Drafting in the NFL is about the hardest job in sports.
Not only is football the ultimate team sport, making it nearly impossible to tell how much of a player’s success is a product of the people around him, but it’s also such a physical sport that making the jump from college to pros is harder than basketball or baseball.
These reasons, among many others, are why the bust rate is so high in the NFL.
Here’s just some of the things that GMs have to consider on each prospect when making a pick:
- How guys will make the jump from college (where they play 18 year old kids fresh out of high school) to the pros (where they face the most freakish physical athletes in the history of the world when they all want to inflict pain on them).
- Scheme fit and wondering if the fact that that receiver who only ran stop routes and crossing patterns in college can’t go deep even though he ran a 4.39 at the Combine or if that gap-shooting defensive lineman could really hold up in a two gap system – he has the size, why didn’t his college coach ask him to do that (college coaches care a lot more about winning, than they do displaying their players talents for NFL scouts, making player evaluation even more difficult).
- How players bodies will grow as they reach physical maturity, as well as how their outlook and work ethic may or may not evolved over time – don’t forget that each of these guys has been “the man” their whole life and is used to everyone fawning over them… something that won’t happen for the Day 3 guys.
- How their injury history may play out in the future – where those college injuries freak occurrences or a sign of things to come?
- Why did that guys Combine results not match up at all with his on-field productivity?
Those are just the things that have to be taken into account for player evaluation. When we run mock drafts, we think about all these things, but making the actual pick gets even harder.
There are a ton of other things that come up during a draft that most fans never even consider. Think about all this stuff that NFL GMs have to deal with:
Last Minute Information
You targeted a guy in the 1st round and he fell to you, but an hour ago you learned he has a heart defect of unknown severity and there’s a second test that might just clear the whole thing up but the results aren’t in yet. There’s another guy you really like, but just now a tweet came out with a rumor that he hit a woman. Now what?
Sure, you’re convinced that this Guard is the next Quenton Nelson, but the owner just came in. He sits on the board of a Fortune 100 company and one of the other board members went this college and he really, really likes their wide receiver. The owner doesn’t care if no one is projecting him until the 3rd round, he doesn’t want to take a chance – you better get him in the 1st. Now what? If you take the receiver and he flops and everyone calls you stupid, then what? Or maybe it’s not that specific. Maybe after you carefully comb through hundreds of players and rank them with 20 other scouts, and have found the perfect defensive lineman for your new scheme, the owner comes in and says he thinks the team really needs to upgrade safeties and he wants to see results.
You were the only team that even showed up to pro day at Backwater U in Nowheresville and you just knew the next John Randle was hiding there, so how the heck did your division rival grab him in the top of the 7th when he was your guy? You passed up at least 4 other chances to get a defensive lineman because you knew he would be there. Now you’re on the clock… who are you taking?
Remember that regional scout that got all ticked off and threw a steaming hot coffee in your face? You took the high road and calmly explained to him that wasn’t acceptable behavior. His contract is up in May and he knows he’s not staying, so (without your knowledge) he takes a copy of your draft board over to the team that picks three spots ahead of you. They keep grabbing your targets and you don’t realize what happened until a month later when that scout is announced as a personnel director at the other team in June. Think this doesn’t happen?
You’ve heard it from multiple sources that a certain player has a certain issue that pretty much removes him from your board. Is it possible that your sources were paid to say that by an agent or even another GM? No, no one would ever do something like that… but if they did, would that mean you have to discount everything from all those sources, or just the stuff about that one guy? It gets harder when their information was really valuable in the past.
You need a defensive tackle and a linebacker and it’s your turn. There’s five defensive tackles you really like, but only one linebacker. You pick again in seven picks, so of course you take that one linebacker. Then a defensive tackle run starts, everyone else snatches them up and they’re all gone. Later you learn that no one was going to take an LB for another 2 rounds. Does that make you a terrible GM?
Stuff like this (and plenty more) happens all the time.
Being an NFL GM on Draft Day is unimaginably difficult.
The amount of information that flies in through a five minute window is just staggering.
You never know what’s really going to happen. I have a lot of fun running scenarios and trying to imagine what could happen, but when the draft finally gets here, all we can do is kick back and watch.
And hopefully have enough perspective to realize how ridiculously difficult it is to do.
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