I have been interested in the NFL Draft pretty intensely for about 5 years now. I still learn a lot every year, because it is inevitable that you will make mistakes every year. There is no avoiding it unless you don’t make any predictions or go out on a limb and say you are sold on a prospect. I never used to do that when I first started off because I was afraid to be wrong. However, at some point it clicks that there is nothing wrong with being wrong, as long as you aren’t always incorrect. It is frankly more fun to watch the games, scout the prospects and come to your own conclusions about the players, regardless of what others think. Then you can state your opinions so you can judge how well you are doing rather than just saying you thought that “so and so” was going to be good after the fact. That is one of my favorite things about scouting prospects, seeing how well they all do once they get to the NFL. But it took me a while to become mature enough to admit that I missed on a prospect or that I wasn’t high on him. If you are scouting and you are in that place don’t take this in a negative way because I’ve been there. The reason I wanted to grow and develop into a person who sticks to their guns and trusts their convictions is that if I get a job as a scout and we are watching film of a prospect and the GM asks what we think of this player I have to say “I am sold on this guy” and sell them on him. If I don’t sell them hard on him (if I am truly convinced that he will be an asset) and he turns out to be great and we don’t pick him then I have hurt the team just because I wouldn’t stick to my guns. I don’t want to be that guy, and I doubt anyone really does. So just experiment with taking some risks, make some mistakes and see what you learn. It really is gratifying.

Now that I have given you a little background on my life, I just want to make it clear that I’m not an expert. I’m still learning just like anyone else. I’m only 20 years old, I haven’t figured out how to get every pick right. No one will ever do that. I simply do the best I can, put in as much effort as I can while balancing school and my life outside of football and enjoy the results of my work, especially when I see players I was really high on succeed. I made my blog and decided to write for NFL Draft Monsters because I want to share the knowledge that I have gained over the last few years with anyone who wants to learn more about the NFL Draft, scouting and anything else I bring up when I write something. I’m not trying to say I know everything, but I like to think I know a lot about the Draft process now that I have been around it for a few years. But like I said, I learn something new every year without fail. That’s the best part about the draft to me: No matter how long I am around it I can expect to continue to learn something from it, and continue to adjust how I scout prospects. My ultimate goal in life is to be a General Manager of a NFL team, and to do that I will need to get a job as a NFL Scout, so that is what I am working toward when I scout prospects. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s my dream so I am going to chase it.

When I came to Beloit I decided that there had to be a way I could pursue my goal of becoming a NFL Scout. The best way to do this was to get a job with the football team, so I talked to the Head Coach who referred me to the Defensive Coordinator and Video Coordinator, who offered me a job filming games for the football team. By the time I graduate from Beloit next year I will have worked for the team for three years (barring a surprising end to my employment that I do not expect) and I will have a great deal of experience with film. I have already filmed a year’s worth of games and practices, and I have a good deal of experience cutting film, prepping it for the coaches to watch it and I helped put together a highlight video for two of our best players last spring. If you are interested in a career in sports of any kind and you are in college I would seriously suggest that you pursue a job like the one I got. It doesn’t matter if you are just a team manager, if you are doing equipment or if you do film work like I do. Get your foot in the door, show them that you take your job seriously and work hard and you will move up. They will start to trust you more and you will gain more responsibility and gain more experience. Plus it will look great on a resume.

Now, naturally I have been around a lot of our coaches tape, and it can be hard to watch coaches tape when I work for the team and then go back and try to scout NFL prospects with ESPN’s shitty camera angles. They aren’t bad for the offensive line, defensive line, quarterback or running back, but for wide receivers, tight ends (if they get to the second level or beyond), linebackers and especially the defensive backs ESPN is borderline worthless. Unless they come up to support the run you have to hope for a different angle replay to see how they were in their backpedal or how quickly they closed on the ball. And to even see that they have to be challenged, but if a DB does his job correctly his receiver will be blanketed in coverage or he will be taken away with good safety help over the top. But you won’t see that on their camera angles, which is frustrating.

