTAs are complete. That leaves just Mini-Camp on the calendar before the six-week break until Training Camp opens. Knowing this, what do scouts do this time of the year?

Of course, there is some vacation time which in most cases can be about a month, but some scouts have already taken some time off between the Draft and now. Most scouts do not live in the same city as the club and are spread out nationwide. The majority live in the area they cover. In my entire 17 years with the New York Giants, I lived in Buffalo, it wasn't until I took the Scouting Director job here in Chicago that I moved.

Scouting is not a seasonal job; almost all scouts work 11 out of the 12 months of the year. Once the Draft is complete, it's on to next year, and there is a lot of prep work to be done before they hit the road in August when college camps open.

Over the last two weeks, the two Scouting Services (Blesto and National) have had their spring meetings. At these meetings, the Combine Scouts go over all the players in their area. Each scout has put a grade on every Draft eligible player in his area. It used to be that the League did not want scouts to evaluate underclassmen, but in recent years with over 100 underclassmen entering each Draft, the League has changed its rules. So, when clubs go to the spring Combine meetings, they not only are getting reports on next year's seniors but also many juniors to be.

The grades the clubs get from the Scouting Services are very preliminary. In some cases, they have verified heights and weights but seldom do the colleges let NFL scouts time their players. Why? According to NCAA rules, if a college holds a pro day for their next year's Draft kids, it counts as a spring practice date, and college coaches don't want to lose a valuable day of practice.

The grades the clubs get are not only preliminary, they are only from the Combine area scout, so it is far from a "final" type grade but rather just a guide based on his previous year's play.

During the summer, team scouts will call their connections at the schools they are assigned to cover and get some background information on each of the prospects at a school. They will also ask if there are any other players they should be looking at in next year's group.

Following that, many scouts will do preliminary tape work on the players in their area. They may watch about three games to get a feel for what the player is. That gives the scout a starting point for each player when they start making school calls in August.

When I was the Scouting Director here with the Chicago Bears, I had my scouts do work on the small school prospects in their area first. Once we get into the college football season, time is valuable, so I didn't want my scouts to waste their time at a small school if the prospect at that school was not draftable or a top UDFA. I had a very strong staff, and I let them make the decision on if they went into a small school or not. If they could eliminate having to go to certain schools, that only helps them have productive days once they are out on the road.

Sometimes a small school prospect can make a big jump during his final year in college. When that happens, we always find out about them either by word of mouth or by the Combine Scouts. It's much easier to circle back to a school late in the fall and have a productive visit than have a wasted visit in September.

While area scouts are doing preliminary work on the players in their area, the decision-makers are usually working on individual players at positions of need.

Following the Draft, clubs already have a good idea of what their needs will be the next year. They know what veteran players are coming out of contract and who will likely be extended. So while the "need" list isn't an absolute, it still gives these people a firm idea of the areas they need to "attack" next year in free agency and the Draft.

In May, June, and July, I would always look at the top 10 to 15 players at each need position and make preliminary notes on them. That helped me decide what schools I needed to visit once the colleges started to practice.

So no, May, June, and July are not down times in the evaluation business but rather preparation time for the next football season. The Scouting Departments that use their time wisely during the summer are the ones who usually Draft well each April.