Spielman does his own grading

The Vikings' draft was graded by many analysts in the media, but Rick Spielman does his own grading – waiting a few years and then seeing how well each of his individual scouts did. See what the VP of player personnel said about the process and why he does it.

Shortly after the 2010 NFL Draft ended, the media analysts were busy putting grades on each team's draft. Without much consequence for inaccurate grades, teams were likely graded on their ability to fill needs.

For the NFL scouts themselves, their jobs depend on how well they do each year, and Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman is the one grading his scouting department. He even grades himself, but those assessments aren't given immediately after the draft. Spielman takes a more accurate approach, waiting a few years to see if a player has lived up to the predraft expectations of each individual scout.

"I evaluate myself and all our scouts. I have percentages they hit on … the percentages they hit on each position, and I've done that for the first draft all the way through because we've had now three years in history," Spielman said while his department was gather information on players at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Is it true what they said three years ago – is that what (the player) is now? That's the measuring stick to me."

Unlike most draft analysts in the media, Spielman doesn't have his scouts projecting players to be first- or second-round draft picks. He wants to know what kind of player they will be at the NFL level – a Pro Bowler, a solid starter, a backup, a practice-squad candidate or basically just a camp body. He's always evaluating and searching for answers.

"If you graded him as a free agent that made it, why didn't we have him higher?" Spielman said of his look-back evaluation process.

"I can sit and say last year, hey, we graded these guys this way. What was our percentage? Were we right? When I evaluate that is after the final (roster) is made. Some guys may not have made it because they were on (injured reserve). Some guys became a starter because they were forced to because there were injuries. So there's always variance in there a little bit. But I've got a pretty good idea of where that percentage needs to be and where we've graded."

There are two keys to putting together the most accurate evaluations possible: getting the most accurate and complete information possible, and then knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the scouts who are required to sift through the facts and make a subjective evaluation.

Spielman just went through his fourth draft with the Vikings this year and believes he has a good handle on the strengths and weaknesses of each of his scouts, as well as the men just below Spielman, director of college scouting Scott Studwell and director of player personnel George Paton.

"Just getting to work with my scouts and Studwell and George Paton and our pro guys and everybody, I know where their strengths and weaknesses are, and everybody has strengths and weaknesses. I have strengths and weaknesses," Spielman said. "Those are the guys that we'll hone in on a specific position, especially guys that I think are strong in one area, that will be his cross-check position because that's where his strong hit has been. Some guys are very good at one position and not as good evaluators, just from their background, as other positions. It's just like a team. You know your players' strengths and weaknesses and you try to put the players in positions so they can utilize their strength and try to not expose them to their weaknesses."

Naturally, he said Studwell, who played linebacker for the Vikings for 14 years (1977-1990), does well when evaluating that position, but Spielman said Studwell is the fallback guy at every position.

Spielman also grades his own evaluation abilities, but – this is hardly a surprise – he wouldn't reveal that grade either.

"I'm not going to tell you, but I'd better be pretty good. George and Stud are very good evaluators. We haven't had a lot of changes in our scouting department because I feel all our guys do a very good job," Spielman said. "I think our coaches do an excellent job and they really work at it. That's one of the keys to success is being able to have coaches and scouts and personnel and myself and Brad (Childress) all on the same page as we go through this process. And there's always going to be differences of opinion on players. If it's too big of a difference, maybe you don't take that guy."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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