For the last two weeks, all the different people who take part in the scouting and drafting process — the personnel folks, the scouting staff, the coaches — have been holed up in draft meetings for hours each day. Every so often, they’d emerge from the meeting room in a pack, blinking in the bright lights, and take a fifteen minute break before heading back in for more work.
The worst of those meetings are over now, so I sat down with Director of Player Personnel Scott Campbell. Information is especially precious at this point in the drafting process, so we didn’t discuss specific players or strategies. But he did tell me where the process stands, how draft day trades affect scouting, and how players can shoot up and down mock draft boards like yoyos on a string.
All right: less than a week until the draft. Where in the process are you and your staff now?
Campbell: “Well, the scouts just finished up two weeks of the intense meetings, basically setting our board. And the scouts have left — they went home Friday night, they’ll be back Wednesday. When they get back, they’ll double-check and verify things like phone numbers and agents. They’ll get in touch with a lot of kids we have as priority free agent targets and start showing them interest, telling them that if they don’t get drafted, this is a place that we’d really love to have them come.
“With the volume of guys, it takes several days to do that, to get your foot in the door with a lot of the players.
“Here on the homefront with us, me and Vinny [Cerrato], the coaches, just met with the doctors, going over all the questions we had in terms of the medical reviews. Some of the kids have been rechecked from the Combine, and we want to know what their updated medical status is. And there’s a handful of players that were not invited to the combine that we needed medical information on, so we review those files. That’s kinda where we are into the weekend.
Those draft meetings really did seem to go on all day every day for two weeks. What’s actually happening in the room?
Campbell: “It’s the final phase of the entire process. From the scouting end, we’ve been involved since August, when the players started two-a-days. We’ve had a series of meetings throughout the year with the scouts, and the last two weeks is when the coaches have finally had a chance — through their exposure at the Combine, and the ones that went to the Senior Bowl — to study the names, write reports themselves on the guys. And basically what we do is, I take that information from the coaches, from the scouts, the input of how they fit into our system and all the factors, and come up with the final Redskin grade.
“That’s what’s going on in those meetings. And we rank ‘em, who we like at the top down on to the bottom, position by position, every day.”
So it’s actually a physical draft board that you’re setting? Magnets or whatever?
Campbell: “Yep. Assign the Redskins grade and setting the board.”
Once that’s done, do you just sort of pass the board off to Cerrato, or does everyone stay involved?
Campbell: “Everyone’s involved to the very end, with the coaches and Vinny and myself.”
There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about the possibility of a trade up to get a specific guy, or a trade down to get more picks. How does that kind of move affect your role?
Campbell: “You don’t factor that into the evaluation of the player. You have to evaluate and stack the board in terms of how they fit in for us as Redskin football players.
“In terms of trading up or trading down, that’s just a routine procedure. Finding out what teams are interested in moving back that are above you, and then finding out who behind you is interested in trading up. So it’s just a lot of preliminary stuff, putting out feelers and finding out from other teams … some people say, ‘Hey, I’m happy where we are.’ But most teams, the majority right now, are open to moving up and down.”
So you’re grading guys, regardless of the team’s draft position.
Campbell: “Yeah, that doesn’t factor into the evaluation process.”
What are some of the things people might not realize about the process of preparing for the draft?
Campbell: “I think it’s that it’s not any one piece that decides these things. Some people may think it’s the 40 time that decides things, or something like that. It’s how much volume of information since August. We’ve had two or three scouts look at all these players and write reports. We’ve had exposure through practice, through games, through interviewing staffs at the schools, following it up with personal interviews with the players, maybe going back to the coaches again. Then getting our coaching staff involved at the Combine, with their interviews and the workouts there. Then going maybe to the pro days and private workouts with the players, bringing them in here and talking with them….
“So it’s just a looooong process. And you finally come to the end, it’s not just any one piece, it’s putting all that information together.”
Let me ask you this, then: this week, and the last month or whatever, we as fans read on mock drafts that such-and-such a guy is falling, or that he’s ‘shooting up draft boards’. Stuff like that. If it’s the end result of such a long process, how does that happen? Or does it actually happen at all?
Campbell: “Well, those guys that say things like that aren’t accountable to anybody, and they can basically change. A lot of those guys, if you watch, they’ll have their rankings up during the season. And I guarantee you right now, it looks nothing like what they were saying before.
“So that’s really why you wait til the end to have all the information to get your final board set. There’s no reason to be setting it early in the fall until you’ve had time to investigate it. Those guys can be wrong next fall and they’re still gonna be on TV telling you who’s falling, who’s rising next April. I think it’s just an accountability issue.”
You talk about ‘Redskins grades’. But you look across mock drafts, and there’s a lot of similarity in who gets what grades from the prognosticators. How can so many different people, with so many different needs, look at all these guys and grade them out the same way?
Campbell: “I think it’s often easy to see who the really, really good players are. That’s not that hard — most fans can watch and tell you who the best players are playing on our team right now. Who the best are at Virginia Tech, or over at Maryland. They can tell you that. So I don’t think that’s the hard part.
“What they don’t have access to is the background information. They don’t know who is hurt all the time. Who doesn’t practice. Who is high maintenance, and who’s the locker room lawyer. Who you can’t give too much information to, because they can’t learn it.
“The fans don’t know all that, and that’s what we’ve gathered from all of our research.
So does that make the biggest difference?
Campbell: “I think it can make a difference if you have two players rated the same grade, it definitely factors in. And those factors can push a guy down, depending on how important you deem them.
“Some teams, it may not bother, because they’ve had success taking riskier picks. Sometimes it’s the personality of your coach. If your position coach has had a lot of s
uccess taking lazy underachieving players and getting it out of them, you feel confident doing that. If you haven’t had success doing that, you’re going to shy away from that kind of guy. So all of that gets factored in as well. Or maybe they play the same kind of system that you play, so it’ll be an easier transition. So that can affect a guy’s value as well.”
All right. I really appreciate the time. When do you get to actually rest? After the draft?
Campbell: “After the first minicamp, I should be able to sleep a little.”
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