Scouts In Midst Of Busy All-Star Month


It has been, and continues to be, a big month for the Green Bay Packers' player personnel department.

This week marks the third of four consecutive weeks of college all-star games where scouts and personnel staffs from all the NFL teams get to talk to many of this year's draft-eligible players, watch them practice, and see them play in a game against other all-star level competition.

With the scouting process having gone on all fall at campuses and stadiums around the country, and with the NFL Scouting Combine coming up in late February, the month of all-star games in January isn't the be-all and end-all of the scouting world. But it provides a valuable chunk of information for teams in their ongoing evaluations of draft prospects, and getting a chance to see upwards of 100 or so top talents each of the four weeks makes for a busy time.

"Where somebody earns their money is on a daily basis during the season, but this lets you fine-tune and see if you were right about some guys a little bit during the year," said Shaun Herock, the Packers' assistant director of college scouting. "You can see if some of your projections were correct, see how a small-school guy can compete against good players, or see if a guy you saw during the year has continued to play well.

"It's all a process, another step to getting to that final decision."

Herock is one of many members of the Packers' player personnel department, including General Manager Ted Thompson and director of college scouting John Dorsey, who has been on the road most of the month making the all-star circuit.

It started with the Cactus Bowl in Kingsville, Texas, a Division II all-star game, the first week of January. That was followed by the East-West Shrine Game in Houston last week and the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., this week. The month concludes with the Texas vs. The Nation contest in El Paso next week.

The Senior Bowl is considered the most prestigious of the games in terms of the talent level of the invited players, so virtually every member of the team's personnel department is in Mobile this week. The other weeks and games are staffed by a portion of the group, but the information-gathering process remains roughly the same at each stop.

Off the field, the players are taking a variety of personality and psychological tests and being interviewed by scouts who try to catch them before or after practice, or at the hotel during the evening. They'll also have height-weight measurements, much like at the Combine.

On the field, the scouts are watching them work out, go through position and team drills, and learn a scaled-down playbook in a short period of time. With so many players to pay attention to, the scouts have to divide the work and conquer it as efficiently as possible.

"We try to break it up by position," said Herock, who spoke with last week at the East-West game, where fellow scouts Alonzo Highsmith and Lenny McGill were also on duty. "I'll do the O-line and D-line, Alonzo might do running backs and linebackers. You try to do positions going against each other all the time - receivers and DBs, that type of deal - so you can watch both of them at one time. Each scout has a couple of positions to view and rate those players.

"You're seeing how guys are developing, especially with some of these smaller-school kids."

That's particularly true at the Cactus Bowl, which is strictly for the country's top Division II players. While it's somewhat rare for Division II players to be drafted, it does happen, and scouts have to focus on players who might become non-drafted free agents as well, not just those who are likely to be drafted in late April.

"You want to see how they're going to compete against better competition," Herock said. "You maybe projected a kid as this, but now he's facing better competition, so how does he look? It starts answering some of the questions that you might have."

The interviews help to answer questions too, as far as how a player communicates and what he's like personality-wise. Players will talk about their backgrounds and details of their upbringing.

They'll also be quizzed a little bit on X's and O's, mainly to find out whether their knowledge of a particular offense or defense is limited to their own responsibilities, or if they understand a given scheme as a whole and can explain other players' duties as well as their own.

Each week, of course, ends with the actual all-star game. All teams and scouts have access to the videotape of the game to review, so not everyone on a given staff will stay for the game. But after watching players all week in practice, there is some value to seeing in live action how their skills translate to the field.

{sportsad300}"There is a little difference watching something live as opposed to on film," Herock said. "Say with a quarterback, there's pressure that is put on him in a certain time in the game that you just don't get on film, when they're down so many points. It's the same thing with a cornerback. OK, it's the end of the game, and he's one-on-one with the best receiver from that game. How did he step up?

"It's just like scouting during the season. Sometimes you want to watch a kid live to see how he performs with the emotion involved in a game, see how he competes."

The time on the road can get kind of long, but after next week's Texas/Nation game, everyone in the personnel department re-convenes in Green Bay for a series of meetings leading up to the Combine in Indianapolis, which begins Feb. 18.

At that point, everything is discussed, from the interviews to the practice and game tapes, to additional film from their college careers. With the Combine still awaiting in February, nothing close to a final decision is reached on any players, but everything from the past month is put on the table and digested as the process continues.

"It's just giving you more stuff to evaluate," Herock said. "It further breaks things down and adds more ingredients to the final dish. That's probably a good way to put it."

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