It's only mid-January, but as far as the Bills College Scouting department is concerned the spring scouting season is already underway. Buffalo's talent evaluators of the college ranks have been observing some of the better draft eligible college prospects this week at three different college all-star game venues that will all be played on Saturday afternoon.
The first all-star game to be played Saturday will be the Raycom College Football Classic in Montgomery, AL at 3 pm. It will air on the CBS Sports Network. That will be followed by the East-West Shrine game, which will be played in St. Petersburg, FL at 4 pm, airing on NFL Network. Finally the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will kick off at 6 pm Saturday from Carson, California and will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Bills Assistant GM Doug Whaley, on assignment this week in St. Petersburg, and College Scouting Director Chuck Cook have dispatched members of their college scouting department to all three sites to scout practice this week and take in the Saturday games.
"We'll usually send three to four scouts to each of these college all-star games," Whaley told Buffalobills.com. "One of the major benefits from that is the ability to get one-on-one interviews and talk to the prospects. A lot of the time in the fall you don't get to speak with the players individually. Most of the time in the fall you'll get to speak to a coach, but you don't get any interaction with a player."
Scouts are looking to fill in the holes that their fall reports might have on certain prospects to which they're assigned.
"A lot of times we'll have a basic character background on the guy already so if there's anything in there that we're not sure about, be it intelligence, be it family background, the scheme they play… sometimes we might ask them what they felt their best games were, or what they feel they need to work on," Whaley said. "So you just try to get as much information possible about the guy. If we have something already that needs to be looked at more we try to address that as much as we can in the time we have with a prospect."
During the course of the practice week leading up to the Saturday games each scout is assigned specific positions to observe and evaluate.
"We'll schedule them to be responsible for two positions and what they'll do is look at those guys and interview those guys and then stack them in a ranking order and do a brief little one liner in how they looked in the game and during the practice week," Whaley said. "That's usually how we do it."
Whaley said one of the other benefits of the college all-star games is the ability to get accurate height and weight measurements as well as official arm and hand length. They also get the opportunity to perhaps see a small school prospect facing competition that's considerably better than they saw during the fall.
"There are guys here from Glenville State or smaller schools that when you see them and you're scouting them, the competition they're going up against in the fall isn't what you'd like to see them playing against knowing it's not what they would see on Sundays," said Whaley. "So when they get to an East-West Shrine game the intensity and the competition gets revved up."
In years past the only college all-star games were the East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl, which will be played next Saturday. But last year the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl got up and running and this year the Raycom College Football Classic makes its debut. To some it might come across as too much of a good thing, but that's not the way Buffalo's scouting staff sees it.
"I think for us the more exposure and the more information and the more looks you can get at a player the better," said Whaley. "For us it's a bonus. You want to be able to feel as comfortable as possible and answer any questions or alleviate any concerns you might have on a player. The more exposure you get the more you can attack and feel better about the final picture you've painted."