A Scout’s Take on the NFL Draft Preparation for the Packers and Other Teams

Ted Thompson 2016 Combine

Last week, the Green Bay Packers completed their 12th NFL draft with Ted Thompson running things in the front office.

I did a couple of stories on the aftermath of the 2016 NFL draft for the Packers. First I did a piece on the first three picks by the Green Bay in the draft, and then I also wrote an article about recapping Day 3 of the draft for the Packers.

In 2005, when Thompson was given full authority over football operations by then Packers CEO Bob Harlan, Thompson started his drafting tenure with a bang, as he selected quarterback Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick of the 2005 NFL draft.

Rodgers has certainly made that selection look very good, as he has become the highest-rated passer in NFL history, along with winning two NFL MVP awards, as well as being MVP of Super Bowl XLV.

Since then, there have been some other very good picks by Thompson and his scouting staff. There have also been a few picks that haven’t worked out to well. First round selections like defensive tackle Justin Harrell in 2007 and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod in 2011 come to mind.

But all in all, Thompson and his staff have done a very good job supplementing the roster of the Packers through the draft. In fact, the Packers are the poster child of the NFL in terms of being a draft-and-develop team.

Since the hiring of head coach Mike McCarthy, which occurred in 2006, the Packers have gone 104-55-1 during the regular season (.653 winning percentage) and have won five NFC North titles. The Packers have also been to the postseason eight times in McCarthy’s ten years in Green Bay, which includes seven straight times now.

The Packers have been 8-7 in the postseason under McCarthy, which includes three appearances in the NFC Championship Game, as well as a victory in Super Bowl XLV.

As one looks at the current roster of the Packers, there are 43 players on it who have been drafted by Green Bay. That is almost unheard of in the NFL for the most part.

Scouting college prospects is a lengthy routine. The Packers have 16 people in their scouting department. Some scouts focus on NFL players on other teams, while others focus strictly on college prospects.

Just prior to the 2016 NFL draft, Thompson talked about what it’s like to have a meeting with the various scouts on the team.

“It’s good. It’s not always comfortable because there are disagreements where people, rightfully so, think differently. They’re paid to do so. They’re encouraged by everybody, myself included, to make sure their voices are heard. … You still want to have the passion and energy to stand on the table and say, ‘This is what we need to do, and this is the reason we need to do it,’ Thompson said.

Thompson learned the ropes on scouting from Ron Wolf, when he was brought into the Green Bay organization 1992. Ironically, Ron’s son Eliot, is now the is director of football operations under Thompson with the Packers.

Eliot and Ron Wolf

I wanted to get an in-depth look at how this scouting process works in terms of looking at college prospects.

To me, there is nobody who could shed better information on how this evaluation method works than NFL scout Chris Landry.

Landry is one of the best in the business, as he served as both a pro and college scout for the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans, while also serving as the Coordinator of their Scouting department.

Landry was also selected to serve as the Coordinator of the NFL Scouting Combine in 1993 where he oversaw the selection and operation process of the top draft prospects.

Chris began his NFL career with the Cleveland Browns working on the coaching staff as well as in both pro personnel and college scouting.

Landry began his coaching career as a student assistant at LSU in the mid 1980’s, working his way up to a full time position before being hired by Bill Belichick and the Browns in 1992.

Currently, Landry operates his own coaching and scouting consulting business serving both NFL organizations and college football programs.

Anyway, I had a chance to talk with Landry this past Wednesday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show. I wanted his take on how this whole process works in terms of NFL teams scouting college prospects.

“Here’s how it works,” Landry said. “The first meetings in December are different than the meetings you have in the spring. Here’s why. Most teams now have 10 scouts and they break it down into regions. So your area scout will report on a player. We have what we call a cross-checker.

“We’ll take the west coast guy or the midwest guy and we’ll cross them at the midpoint of the season. So you have two eyes on every player that you have a grade on that you have deemed draftable. You start out with a list by either Blesto or National and you go into every school accordingly and you do all your work on that.

“Then you have regional scout, a national scout or a college scouting director, or in case like in Green Bay, Ted Thompson is out on the road a lot. So he will have a scouting report on the top 100 or so players. So you have a number of people and you’ll individually read their reports and put them up on the board.

“That’s when the coaches become involved, as they go to the all-star games and the combine. When you have the spring meetings, you’ve already set your board pretty much. What you are doing is updating any information. The coaches give their reports, as this is the first time they have had a chance to evaluate the players.

“You will also, after everyone had read the reports at the meetings, you will put up tape. You have what is called a profile tape for 40 to 50 players, with cutups of the player, so everyone can see and get a visual. Somebody that is outside the area (of the player) will get to see them.

“Basically it’s a way to make sure you have everyone up on the board. Once you set your board up, if you have a discrepancy about a player, like the coaches like him a lot more than this guy, then what you do is take all those guys and take game film and as a staff you look at them and you hash it out. Like what are you seeing that I’m not seeing.

“That’s ultimately in a short quick way in a long process that you get your draft board set. Then you determine how you put your board together and where you put the value on the players.”

Bottom line, with the Packers under Thompson, drafting a player is the most important aspect of building the roster of the team.

Because of some excellent insight from Landry, you can see how this long and drawn-out process unfolds for the Packers and other teams in the NFL.

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