The Scouting Combine's Role in Pro Scouting

Tom Marino cut his teeth in professional football by hanging on the every word of veteran combine scouts like Alex Bell, Jackie Graves, Charlie Hall and Stan Springer. They literally taught me everything I know about the scouting profession and although all of the above are no longer with us, I will be forever grateful for their kindness and expertise.

Scouting combines were formed in the early sixties primarily to enable clubs, with staffs consisting of as few as one and in most cases two full time scouts, the ability to utilize eight to twelve area combine scouts to cover the remaining smaller colleges and universities throughout the country. With fuel prices approaching 32 cents a gallon and the cost of a three star hotel approaching 14 dollars a night, many owners felt that something needed to be done in order to keep the escalating costs under control.

In the early days of scouting, most combine scouts had tremendous football backgrounds. John Michelosen, a long time combine scout, was the head coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers and University of Pittsburgh before coming a combine scout with CEPO, while the aforementioned Alex Bell, resigned as head coach at Villanova in order to become Blesto' first Northeast combine scout.

In 1963, Lesto scouting combine, became the first NFL organized scouting combine in football history. It consisted of three clubs (the Lions, Eagles and Steelers), with the final two letters standing for Talent and Organization. In 1964, the Chicago Bears joined the group, thus creating the name that forty-five years later still remains intact for the past 45 years.

The Cowboys, Rams and 49ers organized Troika combine in 64 and when the Saints joined the group, the name was again changed to Quadra. Baltimore Cleveland Green Bay and the St. Louis Cardinals formed CEPO and after they were joined by the Giants, Falcons and Redskins, the formed United Scouting. Confused yet?

Both Blesto and United are still in operation today, although United changed its name in 1983 to National so as not to be associated with the newly formed United Stated Football League.

The two combines have undergone many changes over the years and now provide usually entry level scouts to the respective scouting organizations. These scouts, under the direction of the organizations director commencing in February begin the process of weighing, measuring, timing and testing junior football players throughout the countries six hundred football playing colleges and universities. Since team scouts are totally consumed with the upcoming draft during the months of February, March and April, these inexperienced combine scouts in actuality are the first people to set the bar for the following year's senior class. It certainly would be a daunting task for even experienced talent evaluators and because of that fact, most clubs use the information strictly as a source for accurate measurable', addresses, testing and preliminary medical and character information.

Both organizations meet with their respective members in the week leading up to the Memorial Day weekend to painstakingly review each prospect and again in the second week in December to give their final reports on the senior class.

With membership in Blesto Inc dwindling in recent years, there is a real concern that the league will soon have just a single combine to evaluate players. Current Blesto members include Detroit, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, NY Giants, Minnesota, Miami and Buffalo, with Miami's membership in the group tentative at best.

National members include; Arizona, Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, Kansas City, New Orleans, NY Jets, Philadelphia, St Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, San Diego, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco and Houston.

Baltimore, Indianapolis, Chicago, Oakland, New England, Cleveland and Washington have all chosen to remain independent.

Almost all entry level personnel scouts begin in-house and eventually work their way into combine area scouts. The apprenticeship can last for as much of five years, but those who survive generally become team scouts or if they impress during their combine scouting stint, may well be recruited by another member club within the combine.

The Blesto rating scale is distinctly more user friendly and closely resembles the rating scale, that I introduced to in 2007. The second and third numbers in the grade will tell you the predicted round and placement in the round. For example a 1.38 grade would put the prospect at or near the bottom of the third round.

Blesto Inc

0.0 - 1.19 – Rd 1

1.20 - 1.29 – Rd 2

1.30 - 1.39 – Rd 3

1.40 - 1.49 – Rd 4

1.50 - 1.59 – Rd 5

1.60 - 1.69 – Rd 6

1.70 - 1.79 – Rd 7

1.80 - 1.89 – Priority FA

2.00 - Free Agent

2.50 - Need more information

4.50 - Insufficient skills

National Scouting

9.0 – 6.5 – Rd 1

6.4 – 6.0 – Rd 2

5.9 – 5.5 – Rd 3 – 4

5.4 – 5.0 – Rd 5 – 7

2.0 - Need more information

1.2 - Insufficient skills but recommended by staff

1.0 - Insufficient skills

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