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Draft's Underclassmen Put Scouts In A Time Crunch

It's happening all across the league right now. The college scouting department for every team in the NFL is working quickly to hand out assignments to their scouts to begin the accelerated job of evaluating the underclassmen who have declared themselves eligible for the NFL Draft.

The NFL issued the official list Friday. College underclassmen had until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft, but then had a four-day window to withdraw their name if they so chose. Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan was one player who reversed his decision and will return to the Rainbows for his senior season.

A total of 40 players have jumped into the draft pool early, and while the added talent enhances the quality of the class, it's up to the Bills' scouting department to determine how much those players have enhanced it.

While that seems like a simple assignment for those who evaluate players every day, it's a bit different when the busy offseason is already underway.

"This is the part of the evaluation process that really is on fast forward," said Bills coordinator of college scouting Doug Majeski. "We can't methodically go through these players like we did with the seniors in the fall. We've got 30 to 50 names and we've got to get them done before our first draft meeting so we know how they fit into our board."

That first draft meeting generally occurs during the first week of February when the Bills put an initial draft board together.

With ten full-time members on Buffalo's college scouting staff dividing up 40 players to be properly evaluated over a two week span doesn't seem like a problem. However, there are other responsibilities on the calendar.

"Next week we have the Senior Bowl so that interrupts the process," Majeski said. "So by the time we get back we have about 10 days to get 40 players written up and evaluated to the point where we can at least slot them on our board with respect to playing ability."

The scouts are assigned players based on the areas and schools they covered during the fall. With relationships established on those college campuses, those scouts are usually able to acquire the basic information they need on the underclassmen who have declared.

But there are some snags that scouts can encounter.

"We make any phone calls we feel we need to make to the college coaching staffs, but sometimes that's hard depending on their schedules because they could be out recruiting," Majeski said. "Mainly we go off of tape now."

Buffalo's scouts evaluate the players almost solely on playing ability in the abbreviated time they have to put a report together on an underclassman. They won't be able to get accurate height and weight measurements or 40-times until the NFL combine in late February. The more detailed information will simply have to be gathered later.

"The background stuff on those prospects has to evolve and come together slowly after our initial board is put together," Majeski said. "We really only have time to grade them off tape at first. Then a bit later in the process we'll be able to discuss the character, background and mental abilities of the juniors. It always seems like you're really pushing to get the juniors finished up. There is a rush on our part."

The scouting department usually ties up all of their loose ends at the player combine and when they return to college campuses in the spring.

"When we go back to the schools in the spring for the workouts we'll talk to the strength coaches and the staff and the people in academics and anybody else we need to in order to get everything we typically require for an accurate report on a player," said Majeski.

Some might ask why not just start early on the junior players who are likely to come out and skip their senior season. Majeski says that's not exactly a foolproof plan.

"We stick with evaluating the seniors unless the school's coaching staff is adamant about a guy coming out early," he said. "They might encourage you to look at a player early and then we might do it. Other than that we don't touch the juniors until they declare. Too often everybody talks about coming out and then when the list comes out they're not on it so you run the risk of wasting your time."

And while wasting time is not good for any scout in the fall, it's not even an option when it comes to getting the underclassmen evaluated now.

"It takes longer to get the juniors done because we haven't focused on these players and then all of a sudden we have to focus on them," said Majeski. "So the process is sped up to meet our deadlines. Then later on we can get a more complete evaluation done on them prior to our final draft board meetings."

Here is the official NFL list of underclassmen who have declared for the 2007 NFL draft this spring.

Player Pos. CollegePlayer Pos. College
Abbate, Jon LB Wake ForestLynch, Marshawn RB California
Anderson, Jamaal DE ArkansasMeachem, Robert WR Tennessee
Applewhite, Antwan DE San Diego StateMiller, Zach TE Arizona State
Beason, Jon LB MiamiMoss, Jarvis DE Florida
Bradshaw, Ahmad RB MarshallNelson, Reggie DB Florida
Branch, Alan DT MichiganOlsen, Greg TE Miami
Bush, Michael RB LouisvillePeterson, Adrian RB Oklahoma
Carter, Keenan NT VirginiaPittman, Antonio RB Ohio State
Doughty, Stanley DT South CarolinaRevis, Darrelle DB Pittsburgh
Gaddis, C.J. DB ClemsonRice, Sidney WR South Carolina
Ginn Jr., Ted WR Ohio StateRussell, Gary RB Minnesota
Gonzalez, Anthony WR Ohio StateRussell, JaMarcus QB Louisiana State
Henry, Chris RB ArizonaSiler, Brandon LB Florida
Houston, Chris DB ArkansasSmith, Ryan DB Florida
Jack, Jason DE Texas A&MStratton, Brock LB Texas Tech
Jackson, Brandon RB NebraskaTaylor, Ramonce RB Texas
Jarrett, Dwayne WR Southern CaliforniaTimmons, Lawrence LB Florida State
Johnson, Calvin WR Georgia TechWalker, Darius RB Notre Dame
Johnson, Charles DE GeorgiaWare, Danny RB Georgia
Johnson, Rory LB MississippiWright, Eric DB Nevada-Las Vegas
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