The preparation that teams undergo leading up to the NFL Draft is long and thorough, to say the least. It’s one thing to evaluate your own needs and study players who best fit your system, but it’s another project to research 31 other clubs, trying to forecast what they might do come late April and see how it can affect the original plan.
The detailed, league-wide analysis was one part of the draft process that Jason Licht touched on last Thursday, revealing just how complex it can be. After joking about paying janitors in opponents’ buildings for insight, the Bucs general manager spoke of a book that he and his staff put together during the year, one that outlines nearly every aspect of every teams’ roster to give Tampa Bay a better idea of which direction a team might go.
“We evaluate every team and we try to look at every team as if we were working there,” Licht said. “Whether their contracts, their skill, their depth, what positions are stronger than others, and we put together a book every year that outlines every single team and what we think their top needs are and so far we’ve done a – it’s been a very good book and assessment.
“[Pro Scouting Coordinator] Rob McCartney leads our pro department. He heads that up and does a great job with that and it gives us a great indication of what teams are going to take.”
The book helps them strategize for not only the first round, but also rounds two through seven, Licht explained. Of course it can’t predict what teams will ultimately do, but it provides a better understanding of every clubs’ current state. Not to mention certain decisions that the opposing teams’ front office and coaching staff make can reveal more about their overall operation in April.
Take a team with two starting caliber pass rushers, for example, that selects the draft’s best defensive end. It stands to reason that that particular organization prefers value to need, and that bit of insight in itself, can give you an indication as to their plan moving forward.
“You research the general manager and the head coach, too, and what they’ve done in the past,” Licht said. “You can kind of tell which teams pick the best available player and which teams go strictly by need.”
At the end of the day, though, the draft is entirely unscripted. You can try to put yourself in another teams’ shoes to gain a better perspective, but, as Licht put it best, “You can do it a hundred different ways and it’s never going to come out exactly the way you thought.”
Still, the long-hours of research show the discipline and dedication of the Bucs’ scouting staff, one that Licht never fails to credit, especially around this time of year.
“I say it every year and I’ll say it again, as we get into the draft, this is the time for the scouts,” Licht said. “This is our heyday, this is what we get juiced up for and those guys do an incredible amount of work and they deserve a lot of credit for the past successes that we’ve had. And their families are a big, vital part of that too. I just want to put that out there, a shout-out to those guys because they’re working incredibly hard.”