This is an important night for many people. For talent evaluators nights like this make or end careers. A player who does not pan out is a black mark for the executives and scouts who liked him. Years later the flaws in that player will appear obvious in hindsight. In an effort to avoid second guessing, teams seek out every bit of information they can find on every prospect. If they can find the deep flaws, they can avoid mistakes.
At some point, though, teams start to overthink things and put emphasis on minor things that do not matter. It happens every year. Remember these comments from last year?
"Right now, he's coming off as a spoiled, pampered brat."
Leading into the draft, word spread that he was preoccupied with his cell phone during pre-draft visits, texting friends and checking Twitter during meetings with team officials, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
In the NFL, a team visit is akin to a job interview. An aloof prospect is a major turnoff.
A league source confirmed the report. In fact, an official from one team -- not a team that visited with him-- said the cell-phone episode was mentioned and discussed in its draft room while evaluating him.
They were about Geno Smith. All kinds of armchair psychologists tried to project meaning on his expressions during the first round of the NFL Draft as though they had a thing to do with his ability to play quarterback in the NFL.
Now one year in I am not sure Geno will make it as an NFL quarterback. I am pretty confident in saying, however, that if he fails to develop into a good one, it will be for one reason. He is not talented enough. None of this stuff will have anything to do with it.
How about the case of Teddy Bridgewater? For over a year he was a consensus top five pick. Now he has a bad pro day, which is one poor workout in shorts, and suddenly teams are apparently throwing out years worth of film and production, which happened actually playing the game of football. He has the tools? He produced? He has the intangibles? He can make all of the throws? Who cares? He had a bad pro day!
Maybe Bridgewater won't make it as a pro. Maybe you never liked him. Let me say this. If you or a team did like him and are letting one bad workout impact your opinion, it borders on absurdity.
How about Derek Carr? One NFL talent evaluator has the following problem with him:
Still, that one issue continued to dog him. "The problem," one NFC exec says, "is his genetics."
Carr's brother is David Carr, former top overall pick bust of the Houston Texans. Genetics clearly will be Derek's undoing. The way one brother plays in the NFL clearly has everything to do with how the other brother plays. Just ask superstar quarterbacks Marcus Vick, Jordan Palmer, and Jordan Rodgers.
I don't expect every NFL team to have it's Draft board set in December. There is too much film to watch to have a good feel for every player by then. The Combine and workouts after allow you to speak with players one on one and answer questions about them. You also get their real measurables and medical conditions. Even the drills can be instructive if you don't put an absurd emphasis on them.
There are good reasons some prospects rise and fall. There are also players who will rise and fall because talent evaluators are putting too much emphasis on things that don't matter. By overthinking things, they make just as big of a mistake as they would by not exploring deep enough. It's the other extreme.
I know this. I'm happy I don't have to make those decision or be subjected to this process.