Scouts line up in the stands at the end of the 40-yard dash to watch players at the NFL Combine. Credit: Getty Images
After the final pro day is done and all the player visits are completed, the real work begins for an NFL scout.
For a veteran of many NFL drafts like Joe Bommarito, the player evaluation meetings in the weeks and days leading up to the draft are where he states his case for certain players and gives his insight into the hundreds of players he's evaluated. It is the end of a process that began in August and took him thousands of miles around the country and through hundreds of player evaluations.
Bommarito and his fellow scouts converged in the same room in April for the first time in five months for two weeks of player meetings. In meetings that begin at 7 a.m., everyone from the general manager to the director of college scouting, the director of pro scouting, salary cap personnel and the full coaching staff will be present. Even owner Woody Johnson will pop in. Player evaluations are read and the scores are averaged together to come up with a consensus ranking on the player.
But it isn't just one or two reports for each player.
“There are a lot of reports on players. For example, a draft [eligible] player would have a report from [the] area scout, the cross-check scout, director, the position coach, the special teams coach,” Bommarito said. “There is a combine report, a bowl game report, a physiological report. Get the picture? I've seen some players have 10-plus reports on them.”
After the reports are read, more film is watched and there is more discussion before a final grade is agreed on. The process will repeat itself — first for offensive players, then defense and finally special teams. All told, an NFL team will go through this process for roughly 250 players in meetings that often tap out after 10 p.m. They stop only for lunch and dinner, and when nature calls.
When most eyes are are just beginning to focus on the players who will make their 53-man roster, the NFL scouts are at training camp with an eye toward the next NFL Draft. It is a grueling, seven-days-a-week, 18-hours-a-day process that will take them through April. And if they do their job right, through yet another draft.
When veterans and rookies report to upstate New York for the start of training camp, Bommarito will check into a dorm room in Cortland, New York, specifically to begin scouting the Jets. He will be assigned a position group during training camp and make player evaluations to determine areas of need for next spring's draft. He's watching to see where there are depth issues not only this year but perhaps next year.
When training camp breaks, the scout goes to his assigned region to begin attending college two-a-days as the process of evaluating and creating profiles kicks into high gear. He could be checking out just one or two players at a small school or upward of two dozen players at a major powerhouse such as Alabama or Ohio State. Each player will be watched on film and in practice, with every detail noted in an extensive profile.
“The evaluation consists of watching four game tapes on each player, which is done in a film room at school,” Bommarito said. “The scout will also meet with position coaches and the strength coach to get performance numbers. He will also meet with academic people. The scout is building a profile on each player, finding out everything about the player.”
Bommarito remembers driving to the next school, which could be across town or 250 miles away. Very often, he gets to his hotel late in the night and, before he unpacks, has turned on the lamp to begin poring over notes on players he will evaluate the next day.
NFL scouts from the Bills, Chiefs and others share measurements and times after a pro day session. Credit: Getty Images
The reports are detailed but also, as Bommarito's schedule might suggest, voluminous.
In December, the personnel department will convene in North Jersey on the weekend of a Jets home game.
“These meetings were focused on the players' character,” Bommarito said. “We wanted to make sure we knew what kind of person we were getting.”
A major part of the reports written by the scouting department focused on character issues. Bommarito speaks to coaches about possible personality problems, and he'd watch practice to focus on work ethic. Even the discussions with the strength and conditioning staff deal with weight room demeanor.
If there's a character flaw, the Jets would want to know about it. Bommarito hasn't just watched a practice or a game to see whether the prospect has an NFL-ready body or can make plays. He wants to see if a player who might be given a multimillion-dollar contract is going to be a problem off the field.
At some point, calls to high school coaches are made to see if red flags exist.
“If there were players that still needed to be cleaned up, the scout made note and would get answers before the next meetings,” Bommarito said. “If we had a player with bad character we would move him to the side board, which was the 'do not draft' board.”
Everything is done with an eye toward the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in March and the subsequent pro days at campuses across the country. At a pro day, Bommarito doesn't just focus on the big names but the next-tier players who might be good to grab in the later rounds or as undrafted free agents.
According to senior personnel executive Terry Bradway, this past year the Jets made 575 school visits and 3,500 player evaluations. They conducted 635 individual player interviews and attended 115 pro days and 120 college games.
Last week, general manager John Idzik teased that for fun, he might have his war room run through a mock simulation of how the draft might unfold, just to see who is available at No. 18 on Thursday night.
“Leading up to the draft, we would meet with the general manager and play [the] 'what-if' game,” Bommarito said. “We would work [the] board like if we're picking at No. 18 — we would have our top 18 listed — then say if any one [of] these players are there, then we are taking one of them.”