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NFL GM on the Draft: 'When you get in trouble is when you reach for need'

It all seems pretty self-explanatory. In the NFL Draft, you want to take the best player available. But if it was all so simple, there would be no busts and all 32 teams would have a successful Draft year after year. But, obviously, that isn't the case. Just ask Jerry Jones. 

As the NFL season wraps up on Sunday, front office personnel will spend the next few months in the player procurement season, scouring the scrap heap for free agents and popping in tape after tape for May's Draft. After 15 years in the New York Giants' personnel department, Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman had an incredibly successful debut voyage as the man with the final call. The Panthers drafted defensive tackle Star Lotulelei in the first round and nabbed another defensive tackle, Kawann Short, in the second round. 

Gettleman's efforts helped Carolina jump from 7-9 to 12-4 with an NFC South championship, aiding head coach Ron Rivera in securing a three-year contract extension. He spoke with the Charlotte Observer on Monday about his draft philosophy. We found these answers interesting:

On the process of scouting a lower-division player:

If it’s a lower-level guy, you look to see if he steps up. When I was with Denver, John Mobley was a linebacker out of Kutztown (Pa.). When you’re a road (scout) and you evaluate a I-AA or Division II kid on down, what you want to do is, first of all, he has to dominate that level. Second of all, you have to close your eyes, and for Kutztown, the closest school is Penn State, so I’m watching the film on John and asking myself, can he start at Penn State?

John was a man among boys, so check that box. Yes I could picture him starting at Penn State. Then he got invited to the Blue-Gray game and played well, and then he got invited to the Senior Bowl and he stepped it up again. Now we’re in draft meetings and you’ve just watched that Senior Bowl film, and you don’t have to guess. You’re looking for a guy to step up, a guy from a (Mid-American) school, what he’s going to do against the SEC schools? That’s what you’re looking for.

How do they practice? How do they handle the all-star game hoopla? You can tell on the practice field. And then of course, are they going to be able to become pros? That’s not just physically, that’s about becoming a professional. Somewhere like where Luke (Kuechly) is. He’s in his second year, and it’s like he’s a 10-year vet.

On how to use free agency to prepare for the draft:

The purpose until March 11 (and the start of free agency), the whole purpose of this is to put yourself into a position so that when the draft comes, you can take the best player. I can’t say it enough. We had the perfect storm this year. The best player on our draft board at the time we drafted in the first two rounds was there.

On how to avoid busts:

You want to put yourself in the position to take the best player on the board. Because when you get into trouble is when you reach for need. That’s when you get into trouble.

Read the full Q&A here.