This time of year, all-star game invites are starting to get published frequently. This is one of the most important things we track this time of year, and these slots are much-coveted, especially by players who came from struggling programs or smaller schools. These games (there are five this draft cycle) are a major proving ground for players with NFL dreams but thin resumes.
I asked Ken to give his take on all-star games. What are the merits? Can players lose ground in these games? How does a scout dissect a week’s worth of practices? His thoughts follow.
My thoughts on all-star games are mixed. I have attended the week of practices for almost 40 all-star game and evaluated more than 500 players during that time.
Depending on how the director structures the evaluation process, scouts may be exposed to players they haven’t seen prior to that week. Some personnel departments will have each scout concentrate on players from his assigned region. I much preferred to evaluate a position, as was the case most of the time for me. My favorite way to do it was to follow an entire group the week of padded practices (Monday through Wednesday), then attend the game (which didn’t happen often; most scouts depart before the game is played). By the time I had broken down the practice and game tapes, I had a great perspective on how a player fit alongside like-caliber athletes at the same position. I really enjoyed all-star practices as you can see specific drills (individual, one on one, inside-outside and team periods) with all of the highest-level players in one spot.
The best thing about these games is that you get great exposure to your assigned group, on and off the field. If you know what the coaching staff is trying to get out of a player (technique, scheme, etc.), it can be very helpful in knowing what you’ve seen, and how you grade a player at the end of the week. Also, having access to each player in an interview setting is very helpful in getting to know what makes a player tick.
All-star game weeks are part of the puzzle for every scout, personnel director, coaching staff and GM. That being said, don’t let the old bromide that ‘you can’t lose ground on your draft status in an all-star game’ fool you. Everything a player does or doesn’t do in any game, practice, interview, workout or combine matters. It does affect his draft status. Now, there’s a difference between ‘graded players’ and ‘players that have grades.’ What I mean by that is, some collegiate players have done so much for such an extended period of time that their grade is pretty much set in stone, regardless of what they might do in an all-star game. On the other hand, many players ‘have grades,’ but there is some uncertainty within an organization on how solid that grade is.
I have seen players gain draft status (sometimes, two or even three rounds) after an outstanding all-star week. And yes, I’ve seen players lose ground with a poor all-star week. Often the biggest swing (draft status or grade) can come from when a small-college player makes it to a higher level all-star game and really impresses versus tougher competition. Believe me, if you accept an invitation to compete in an all-star game, you better be ready to perform at a high level, as all of that is discussed at some point in the draft process.