INDIANAPOLIS – When the draft kicks off tonight at 8:00 p.m., it will be the 15th of Ryan Grigson’s NFL career.
A Bengals draft pick in 1995, Grigson had a brief tenure with Cincinnati and Detroit before playing a year in the CFL with Toronto.
In 1999, Grigson was a national scout with St. Louis, and his uninterrupted career in personnel circles wound through Philadelphia before reaching Indianapolis in 2012.
Along the way, Grigson has performed almost every draft-day duty, prepping him to run the process as his career matured.
Grigson feels individual conviction is an essential commodity in feeding the lifeblood of a team – the draft.
“If you (ask) 20 scouts, I’m confident they’d all say ‘I’m so anti-herd mentality.’ That’s the easy way to go,” said Grigson. “If you just agree with everyone, then you have shelter. If you stand outside the pack and you beat the drum for something that’s not popular, then you stand alone.”
Every team invests a dollar value into seven figures to scour the nation for talent. Six area scouts are assigned schools that help take the process down from an estimated 12,000 eligible draftees to the 300 or so on Grigson’s board deep inside the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Grigson once traveled the scouting road, chatting up coaches, trainers and academic advisors in addition to poring over near-endless videotape.
The legwork yields critical information on a prospect, and Grigson wants his lieutenants to make stands as he did.
“It shows you have courage,” said Grigson. “It also shows you believe in that player and that opinion you formulated by hard work.
“That’s something I told our staff when I opened our draft meetings, ‘This is your venue to state your opinion. You were away from your families. You were on the road. You were guzzling coffee and staying in bad hotel rooms. You put in all the work, so you should have a strong opinion. Now, talk about your guy.’ ”
Last year, Indianapolis owned the top pick. It grabbed
This year, the earliest it can draft is 24th. In addition, the team owns the 86th (third round), 121st (fourth), 192nd (sixth), 230th (seventh) and 254th (seventh, compensatory) selections.
As the board falls, Grigson hopes to see a player staring him in the face that will elicit “high-fives” and “fist bumps.” Shy of that, he said the team could move out of the 24th spot as it stalks prospects who are more than just “okay.”
Grigson almost totally overhauled the roster last year. In the playoffs, only 17 players had been with the team previously.
This year, the turnover likely will not be as dramatic, but the urgency to supply talent to create competition across the units has not subsided.
When the club is on the clock, the personnel staff will not be on the spot. Preparation has led to the moment and Grigson’s men have made every stand possible. After all, it has been a mandate.
“I feel like if you go with the flow, you’re just going to be an also-ran,” said Grigson.