The 2014 NFL Draft is officially behind us, and while fans will debate specific grades for each team, the only certainty is…uncertainty. While each of the 32 NFL teams has spent an unimaginable amount of time scouting thousands of players and preparing draft boards, the truth is that the NFL Draft is an inexact science.
As fans, we’re conditioned to succumb to the experts, who seemingly know it all, but no one ever does. A sure-fire star like Ryan Leaf turned out to be one of the biggest busts of all time, while a sixth-round diamond-in-the-rough named Tom Brady turned out to be one of the greatest of all time.
There is no certainty because, at the end of the day, the human element is unpredictable. These college athletes are analyzed in every way possible, from game film to workouts, Wonderlic scores, and interviews. All of the results are categorized, compiled, and compared – resulting in draft-day decisions based on greatest positional need or best available player.
But no matter how much a player’s past can be evaluated to predict his future, it’s still only a prediction.
Can Technology Help?
No matter what industry, the future of business has one common denominator… technology. Whether it’s resource optimization or the networked economy, the digital revolution is just getting started. But how is it shaping the sports and entertainment industry? For starters, I entered two March Madness tournaments this year and leaned on predictive analytics to make my decisions for me. As a result, I finished first in one league and second in the other – not too shabby, considering my historically embarrassing track record …
- TSG Hoffenheim, the German soccer team, uses wearable technology for personalized training and game planning.
- McLaren Mercedes runs Formula One race day simulations 6.5 million times during the engineering phase to perfect their cars.
- The Women’s Tennis Association uses in-memory computing in the cloud to collect customizable statistics and build strategies against opponents in real time.
- The NBA uses the SAP HANA platform to provide coaches, players, and fans with advanced statistics like never before. Check it out now for the playoffs at www.nba.com/stats.
But all of these advances are fairly concrete – they help collect and deliver valuable information. With the NFL Draft, determining a player’s fit into a new scheme and calculating things like how he will be affected by money are certainly a bit more intangible. Internal drive is difficult to quantify, this has been the biggest dilemma in evaluating the freakish athlete, Jadeveon Clowney. Most of these kids dream not of a Super Bowl, but of being drafted. Will they remain hungry after their dream comes true?
An Impossible Mission?
A scouting solution are not meant to be crystal balls. But it can simplify a highly complex process. By bringing together the cloud and the power of in-memory technologies, it helps teams step forward in making key player personnel decisions, allowing scouts to:
- Enter player evaluations with ease
- Create a unified picture of each prospect
- Compare prospects in real time and benchmark against existing professionals at their position
- Collaborate to develop an interactive draft board
The San Francisco 49ers use a scouting solution to simplify information by creating an accessible, central repository for player information. It allows them to spend more time scouting as opposed to pulling data. One of many methods that Jim Harbaugh, former quarterback and current head coach of the 49ers uses during player evaluations is as simple as having a catch.
He likes to toss the ball around while conversing with prospects. Nonchalantly, he’ll start throwing harder and expect the prospect to do the same. He’s looking for that fire from within. In a highly competitive sport, if the recipient keeps lobbing the ball back, it’ll disappoint him. But, if the player starts rifling back harder and harder, Jim knows he’s working with someone that wants to win, regardless of the stakes.
And in retrospect, some of the analysts (Mel Kiper, SB Nation, and NFL.com) seem to think the 49ers had an excellent draft day, receiving grades of A, A-, and B+. An impressive 78% of fans even ranked them in the “A” range.
For a team as technologically advanced as the 49ers, Harbaugh’s old school method might seem a bit impractical. But come draft day, it’s about providing an easier way for the experts to make their decisions. Scouting technology doesn’t suggest or supersede… simply put, it simplifies.
What team do you think had the best draft day?