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February 16, 2010 @ 4:00 am
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Scout Speak

Written by NFL
NFL Scout


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PewterReport.com has partnered with an NFL Scout with several years of experience. The NFL scout, who will remain anonymous, will share insight into a different topic each month. The first subject of "Scout Speak" is the NFL Combine, which is right around the corner.
This feature on PewterReport.com is known as "Scout Speak." PewterReport.com has partnered with an NFL scout under the condition they remain anonymous. Although we can't disclose who this person is or currently works for, this NFL Scout has nearly a decade worth of scouting experience at the NFL level.

When it comes to the NFL Combine, there are really a few goals a scout has going into it. One, you want to see the players up close and personal. You want to see them perform all the different drills and run. Sometimes film can be a little misleading, especially for small school guys. Those are guys where typically you need to see those guys perform because the film isn't always the greatest quality. You want to see these guys compete and determine what their competitive drive is. That allows you to compare them to other guys. Whether they're running the 40-yard dash, going through the vertical jump or doing the bench press, those drills allow you to see whether the player is a chief or an Indian.

You also want to confirm some things. Maybe you thought a kid couldn't run well, and then he goes out and runs a slow 40-yard dash time, that confirms what you already knew and allows you to basically close that file. There are also times when a player can surprise you. You might have thought a particular way about a player, but then he goes out and completely blows you away with his workout, which prompts you to revisit the college tape.

Lastly, when it comes to meeting and talking to the kids and the interview process, we already know the answers to a lot of the questions we ask regarding character, background and emotional issues. That's especially true in this day and age with the Internet. We are just trying to determine if they're going to lie, or if they are taking ownership over some mistakes they've made in the past. That allows you to get a better feel for the kid. A lot of kids had issues or made some mistakes. We were all wild and crazy at some point in our lives, some worse than others. But part of the maturation process and growing up is being able to take responsibility for your actions and explain those incidents to different teams.

From the start of my interviews with players, the first thing I tell the player is,  "I'm not going to set you up. I'm going to ask some questions, and some of these questions I already have a pretty good idea what the answers are. You know that no matter where you're projected to go in the draft, we're going to do our homework because there's a lot of money involved. If you've never messed up and are squeaky clean then I applaud you, but most kids can't say that. I just want you to be honest and up front about it. A lot of times you don't get a chance to explain your side of the story, so this is your opportunity as well." I'm basically pointing to the fact that I already know a lot of the story and background, so at that point I am anxious to see if they still aren't going to be honest or forthcoming about it. There have been times where even after I've explained all of that and essentially warned them, a player has still started down a path where they're not being completely truthful. At that point I say, "Okay, let's try this again." And if they continue to lie at that point, for me, character-wise, the player has sealed his fate.

Sometimes players stand out for the right reasons in the interview process at the combine. You can't help but walk away from [Florida quarterback] Tim Tebow feeling like he's a great kid and wanting him to succeed. He just comes across as a humble kid that has it figured out. [Ole Miss running back] Dexter McCluster also came across as a really good kid. He's a humble, likeable kid. I was surprised to learn that he had sang in his church choir. You came away from both of those guys thinking that either one of them could help our locker room.

Other times players stand out for the wrong reasons. Actually, a guy Bucs fans should be familiar with or at least remember, [South Carolina running back] Cory Boyd - his interview was pretty bad. It just seemed like he was blowing hot water and trying to avoid all questions relating to his troubled past. Instead of taking ownership over some of those issues, he just tried to portray himself as somebody who completely reinvented himself. That said, it wasn't surprising to see some of the things that happened to him in Tampa. [West Virginia cornerback] Pacman Jones' interview also fell into that category. The kid is brighter than he lets on, but it was almost like his natural inclination to do wrong. In the interview you could just tell that he was a kid that had been in a lot of trouble, through a lot and done a lot, and it wasn't going to change. Taking a guy like Pacman in the first round obviously is riskier than selecting a guy like Boyd in the seventh round.

I'm not quite sure how much stock is put into the NFL Combine from a percentage standpoint, but I would say too much. You should already have a pretty good feel for what the player can do from film study, and your background research is done for the most part as well. My belief as a scout is like Denny Green's. "They are who we thought they were." Based on your film study and interviews the player more often than not turns out to be who you thought he'd be. But a lot of times under coaches' influence or even some scouts and upper level guys they start running guys up the draft board because they were deemed workout warriors at the combine. Conversely, there are some players that slip in drafts because they don't work out that well. That's why I believe there's probably too much stock put into the NFL Combine.

By anonymous NFL Scout as told to PewterReport.com editor-in-chief Jim Flynn.


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