On the advice of a friend who’s a former scout, I’m reading War Room by Michael Holley. The book details the development of the Patriots’ evaluation methods and how the New England scouting tree produced GMs in Atlanta (Thomas Dimitroff) and Kansas City (Scott Pioli). Though normally I hate football books (and especially football movies), this book has a lot of good info and makes a lot of good points.
The book quotes Bill Belichick as citing knowledge of what other teams are going to do as invaluable in how he selects players.
“It’s such a process, and part of it is knowing what the league thinks,” he says. “We have players on our board and we look up there and say, ‘We’re probably higher on this player than any other team in the league.’ You see mock drafts out there and the player is not mentioned in the first round. In any of them. Scouts talk, and you kind of get a feel that no one else sees the player quite like we do. On the flip side, there are guys that we might take, say, in the third round and we know someone’s going to take him in the first. So, again, it comes back to homework.”
To me, that’s a real revelation. So many scouts and administrators take pride in how much they don’t talk to scouts from other teams, and how their evaluations are their own and no one else’s (indeed, then-Patriots scout Lionel Vital makes almost that exact point later in the book), but Belichick freely admits that he keeps up on what others think and uses that info. It got me thinking — do other teams feel the same way? Knowing the prospects in the draft is critical, but how important is knowing your own team’s weaknesses, and even more importantly, how key is it to know what others think about the draft?
I reached out to a few friends on the road and got various responses. One scout said it’s 50 percent knowing the prospects, and 50 percent “blind luck.” I thought that was an admirable (and honest) response. He cited the fact that Tom Brady was a sixth-rounder in 2000, but the guy who “stood on the table” to get him drafted, Bobby Grier, was run off by the team shortly after that draft. Grier recently retired from the Texans.
“The key is proper fall evaluation not spring numbers,” my friend added.
Another scout said, though he didn’t break it down by percentages, that he puts far more on the prospects themselves than his own team’s weaknesses or what other teams might be thinking. He added that he feels teams most often miss on players when they draft for need rather than quality. That’s a sentiment I’m starting to hear regularly from area scouts, and very insightful, I think.
A third scout broke it down as 70 percent the talent in the draft, 15 percent his own team’s weaknesses, and 15 percent what others think about the players.
I guess this is just another illustration of how the Patriots do things in non-traditional ways.