The NFL draft covers three days at the end of April, but preparing for the annual event is a year-long process requiring the attention of its own department.
The Redskins' college scouting division consists of Director Kyle Smith, Assistant Director Tim Gribble, BLESTO scout Harrison Ritcher and six regional scouts -- all of whom have been working around the clock to put this organization into optimal position entering this weekend's draft.
In anticipation of the draft, Redskins.com caught up with several scouts to discuss their week-to-week responsibilities, prospect evaluation techniques and more.
What are your main job responsibilities?
Tim Gribble (Assistant Director of College Scouting): We take the scouts reports -- the information [the scouts have] gathered -- we take the information we’ve gathered at the Combine and the Pro Day and then we have the coaches’ opinions. So you just take a little bit from each one, and you try to make sense of all of that information, and at the end of the day we want to get them right for the Redskins and how they’re going to fit our football team.”
Harrison Ritcher (BLESTO Scout): Basically we set the table for the area scouts and directors the year before, so each spring, like right now, I’m doing next year's class kind of going through doing visits, doing measurable, watching tape and putting a preliminary grade on those guys.
Chuck Cook (Midwest Scout): I’ve got a great area in the Midwest. Of course I have Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, I’ve got Ohio State, Notre Dame. I’ve got some really good schools and a lot of productive Midwest guys.”
Matt Evans (Northeast Scout): I work the Northeast side -- all the schools from Virginia to Maine. There’s a lot of traffic and there’s a lot of schools. There’s not a ton of long drives, but you have to deal with the traffic. Week to week, probably go out 10 days, come home three or 11 and three -- right around there -- and then you do that from once we break [training] camp, we hit the road, and then all the way up to Thanksgiving.
Paul Skansi (West Coast Scout): There's a lot of schools between schools. There’s a lot of driving, a lot of flying. A typical week, you start in Oregon, move your way down to California. There’s a lot of five-hour drives, there’s a few six-hour drives in there getting from place to place, so it’s a lot of ground to cover.
Cole Spencer (Southeast Scout): I go from North Carolina down to Florida and Alabama in the Southeast. A day in the life in the fall, we go in there and talk to the coaches, trainers, strength coaches, try to find out about the kid. Then we’ll watch the tape and make an evaluation.
Roger Terry (Central Scout): I’m based on Kansas City, Mo. That’s the central location of my area. I have numerous amount of conferences in terms of schools, like the Wisconsins, the Iowas, the Nebraskas and the Colorados of the world. My base is pretty big. I travel a lot. For the most part, week to week, I go on school calls. So school calls, I go into each college I have to attend and go in and get background on players and evaluate their film and try to do the best that I can to make the Redskins better.
David Whittington (Southwest Scout): It depends on the setup, so if there’s a good setup at the school and you can set up your computer and you're by yourself, you can typically type while you’re there. If you have the room for the whole day -- some [Southwest] schools aren’t set up like that -- you’ll be using their meeting rooms, and they have to get you out of there around 2, 3 o’clock so the players can come in for meetings. In that case, you’ll do [reports] after practice once you get back to your hotel.
What do you look for in a prospect?
Ritcher: The film will be the starting point of that. You know obviously you want to see some of the athletic traits and all that, and then the background you want to see if the makeup, the wiring, all that kind of adds up.
Skansi: Boy, you look for a lot of things. You really want to look for talent, first and foremost -- if they can play in the league -- and you also want to look at character, what kind of makeup they have as a person. Will they be able to adjust to the league? You don’t know. That’s kind of the tough part. But you try to reduce your misses, so to speak, based on your talent and based on the character of the person.
Whittington: The most important thing is if they love the game. If they love football, if it’s important to him. Obviously the talent is going to place them where they get placed, but as far as a character standpoint and what you want, what’s really going to make your team is a guy who really wants to play. … You can see it on the film, and the way people talk about them. Their coaches, the support staff, they know pretty quick if a guy is all-in.
What type of research goes into evaluating a player?
