If you read this blog regularly, you probably already know who Fran Duffy is. If not, I’m glad you’re reading this, because you need to.
I’m not a big fan of the usual NFL Draft-related podcasts that tout players and make predictable predictions. When I invest 30 minutes or an hour, I want to know I’m gonna learn something, and that’s what happens when I listen to Fran’s podcasts, Journey to the Draft and the Eagle Eye in the Sky. They’re both insightful and far from the run-of-the-mill podcasts out there these days.
This week, as I wrapped up the Best Player Available Podcast on the 2017 NFL Draft, I invited Fran to join me to discuss the lessons we both learned from the series. Like me, Fran is passionate about learning and dedicated to his craft. Truth be told he’s either a junkie or a nerd about this stuff, just like I am.
Here are a few things we talked about in this week’s edition.
Best player available vs. need-based drafting: I think there’s a perception that real scouts, real evaluators, the mature people in the business, adhere tightly to their boards and only take the very next name on the list, everything else be damned. The truth is that few teams can afford to be purists. In today’s NFL, there are two places to fill holes, free agency and the draft, and if there are no fits in free agency, you have to be practical.
Culture and cohesion count: Fran made the point that the Saints have had success in the draft because AGM Jeff Ireland and head coach Sean Payton are both products of the Bill Parcells tree. That allows them to more often be on the same page, which is especially valuable in an era when collaboration between coaches and scouts is the new way. I made a point about this on Twitter this week, as well.
It’s getting harder to evaluate players: One recurring theme of the podcast was the risk that comes with making decisions on players that have very limited college playing experience. Look at the quarterbacks in this draft class; Mac Jones, Trey Lance and even Justin Fields were far from old hands at playing quarterback at the highest level. Now that we’ve seen elite players skip their final seasons with no reprisals on draft day, that could become even more pronounced. It will require teams to guess more. I guess that will lead to more volatility in the selection process, which is one of the fascinating parts of the draft, anyway.
I hope you can check out this week’s podcast. It was a full hour of intense discussion of the process and how it works as described by nine men who played prominent roles in NFL front offices in 2017. In the meantime, I’m working on an idea for my next series. More to come. If there’s something you’d like to hear, or have an idea, let me know on Twitter. DMs open.