Drafting in the 21st Century no sure bet for NFL GMs

EDEN PRAIRIE, MN - SEPTEMBER 17: General Manager Rick Spielman of the Minnesota Vikings speaks to the media during a press conference on September 17, 2014 at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The Vikings addressed their decision to put Adrian Peter

It’s pretty clear that the NFL Draft has changed quite a bit over the years. Back in the early days it was a business meeting that garnered a good deal  of follow up in the next morning’s papers. Today it’s a spectacle in and of itself.  Now a traveling roadshow, the NFL Draft brings with it wall-to-wall coverage and extensive [over]analysis on each and every player rounds 1 through 7. 

That’s how it looks on the outside for the fans following their favorite teams, but it’s changed on the inside as well. The process that goes into drafting a player in 2017 is light years different from the way it was for the first NFL Draft back in 1936. 

Today, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman went over some of those differences dissecting how drafting millennials can be both a challenge and blessing.

The biggest difference according to Spielman surrounds how the team digs into social media. Back in the day, you had to rely on first hand accounts and newspaper quotes to get an idea what kind of a person a player really was away from the football field. That’s different today as players preparing to enter the NFL have an instagram account, twitter account, facebook page and snapchat account where they willingly dump loads of information that can be assessed by future employers to determine bits and pieces of your character.

“We have our social media team here dig up everything they can,” Spielman said at his pre-draft press conference Tuesday afternoon. “They do a great job getting as much information as they can…[going into the Combine and top 30 meetings] I have a report with everything that [the players posting on the internet, everything on social media. Some of these players are surprised with what we pull out.”

Armed with that ammo consisting of quotes, songs and photos posted by the player on their personal accounts, Spielman and his team question potential draftees on these things. Why did you post this? What is this supposed to me? Do you really believe this? Do you know this is public? Just a few of the questions that I could imagine coming about throughout these conversations.

But it’s still not a perfect science. 

“Things still pop up on draft day,” Spielman mentioned. “Surprises.”

With those surprises you react on the spot hoping that all your preparation has prepared you to make the correct potential spur of the moment decision either for or against drafting a particular player.

Another interesting 21st century dynamic popping up in this year’s draft surrounds the existence of cell phone video and leaked security footage that has incriminated players like Joe Mixon who are looking to be a part of this year’s draft class. Footage was released back in 2016 showing Mixon punching a woman in the face at a bar. That sort of evidence was merely hearsay back in the 50s and 60s. Today, the visual of that situation is unavoidable.

“You try to minimize the risk as much as possible by getting the most information that you can,” Rick explained. “But you can never eliminate risk.”

Spielman also mentioned that whether it’s fair or not, talent does factor in. If you’re a late round guy with a handful of red flags, you’ll get “red-dotted” or eliminated from the draft board a lot faster than if you’re a first round guy.

It’s clear that the Vikings are pondering a handful of players that are bringing a little baggage with them into the league. I guess we’ll have to trust that they’ve done their due diligence on each specific scenario as we’ve seen players with problems go both ways when they enter the league. Here’s hoping for more “Randy Mosses” than “Randy Gregorys” for this year’s class. 

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