Preparation is key, NFL draft vets say
Posted on Fri, Apr. 28, 2006
[size=18px]Preparation is key, NFL draft vets say[/size]
BY DON SEEHOLZER
Bobby Beathard can remember the first time he set foot in a draft war room, in 1963 as a part-time scout with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"That was much different than the ones they have today," Beathard said. "At that time, we all sat around coach (Hank) Stram's desk, and they picked. That was during the (AFL-NFL) war, so we picked some good players, but it wasn't organized the way it is now."
The NFL draft was a simpler animal in those days, before war-room cams, ESPN and Mel Kiper Jr., but some things haven't changed.
Beathard, who spent four decades as an NFL personnel man and general manager with Kansas City, the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers before finishing up with two seasons as a senior adviser for the Atlanta Falcons from 2002-03, said the key to a good draft then and now can be summed up in one word: preparation.
If he had any advice for Vikings vice president of player personnel Fran Foley, who is preparing to run his first draft room this weekend, that would be it.
"I've never met Fran Foley," Beathard said. "I don't know anything about him. The thing I always thought of in the last couple days before a draft was, 'Hey, we're prepared. We're ready to go. Is there anything on this board that somebody has a problem with?' By the time you get to draft day, you don't want somebody to come up and say some guy's rated wrong. That's the biggest thing, to get all that taken care of before draft day begins. If people in your group have reservations about some things, don't wait until then to say it. Say it early."
Ken Herock, a former personnel director with the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Bucs, Falcons and Green Bay Packers, agrees on the importance of forging a pre-draft consensus.
He still sees this draft as on-the-job training, though, for Foley, whose 12 years of NFL experience were spent entirely on the pro personnel side.
"I would say for Fran Foley, he'd better count on all the people around him," Herock said. "He'd better let the people he's working with help him run it. That would be my advice. He's never run a draft room. I don't know if he's ever been responsible for making a pick in his life. It's a whole different ballgame between (scouting) the pros and college. He's got his hands full. To throw somebody into that position, for me, is scary."
Ron Hill, who logged 26 years as an NFL scout and personnel man with the Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars and Falcons, knows as well as anyone just how intense a war room can be.
As someone who worked with Foley with the Jaguars, though, he believes the Vikings' draft is in good hands.
"Fran's been around," Hill said. "He's been in the league for a while, and he should do fine. It's all about preparation. If you're prepared and your scouts are prepared and your coaches have done a good job of preparing, it shouldn't come down to one person. It's a combination of everybody having input and coming up with the right choices. That's the way I've always done it."
Foley won't be doing it alone with the Vikings, with veteran director of college scouting Scott Studwell still on hand and coach Brad Childress sure to have a voice in whatever players the Vikings select.
If there's any disagreement, though, the final word is supposed to belong to Foley, which could make his seat the hottest in a room where temperatures and tempers can rise in a hurry.
"There's a lot that goes on," Hill said. "It can get heated because a lot of times you're under pressure to make a trade and that type of thing. When that clock's ticking, you've got to be able to make decisions, and the decision makers in that room have to know that their decision is final."
Said Beathard: "You do have to be very mentally agile on that day. If you're inclined to make deals, there are a lot of phone calls that go on three minutes before your pick."
Herock describes the atmosphere in a typical war room as one of quiet intensity.
"You've got to keep control," he said. "You've got to keep everything rolling. One of the biggest disappointments in the draft is when you really like somebody and he's taken right before you pick. Chaos hits the room, and I guarantee you the next pick you take is probably going to be a bust. You say you're prepared, but the guy you're really zeroed in on doesn't get to you, and then you take an alternate pick and a lot of times that guy doesn't become the player you want. That happened to me quite a few times in the draft."
Then there are the last-minute curveballs, such as the one Herock was thrown during the second round of the 1991 draft, when Falcons coach Jerry Glanville made a surprise pitch to take Louisville quarterback Browning Nagle over a guy from Southern Mississippi by the name of Brett Favre.
"In the final analysis, I had scouted both players, and I didn't think there was any comparison," Herock said. "With about 15 seconds to go, I turned in the name, Brett Favre. The coach turned, I think, blue. He couldn't believe it. I think that was probably the reason he was run out of Atlanta."
Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf said there's a lesson in that for Foley and anyone running his first draft room.
"He has watched some pretty good people run them, so I would assume he's going to do it the way he knows best," Wolf said. "The one thing I would say is, no matter what, do it the way you know how to do it. Don't try to be somebody you're not. Be yourself. You've got to be comfortable doing what you have to do."
Don Seeholzer can be reached at [email protected]
Preparation is key, NFL draft vets say
Re: Preparation is key, NFL draft vets say
I would love to be involved in the decision making during the draft. Talk about bursts of intensity, would be fun. The draft during fantasy football is the closest I've come to actually participating in a draft, that can get intense too if you're playing with a bunch of the same friends for over a decade. I'm excited to see how things will play out.