With less than a week before the NFL draft, the Packers brain trust is hard at work doing last-minute research on prospects. It's the equivalent of cramming for a big exam. While the regular season is ultimately the final exam, the draft is a large part of what will become the team's final grade.
Teams always want to avoid the big mistake in the draft. That's hardly a news flash. But teams miss on players every year and that sometimes includes the Packers. Whether it's an inability to adjust to and grasp the pro game (otherwise known as a "bust"), issues off the field, or questions about whether a player can match his college tape (see T.J. Watt), making a mistake (especially in the early rounds) can loom very large for teams both in the short and long term.
The Packers are still looking for more from first rounders Kenny Clark and Damarious Randall. In Randall's case, they should probably already know what they have. That they don't may linger in the minds of the personnel team and general manager Ted Thompson as they make their first few selections. They've already lost 2013 first rounder Datone Jones and that can be labeled a miss. They also have success stories in Nick Perry (although his took five seasons) and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to draw on as well.
Teams work tirelessly to uncover every detail on a player that they can. They want a good return on their investment. If it's a player with character issues, they dig into every aspect that they can from hiring a private investigator to scrubbing the player's social media accounts. Teams also perform extensive interviews and ask questions such as "tell us everything you can do with a rock".
When it comes to players with character issues, most teams need ownership approval to select them. Sirius NFL Radio's Pat Kirwan recently described the process of getting that buy in. Owners don't want any surprises or bad press stemming from a lack of information on a prospect. To see an uncovered incident come to light or allegations of more trouble surface as soon as a player is drafted could spell the end for the GM who made the pick.
When it all comes down to it, teams want to avoid surprises. Recently it was discovered that top prospect Reuben Foster failed a urine test at the Combine due to a diluted sample. That could be from his consuming too much water or from a deliberate attempt to hide something that he feared he might test positive for. In a case like Foster's, teams may have to scramble to adjust their boards that they've painstakingly worked to put together up to this point. Other teams may see that as an opportunity for Foster to fall to them when he was not previously expected to. The trickle-down effect can travel amongst a few or many teams.
In the case of the Packers and with their unique organizational structure, it's hard to know exactly what the expectations are of team president Mark Murphy down to Thompson. The Packers seem to avoid drafting players with many known issues, although that has not stopped the team from bringing them in for meetings and further examination. The last thing the team wants is a situation where they have to do damage control (see Makinton Dorleant).
While many of us are filling with anticipation over the upcoming draft, there are hundreds of men and women giving the blood, sweat and tears to try and ensure that it turns out to be everything they (and we) hope for.
To us it's just a game. To them, it's "hit or bust"
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