Anyways, I have been pretty lucky when it comes to seeing coaches tape. In addition to my job with Beloit’s football team I have had a month-long internship at the end of my senior year of high school with the Minnesota Vikings, and I had a summer long internship with The Institute for Athletes this past summer, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had my internship with the Minnesota Vikings in May, so I had unlimited access to all of the film from that year that they had used for the draft, so I would show up to Winter Park, go into the defensive line’s film room, and watch tape for as long as I wanted. I watched as many players as I could: Matt Ryan, Jake Long, Joe Flacco… the list goes on. It was a terrific experience. I wish I could do that every year. My internship with the Institute for Athletes, a sports agency that represents NFL players, wasn’t centered around watching tape.  However, I ended up having to put together a highlight video for a few of our clients that got cut from NFL teams after mini-camps, so I ended up contacting Oklahoma State and UNLV asking for tape from their previous season. That way I could watch it, find good clips of our clients, and then use them to make a highlight video. I also watched tape of Northern Iowa, but that tape we had on hand. I literally watched every single snap of Oklahoma State’s defense from the 2009 season, and I found every play our client, Andre Sexton, made that season and we put that into a highlight video. I felt very motivated to watch all of the game tape for these guys because they were fighting for a job, and the highlight video we made could help get them a workout and a job or it could contribute to a stretch of unemployment. So I burned through that game tape, sometimes watching four or five games a day, to try to get the video done and sent out as fast as I could. I can’t disclose whether or not any of them got jobs yet since no contracts have been signed, but that was one of the more rewarding things I have ever done when it comes to watching tape and scouting. Plus Oklahoma State is in the Big XII, so I got to watch some prospects that I would have never normally gotten to see on coaches tape, which was really cool.

So I have gotten at film from just about every angle other than actually being filmed. I have filmed football games, I have cut up the film and gotten it ready for scouting, I have done the dirty work putting in the play by play information and matching up the camera angles, and I have been on the other side watching the final product whether it is coaches tape or a highlight video. I am hoping that my experience in the film room will help me get an intro level position with a professional team one day. If you pursue a job in a competitive field you will probably hear this phrase two million times like I have but it is fitting that I say it here: You just need to get your foot in the door. Once you do that it is all up to you putting the work in, and proving your worth to the organization or a competing organization. Right now I am doing all I can to help the Beloit football team win, and I am taking on more responsibility by making sure both of our camera angles are set up correctly, that our employees are filming everything they need to, and if anything goes wrong it is my job to fix it. That way our defensive coordinator can worry about the defense and not the film. I am enjoying the added responsibility, and I plan on scouting our opponents with anyone on the coaching staff that will watch tape with me during the season. The more experience I have scouting and watching tape the better.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, I am no expert. My friends may joke and say that I am, I may get props from people on the internet, but at the end of the day I am still an amateur and at 20 years old I still have a boatload of things to learn. How does scouting actually work when you go to the college campus? How do you change your scouting style depending on the player? What is the best or most effective grading scale to use? How does your scouting change if you have access to five or more quality tapes of a player versus just one or two? These are all questions that I have yet to answer. I do my best to watch two or more games of each prospect before writing a scouting report on them which is why I won’t be churning out a lot of scouting reports until later in the year. I will post reviews of specific games and mix in my thoughts on the player as a prospect, but nothing is set in stone. One thing I have learned over and over again is that you can’t base your entire opinion of a player on one game. It is simply too small of a sample size. Arguably four or five games could be too small of a sample size, but that is vastly better than just one game or even two games. I know that two games isn’t ideal for getting a feel for a prospect, but as a college student I have too many time constraints to be able to watch 100 prospects in more than two games and write scouting reports. It’s just not realistic. But I promise you that I will do the best that I can, and I appreciate all the feedback I get, positive or negative. Feel free to call me out if I am completely wrong, I need to learn from my mistakes just like anyone else. The more feedback I get the better.

Hopefully this article helps people improve as scouts or if you aren’t interested in scouting at all hopefully you found it interesting and potentially learned something that you can apply to your own life. That is the only reason I’m writing right now. Not to profess my own expertise, but to show people what I have learned to try to help people learn from my own mistakes that I have made and the things that I have done that worked out well. There is a quote I have heard, I think it is by Eleanor Roosevelt, that said something along the lines of: You have to learn from other people’s mistakes because life is too short to make them all yourself. I really took that to heart when I read it. That is precisely why I am writing this article right now: To help anyone who reads this learn from my own mistakes. Hopefully I am accomplishing that goal, but if I’m not then hopefully I will be soon. I know that I will be doing my best to do so.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article.

–Tom