Michael Lombardi of NFL.com today wrote an interesting column about former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh’s approach to the draft that included a good reminder for all of us who closely follow the draft process.
Walsh learned the NFL as an assistant coach for Paul Brown, one of professional football’s great innovators and thinkers. His influence remains profound.
The whole column is worth the read, but the part that jumped out to me was at the beginning, where Lombardi talks about Walsh’s distaste for scouts describing prospects by draft round.
It’s a good reminder that the draft is as much art as science and that no matter what you think you know from reading up before the draft, there probably are only rare instances where it’s justified to criticize a pick when it’s made. You just never know how the players are going to turn out. Scouts included. So they should grade players on what they see, not where they think other teams will take them.
“Walsh hated hearing a scout tell him a player was, for example, not a good second-rounder, but a great third-rounder,” Lombardi wrote. “He always said the only time people talk about rounds is in draft preparation and on draft day. Never during any player’s career, Walsh would vent, does anyone say a player was picked in the right round. (Starting) the day after the draft, every player is graded on his playing performance, not his selection round. Walsh only cared about what a player would be able to do for his team. He thought “round talk” was the wrong way for a scout to measure his own abilities. It was not talent evaluation, but rather round prediction.”
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