It's great to have the opportunity to write this piece and give fans a look behind the curtain at what a scout's life is like as we go through the offseason. This past week was my eighth Senior Bowl, and it's always fun to come down to events like this, especially in a town like Mobile, Alabama.
When I started my career, I was a pro scout, meaning that I was evaluating other teams in the NFL. Pro scouts typically don't come down to the Senior Bowl or other college all-star games because the college staff primarily handles that. I began coming down here as I made the transition into being a college scout over the years, and it's been a great experience every single time.
For most of the year, college scouts are out on the road working by themselves. We are watching these college players work hard toward reaching their dream of playing in the NFL. What they put on film in games is obviously important, but there's a lot more to it than just the tape. During the fall, scouts meet with really anyone who connects with these young men on a regular basis. It could be coaches, administrators, staff members, and everyone in between.
These all-star games are a fun part of the process for us, though, because we get to meet the prospects themselves, really for the first time in most cases, face-to-face. We get to see these players compete on a level field against good competition. The prospects are matched up based on their overall skill level. This allows us to get so much out of these events.
We typically get to the site of the all-star game on the day before the first practice begins, because that night we can start sitting down with prospects and interviewing them. The previous week at the NFLPA Bowl, for instance. I got down there on Sunday, with the first practice happening on Monday. I arrived in Mobile last Monday since the action didn't really start until Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday morning here at the Senior Bowl, scouts attend the weigh-ins, and these are a little bit different than what we see at the Combine, where they split up each position by group. Down here at the Senior Bowl, they put the players all together and knock them all out at once. All of the scouts in attendance get together in a big room with a stage up in the front. Each player, one at a time, comes up onto the stage. They'll announce the player's hand size, arm length, and wingspan, along with their height and weight.
Every scout around the league takes that data, and it gets inputted into each team's database. We go to the weigh-ins in order to get a better sense of each player's physical stature. Are there differences between their weight here that might raise some eyebrows when compared to what we already have in our database? If so, that's a question we'll want to answer in interviews. Tuesday morning is all about the weigh-ins. After that, it's all about making the drive to lunch.
It's awesome getting a chance to spend time with the scouts in our department. We have a great staff here in Philly with tremendous camaraderie. We'll all get together for a group dinner, usually toward the end of the week. We like getting lunch together too though because there are just so many spots to hit up during the week between the barbecue and seafood places. It's also great to see long-time friends who work for other teams as well. It's a great opportunity that we only really get here during the Senior Bowl and at the Combine in Indianapolis.
When it comes to practice, where I watch from is entirely dependent on who I'm going to watch that day. Usually, when I'm watching the offensive and defensive lines, I like to be on the field for that because you can hear the coaching points, you can hear the pads popping a little bit better, and you can see a little bit more when you're up close. If I'm watching safeties or linebackers, I may want to be up in the stands, so I take it situation by situation, depending on what I'm focusing on that day.
The practices are very important. They're a huge part of this process. We want to see players with a motor. We want to see players who finish. The technique stuff, we feel like our coaches can teach that, but we want to see the physical traits – the balance, the body control, the way these players change direction, the violence, the effort. These are the things I think that you can get from here and just watching the way that they compete, the way they take coaching. Those are all things that we're paying attention to. That all leads us up to the interview process, which happens in three different ways down here in Mobile.
After practice ends, players mill around on the field and talk for about 20 minutes (depending on the event). They may be talking with their agent or marketing rep, they may be talking with the media, but for us, as scouts, this is a chance to get some facetime with the player one-on-one. Sometimes, players are tied up at night, so after practice is a good time to grab a guy and meet with them. You have to be a little bit shorter (and maybe a little bit quieter) because it's a quick meeting, but you can learn a few things just by looking them in the eye and having a conversation.
Then you have the longer, more formal sit-down interviews. There are two kinds of those at the Senior Bowl. The staff here in Mobile has a setup at the Renaissance Hotel, where they divide the room into four different pods (labeled A, B, C, and D). Every team has a table at each pod, and what they'll do is bring four different position groups each night, rotating them among the pods so that each team can get players 40 minutes at a time in a rotation.
Keep in mind, it's pretty often that we, as scouts, don't get a chance to talk to the players during the fall. So a lot of the information we get on them is coming from other sources. In these interviews, we can look them in the eye and get a feel for them in a different way. There's really so much that can get covered in these meetings. You can get them on the board a little bit or play some video and go through some X's and O's and find out how well they know the game. We know the players on our team; we're around them. Now, we can start to judge whether or not each of these players can match up with what we already have established in the building.
Those interviews usually last until about 11 at night, and while that means we're putting in long days, they're extremely productive days too. We feel like we leave here knowing a lot more about these players, and it gives us a really solid snapshot of them before the Combine. That's the next big piece of the pre-draft puzzle, and the last couple of weeks have really been a kick-start for it.
Ryan Myers just completed his seventh season as a scout in the Eagles' personnel department. He currently serves as the club's West Coast area scout and has held numerous college and pro scouting positions since joining the organization in 2013. Prior to arriving in Philadelphia, Myers spent seven years with the San Francisco 49ers (2005-11) in various roles, including pro personnel scout.