GETTING DOWN TO IT

In the NFL Draft process, early April is about setting the team's draft board, Colts President Bill Polian says. Generally, Polian said the process is far more about what a player does on the field than about workout numbers gathered in recent weeks.

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Early April is About Round-by-Round Work on the Draft Board, Polian Says
INDIANAPOLIS – The Pro Days are pretty much over, not that Bill Polian is a huge fan, anyway.

But for followers of the NFL Draft, that leads to a question:

What now?

Polian, entering his 12th season as the Colts' President, said recently with the major pre-draft evaluation period known as on-campus Pro Days basically having ended in late March and early April, the rest of April's early weeks bring about a critical part of the draft-preparation process:

Setting the draft board.

And while Polian says a lot of the work toward that has been done through the course of the past year, he said the work done now is also key.

"The board already exists based on grades that (Colts) scouts developed in December," Polian said recently as he prepared for the 2009 NFL Draft, which will be held April 25-26 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

"Then, we begin to go at it round by round. We adjust based on what we know now."

Polian, long considered one of the NFL's top evaluators of talent and top drafters, said in the Colts' system, the recent months of the evaluation process – the ones between the end of the season and finalizing the board – are imant, but not inordinately so.

The college All-Star games in January . . .

The NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in February . . .

The little-more-than-a-month period in late February, March and early April of Pro Days, when scouts fly the country to watch players run, lift, throw and catch on their college campuses . . .

All are valuable, Polian said.

Just not as valuable as what happens in the fall.

"I put more value on what they do in shoulder pads and helmets in four years," Polian said.

Asked if he attends Pro Days, he said, "I do not."

"Pro Days are about numbers, and we can gather the numbers," he said. "I would never grade a player based on how he performed on his Pro Day. I'm not good enough to do that."

Polian said while there are "old wives' tales" about certain schools having "faster tracks" or downhill surfaces on which to run the 40-yard dash, he said when it comes to Pro Days, "You get relatively accurate information from it.

"There are less variables at the combine," he said, "because the surfaces on which players run and all of that stuff varies from school to school, but they (colleges) run it (Pro Days) on the up and up. There's nothing untoward about it. It's just that there are more variables.

"I would never judge a player based on how he physically performs at a Pro Day. It's just about the numbers."

Polian said the first part of April involves meeting with coaches regarding specific positions. "We sit down and listen the coaches report," he said. "They've been given some players to look at and we listen to their reports. We factor those into the grading system."

Next is entering injury information and psychological reports into the equation, with additional injury information gathered at what is known as "Indy 2," a second version of the NFL Scouting Combine typically held in early April in Indianapolis and largely dedicated to medical examinations.

"We gather that data and put it into the system," he said. "We finish the physical and background data and put that into the system."

Entering that data and honing the draft board in the coming weeks, while critical, isn't necessarily a process that features huge shifts in a player's status, Polian said.

In fact, he said, ideally a player's status won't change much during the coming weeks.

"First of all, you don't want to make a huge change between what your scouts have seen in the college season and what you know now," he said. "Unless what you have learned is critical."

Polian said while players often come off the board because of injury, it typically takes a fairly drastic development to significantly change a player's status based on something that occurred in a workout. For that reason, he said a great deal of checking and double-checking of information occurs during April's process.

"If you had a wide receiver graded as second round and it was believed he was a 4.5 guy and he runs 4.75 – you'd want to determine which time is accurate and why," Polian said. "That's the kind of thing you do as you input stuff into the system.

"If that hypothetical developed, you wouldn't have that receiver in the second round at that speed, so you'd make a pretty drastic reduction in his status.

"That's rare, and you shouldn't do it unless it's for a drastic reason."

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