This is a guest post from T.J. McCreight. McCreight has worked as a scout, director of pro personnel, director of college scouting, and a player personnel executive across multiple NFL teams.
Working for an NFL team’s college scouting department is not part-time work.
Even though teams usually pick between 7-12 players, every player is thoroughly vetted and evaluated throughout the year. A scout may get a few weeks off after draft weekend, but then preparation turns to the next draft.
In May, the scouts are required to get a preliminary list of players from their area together that includes an evaluation of the player from the previous year and some background information. With the widespread availability of game video, the scout can do this from home, so they do get a break from the constant travel of old.
In June, teams will give the college scout two NFL teams to evaluate, usually just their upcoming unrestricted free agents. This will assist the pro department, giving them an extra report and a good start for the upcoming season. It also keeps the scout sharp evaluating current NFL players. As a college scout, I found it valuable to watch those NFL players; it gave you a chance to see what was going on in the league and helped you when watching the college prospects in the fall.
In July most scouts, even though they are technically off, will do a self-scout evaluation of their previous fall. I would grade myself based on the grades that I gave and where they were picked. This isn’t an exact science, but it was still a helpful process.
In late July, the scouts will go to training camp. At camp, the scouts will break up their team by position and evaluate all the players. These evaluations are helpful during cut down day and give the scout a more in-depth knowledge of their club.
After camp, the scouts will depart the city and go right to the schools in their area. This is exposure number 1. They will go to practice and evaluate the players’ body type, talk to the trainers about injuries, and speak with the coach about their character.
On Labor Day weekend, most scouts will go to one or even two games. This is the first look at live game action and exposure number 2.
Exposure number 3 will be when the scout circles back to schools in their area that they didn’t go to during summer camp, or perhaps back for a second look after they get a couple of games into the season. The scout, similar to in August, will speak to the staff about background/injuries, check out his body type, and watch the game film. The scout will follow this pattern up until Thanksgiving (most scouts with young kids usually try to work their schedule to be home during Halloween).
In December, most teams bring the scouts in for a game and have a meeting to go over their ‘top 30’ players. It is a fun weekend but also a work weekend.
After that December meeting, the scouts will be given ‘crosscheck’ players to evaluate. Crosschecks are players outside your area, usually by position, to give an extra report to add to the system as well as give the scout a bigger voice during the draft process. Those crosschecks are usually due before the Combine.
Exposure 4 is in January at the all-star games. At these games the scouts will see players outside of their area and are given a position to evaluate. That is also when a lot of the players are interviewed by the clubs.
In February the scouts will have their first major meeting to set the board and go through the reports and interviews. Some teams actually watch film of each player and some teams just read the reports and discuss. Usually, the head coach is in this meeting.
Exposure 5 is the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. This is a long week of workouts and interviews. All of the scouts and coaches attend this event and for many coaches, it is their first look at the players.
Exposure 6 is in March at the pro days. Pro days are on campus and gives the prospects the opportunity to improve their combine numbers or, if they were not invited to Indianapolis, to show off what they are capable of doing.
During the first week of April, teams have another meeting, but this time the coaches are involved, and they read their reports. Also, the combine interviews and workouts are discussed. This is really where you get the board cleaned up to exactly how you want it to look. After this meeting, the scouts usually go home for a couple of weeks, clean up any information they are missing, and get some time to look at the big picture of the draft.
The week of the draft was always the most fun for me.
We would arrive on Monday and go over any last-minute details, but really the board was ready to go. We would put a sticker on one player we would love to have, and we would put a different color sticker on a player we wanted to avoid. For some teams this is an important meeting; the head coach and owner attended this meeting, and it could make or break a player’s future.
Draft day is the Super Bowl for scouts. Your team is being built and you were a big part of it. Scouting is a lot of work and a lot of travel, but it is the most fun job in the world.
I would have done it for free.