What really happens at Pro Days? "It's recruiting all over again."

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NFL scouts

Stick to your Twitter feed around this time of year and you'll start believing every NFL scout is a bitter 60-something, mad at the world he never became a coach or executive, who travels his area looking for things not to like about the 21-year-olds he's assigned to evaluate.

Basically, this.

But, naturally, the job goes far beyond critiquing a player's skill in the kitchen. And much of that job consists of Pro Day after Pro Day after Pro Day.

As Jeff Greenberg writes for Sports Glutton, most scouts arrive at Pro Days knowing everything they already need to know about every player competing. Instead, the day is spent confirming their evaluation of the player, checking out any surprise players added to the list late in the process, and recruiting.

Yes, recruiting.

At one of the pro days I stood and listened to a few scouts quiz a player pretty hard. Well, they were casual and friendly in tone, but their questions were not easy. The player handled it the best he could, but it wasn’t hard for the scouts to get him mixed up in his answers. The player was clearly nervous and wanting to represent himself well. Of course, who doesn’t get nervous in a job interview? I noticed one or two of the scouts hang back with him after the questions ended and gave him their cards. I pulled one of them aside to ask why they did that.

He explained, “Well, he didn’t do badly with the questions because in the end, he told the truth and was honest, which is what I needed to see. He has some decent film and had a great workout today. We’re interested in signing him as a free agent after the draft and I wanted to make sure he knew that and who I was so that a relationship was established.”

Therein lies another part of this draft process, the free agent market after the draft. A father at one of the pro days mentioned to me that his son had been out to dinner with a scout the night before and was going out to dinner with another after his pro day was done. That struck me as odd because that particular player was not really showing up on any mock drafts nor was he one of the main guys I heard being discussed among the scouts during the pro day. Cavanaugh explained exactly what all that meant in the scouting world.

“It’s like the recruiting process all over again. There are always a certain group of guys teams will target to sign as free agents after the draft. Well at that point, those guys can sign wherever they want and may have multiple options. If they’ve never heard from you before that point then the chances of them choosing to sign with your team are slim to none. Guys will sign with people they know.”

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