Scouting talent or personalities

Each position on the field has changed over the past few years. In a venue like the Senior Bowl, where thousands of front office personnel litter the sidelines, is there real scouting going on or is it just a glorified week of meet and greet.

For instance, how can a quarterback be evaluated when he has no real pressure in his face during seven-on-seven drills. One scout had the answer. He suggested putting in one defensive end and one fullback to block him. You then have the ability to see if the fullback can pick up the "blitz" and if the quarterback can get rid of the ball in three seconds rather than seven.

Ditto the secondary which is left on an island. A pass reception deep in one-on-one drills may show who has speed, but if the safety is over the top, would it even be a reception?

"The game has changed so much," one AFC coach said. "They throw more to the front seven than the back seven."

So what are people looking for in Mobile?

Scouts are on the sidelines taking notes and pulling together reports to find targets. They incessantly work to keep their player profiles up to date with the latest information.

Players can feel the heat to perform from that angle.

"When you step on the field, you are trying to think about your job, trying to execute the plays," Akron quarterback Charlie Frye said. "You can't be worried about who is watching. You have to go out there and focus and get the job done for your team."

Oakland head coach Norv Turner concedes that playmakers are the ones being sought.

While he didn't bring up players such as Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, dynamic stars that bring some baggage with them, he gave the sense that those are the types of players who could make a difference in the NFL and he would be happy to have them on his team.

"There is a certain level of athletic ability you have to have and it goes up another notch from college football," Turner said. "To me, it is guys who have been productive. Guys who have had great careers. Once they have made the measurables, height, size and speed, then you look at how they played in college. It seems guys who had great careers in college and were productive, continue that."

At the same time, a lot of coaches are concerned with building a team that will show unity in everything they do. That brings personalities into the equation.

Bringing in a quality player who isn't necessarily a quality person can degrade the locker room dynamic. When Moss leaves the field before the end of the game, it tears apart the "team" stigma a coach spends so long building.

That could translate into a team that isn't playing as a team.

When the ideal situation requires players working toward the common goal and that is torn apart, is there a benefit in drafting a kid that doesn't provide the tools that mesh with their current squad?

Think about some of the teams who did make the playoffs using blue collar workers. New England gets to the Super Bowl every year with a core of players that aren't superstars but they don't make waves in the news. They play their game as intended, rely and trust each other, and are rewarded.

"You have to be yourself," Frye conceded. "You can't come down here and be someone you are not. Relaxed. This is our career here. You have to take it as it is."

Polling a couple of scouts in attendance, they all agree on one characteristic that a player must have, work ethic. And that is one of the traits that can't be seen on game tape. A guy who practices hard will play hard.

In the end, some say it is the talent they display in Mobile coupled with their work ethic while others say it is character and how they carry themselves off the field.

The truth is it is a combination of both. Scouts may be seeking the traits that point to their potential for success in the NFL and coaches take that information and find out more about the prospect's character.


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