Remember what your teacher used to tell you right before important exams and tests? “If you don’t know the information by now, cramming the night before won’t help.”
Evidently, many NFL general managers—perhaps, even Steelers gm Kevin Colbert—didn’t heed that advice when they were doin’ their fancy’ book learnin’ back in the day. Yes sir, it seems they don’t feel as if they have enough “verified information” about prospects available for the 2020 NFL Draft—at least as it pertains to physicals and psychological evaluations—and they would like to have the event pushed back to a later date.
Excuse me if I come off sounding smug, but didn’t the whole Coronavirus shutdown begin in mid-March? That was rhetorical, because yes it did.
Mid-March was five weeks before the scheduled first night of the draft on April 23. How could general managers not have most of the necessary and verified information on just about every prospect five weeks out?
Don’t these people—specifically scouts, but also coaches and general managers—travel this great land of ours on a regular basis, collecting data on every legit NFL prospect in the months and years prior to the time they’re eligible to go pro?
As for the physicals and psychological evaluations, didn’t most of them take place at the recently-completed NFL Combine?
I realize sports have been shutdown like a receiver being covered by Neon Deion way back in the day. I also I realize the due diligence can’t be as thorough as it ordinarily would in a normal year. And I understand that pro days and individual workouts for prospects have also been wiped out by this massive shutdown. But I’m also fairly confident that the thoroughness that is put into evaluating prospects by everyone involved, from the aforementioned scouts, coaches, general managers and even professional scouting agencies year-round, is enough to get a very accurate feel for these players, even with five weeks wiped away.
Honestly, this concern with turning over every last stone in the final weeks before the draft reminds me of those coaches that sleep in their offices and never leave their team facilities during the regular season, thinking this will give them the ultimate edge on Sundays.
A possible solution, as proposed by Colbert himself, is to extend the 2020 NFL Draft by three rounds, giving each team 10 rounds in-which to select players.
It certainly sounds like an inviting compromise, one that, in addition to easing the minds of NFL general managers, could increase ratings for the draft. However, wouldn’t that be something the NFLPA players union would have to sign off on? After all, the one advantage of being an undrafted free agent is you can shop yourself to all teams after the draft is completed and hopefully find a home that gives you the best chance to land a more permanent one at the professional level.
Anyway, pro days and pre-draft visits may have been eliminated due to the Coronavirus shutdown, but players can still interview with teams virtually. If you combine that with what was learned at the Combine and, oh yes, a player’s collegiate career, shouldn’t that be enough?
To his credit, Colbert seems prepared to get the job done regardless of the circumstances:
“What I’ve reminded our staff, our scouts, from the very beginning of the process since the changes of our rules, I reminded them of the 1974 draft that the Steelers conducted, and they ended up with five Hall of Famers,” Colbert recently said in a quote courtesy of Steelers.com and CBSSports.com. “Back in that day, Art Rooney Jr., Bill Nunn and Dick Haley put together the best draft in NFL history, and they didn’t have pro days. They didn’t have combines. They relied on what they felt those guys were as football players. If we have to go into this draft with the same mentality, that’s our challenge, and we’ll do the best we can.”
Speaking of that legendary 1974 Steelers draft, it was succeeded by many lackluster ones in the late-’70s and early-to-mid-’80s. According to the late, great Myron Cope, that may have had to do with the event being moved from January to the spring, allowing head coaches to throw their hands in the pile and “gum up the works.”
Maybe micro-managing the draft isn’t the key to success, after all. Maybe it’s about efficient evaluation.
Which brings me back to my original point. If NFL teams weren’t prepared for the draft by mid-March, they’re probably not going to be prepared by mid-May.