Jerry Lai/USA TODAY

Teams are quiety vetting out potential NFL draft picks

While the talking heads of sports are suddenly experts on college players and where they will land, behind the scenes teams are quietly learning a lot about potential draftees.

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Every NFL team has a war room. It sounds menacing and, at times, it is. To be sure, it is not war, but the decisions teams make set the foundation for the future.

The Minnesota Vikings and most other NFL teams have a former FBI guys or CIA guy or military guy in their employ. Some run security. Some do logistics of travel plans and site inspections. Others do the dirty work of the NFL draft and, in many cases, you will never hear their names, but their silent voices can be deafening in the draft room.

They are the shadowy figures of the NFL. In the 1950s, they would be known as private investigators – cigar-chomping guys who don’t shower every morning and conduct stakeouts in order to create an intelligence profile on players.

In the modern era of the NFL, they can be everything from hard-boiled former law enforcement types to computer nerds to oily types with a clean smile to pass around to get some insight from people whose eyesight and memory serves as information.

Much is made about the extent to which teams keep their draft plans secret. Recently, details have emerged of a black op run by the Los Angeles Rams to work out Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. Getting that accomplished in Fargo is tantamount to getting away with something in Mayberry. If Gomer recognizes Jeff Fisher, the cover is blown.

The Vikings did a similar ploy with an infamous cloak-and-dagger workout visit with Tarvaris Jackson – making sure airplane tail numbers didn’t match up and driving late at night across Alabama – which doesn’t always end well.

The vetting process and due diligence that is done with players has taken information gleaning to a new and, some could argue, intrusive level.

It will never be as ridiculous as depicted in the mockumentary Kevin Costner vehicle Draft Day, but it isn’t that far from the truth.

Draft experts – both legitimate and faux – are going to opine on what players are going to what teams. In the first round, those are multi-million investments.

Missteps take their place in franchise history. Apparently nobody in the Vikings organization knew Troy Williamson had significant difficulty tracking a football in flight. That one’s on the Tice regime.

But, as things currently stand in the process of vetting players that a team is legitimately interested in, the voices in the draft room can include Hot Pockets eaters that are hired to follow social media accounts of players a franchise is interested in drafting but may have some reservations about.

Trolling is a thing in the current NFL. It’s where we get quick-twitch intel on who a player is and what kind of person he portrays on Twitter, Instagram.

Too many shots of players at parties? That can be a red flag organizations didn’t know about five or 10 years ago. Now every team in the NFL has people quietly monitoring the social networks to glean information on players.

When the draft starts next week, many of the same experts who spew information on players leading up to their selection may have a good idea who is interested in players, but will not know that with any real certainty. But, by the time that name gets called, a lot of people who aren’t the public faces of organizations are going to likely have a much better idea of who a team is or isn’t interested in because they’ve been digging deep into their pasts for months.

Welcome to the brave new world of the NFL.


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