Gribble: A lot of times it’s just clues. When you’re talking to different sources at a school. It could be a janitor that might mention something that sets you off. It could just be his actions at practice. The more investigating you do, it might just lead you down a path to help you figure out a guy. Anyone you can talk to, you want to grab him because you just never know where you’re going to get that information that helps it make sense in your mind.
Ritcher: Obviously when we go into the school we’re talking to many different sources. You’re talking to the trainers, you’re talking to the coaches, you’re talking to the equipment guys. So when you’re at the school, you’re trying to talk to as many people as you can.
Evans: For the most part, the tape is the tape, and that's what you'll always go back to. That's what you saw in the fall. There's times where a small-school guy does well at the Senior Bowl or East-West where they're faced with better competition. It would be a little bit different with those guys. But for the most part, those FBS-school guys, the tape is the tape. If they run well, maybe check back on the tape -- maybe something you didn't see -- but it's not going to be too big of a bump based on the combine and athletic testing.
Skansi: It depends on the player. It depends on what issues you find, how much you want to go into their background, into the type of person they are. Some you dig further, some you don’t have to dig much at all based on the information you get at the school. If there’s any discrepancies with what information you’re getting, then you dig a little further.
Terry: For the most part, the film tells me what I need to know. Now, with the Combine, and with Pro day, the circuit and all that, I kind of measure it up and make sure they’re on the same type of level in terms of what I saw in the fall, make sure it matches up correctly. Sometimes guys surprise you, sometimes guys run faster than you thought, sometimes they run slower than you thought. But for the most part, they match up pretty well.
Whittington: We’ll do tape over the summer on the prospects and work off of a list we get from BLESTO scout [Harrison Ritcher], so we kind of have an idea of who we are going to look for once we get in there. The more guys you talk to, the coach might like someone who’s a backup for them or a special teamer that wasn’t really on your radar, so you have to look at him, and the list grows as the fall goes for sure.
What's the best part about being a scout?
Gribble: I tell people all the time I’ve never worked a day in my life. I absolutely love this job. It’s part private investigator, it’s part talent evaluator, you’re part of the team. I just love it. And there's a competitive aspect. You’re always striving to win a Super Bowl.
Ritcher: I love being on the road. I love going into schools trying to find guys. It’s a privilege to do it.
Cook: The camaraderie with the scouts. I love the scouts, I love the coaches that have gone to other teams, other schools, other colleges. I enjoy just the camaraderie in this scouting world. I’ve seen a lot of changes; I’ve been doing these the past three and a half decades and I love the way we interact.
Evans: We have a lot of input as area scouts. Our voice is taken seriously. Kyle [Smith] does a great job with us listening to us, listening to our input, respecting our grades. I think he gives us a lot of leeway on the road to do our job, and that’s what I like most about the Redskins is that I really have a say for the players that I want for the Washington Redskins.
Skansi: I love the people. I love the guys I work with. That’s important, and it makes your job a lot easier, especially when you’re on the road so much. The camaraderie we get within the group, that’s the biggest thing I like.
Spencer: Just finding players man. Just going to a new place every day, talking to the coaches, finding out the background and just trying to find some talent for the team. I’d say being somewhere different everyday. The travel is a strain on you sometimes, but it’s also cool because you get to see the different football buildings and talk to people every day. At the end of the day you’re watching football all the time, so that’s pretty cool.
What's it like when the Redskins draft a player you primarily scouted?
Ritcher: As a scout, we all have those guys we kind of like more than the rest of the group. We’ll bet on our horses if you will, and you’re always excited to see those guys pan out.
Cook: It feels like my baby. You gave him birth, you know, blew air in his lungs. It’s one of those things. I enjoy it. I enjoy every guy that the Redskins take because they are all our opinions, and I just feel like we can fill this team with some really good solid players that fit us.
Skansi: That’s the culmination of everything, draft night. It’s all the work we do during the year. When you see a player that you really kind of get to know and you like -- you like as a person and you like as a player -- and you actually get a chance to have him on your team, I really like that.
Spencer: It’s exciting man. Just going through the process, and you know you do all this work figuring out all the background and watching the tape. And then they're there and you have an opportunity to pick him and now he’s a Redskin -- it’s pretty exciting.