Next month's NFL draft will be the culmination of thousands of miles of road trips, seemingly innumerable hours of film study and countless hours of debating.
In a highlight of Fan Fest a couple of weeks ago, Packers director of college scouting John Dorsey outlined the draft process.
It all starts with the National Scouting Service — which the Packers and 18 other teams are a part of — providing a list of 815 players to help pinpoint the top seniors who will be competing during the coming season. Some of the NSS's 10 scouts then come to Green Bay for about 10 days to discuss the major-school prospects to help the Packers' scouts get a head start on their work.
At the start of training camp, Dorsey and the scouts talk to general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy to discuss the team's strengths and weaknesses.
Over the next 120 days, the Packers' team of scouts — Lee Gissendaner (Northeast), Brian Gutekunst (Southeast), Shaun Herock (Midwest), Alonzo Highsmith (Southwest), Lenny McGill (Central Plains), Sam Seale (West Coast) and Jon-Eric Sullivan (Mid-South) — will watch between 10 and 16 games apiece and review about 1,300 players.
Dorsey said the focus for in-game scouting is the quarterbacks and cornerbacks. For the quarterbacks, how do they lead their team? For the corners, how do they react after getting beat?
"There's certain traits that you can't see on film that show up live during a game," Dorsey said.
The scouts spend their time at the major schools, where 82 percent of NFL players competed.
From there, it's the all-star games. The big one is the Senior Bowl, in which 80 percent of the roster will be drafted. The games aren't the focal point, though. Instead, it's the chance to measure the players, test them and see how they interact with their peers, coaches and scouts.
After the all-star games are over, teams begin to look at the juniors who declared for the draft. According to Dorsey, between 35 and 45 juniors enter the draft every year, and 10 or 15 will be taken in the first round. Scouting the juniors is a challenge because NFL teams had spent the previous four or five months focusing only on the seniors.
"I think the greatest mistakes that clubs make is not fully researching these underclassmen when they come out," Dorsey said as a picture of Ohio State flop Maurice Clarett was shown during his PowerPoint presentation.
From late January to the middle of February, the Packers spend 17 days building their draft board, with the coaches entering the scouting process. A whopping 1,300 players — listed in alphabetical order by position on the board — are discussed, and the personnel department watches film on more than 800 prospects. The Packers have about 6,000 game tapes spanning three seasons in their vault.
In late February is the annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where about 330 players (about 70 percent of which will be drafted) are poked, probed, tested, analyzed and put under the microscope by teams. Each player spends three days at the Combine. The first day is filled with interviews, the second day is dominated by measurements and medical testing and the third includes the on-the-field workouts.
"There's a lot of stuff going on in Indianapolis that you never really see," Dorsey said.
Right now, the Packers are in the midst of spring scouting. That involves pro days going on at schools across the nation. Pro days are just like the Combine, with players running, jumping, lifting and doing position drills. Unlike the Combine, which includes just the top prospects, 15 or 20 players might be exposed to scouts at a pro day. The Packers are renowned around the league for being at practically every school this time of year.
"We've taken great pride in spring scouting because this is the time when you have a chance to turn over the rocks and find players that nobody knows about," Dorsey said, noting two-time Pro Bowler Aaron Kampman wasn't invited to the Combine.
After the pro days and individual workouts are complete, teams finalize their draft boards.
During the week before the draft, the personnel department and coaches "hash out why a player should be higher and why a player should be lower," Dorsey said. "Really, this is the week where you try to get rid of all of your emotion and try to decide why a player should actually be higher or lower on your draft board."
Fans love mock drafts, and the Packers do their own, as well. They highlight every team's strengths and weaknesses, and try to predict what player will be drafted by what team in hopes of pinpointing two or three players who will be available to the Packers.
"Now, all the emotion's out of the room, so everything now is based on logic and fact," Dorsey said. So, while the draft reflects a culmination of all of those scouting trips and film sessions, draft day is "a really boring day, to be honest with you. You're sitting around for hours thinking about the possibilities."
After the draft is a second draft of sorts: college free agency. Dorsey said between 2.5 and 2.7 undrafted free agents should make the team each year. Kregg Lumpkin, Cullen Jenkins and Ruvell Martin are three of the Packers' undrafted free-agent finds.
Finally, the players join the veterans on the field.
"Now," Dorsey said, "can they come together as a team? Hopefully, when you've done all of your background information, you've done all your homework, these guys have a passion about the game, you think you've got something."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport