NFL Draft Process Should be as Scientific As Possible, Polian Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Certain words Bill Polian doesn't want to hear around the NFL Draft.
Polian, preparing for his 12th draft as the Colts' president, said he and his football operations/scouting staff have spent years developing a system for evaluating and selecting players with an emphasis very much on the word, "system."
Measurables are imant in the system. So is data.
What isn't important, Polian said, are "feelings" and "unsupported" opinions, which leads to one of the words Polian doesn't want to hear:
Gut – as in, a "gut feel" on a player.
"'Gut' should never come into play in evaluation," Polian said recently.
Polian, long considered one of the NFL's top evaluators of talent, is in charge of a personnel staff that has had one of the league's most successful draft records over the past 11 years.
Peyton Manning. Edgerrin James.
Reggie Wayne. Dwight Freeney.
Bob Sanders. Dallas Clark. Joseph Addai.
All have been the first player selected by the Colts in the draft in the last 11 years, and the group has been selected to a total of 23 Pro Bowls.
In all, Polian draftees have combined for 26 Pro Bowl appearances with the Colts, and 27 overall including an appearance with the Washington Redskins by linebacker Marcus Washington, who was selected by the Colts in the second round of the 2000 NFL Draft.
The key, Polian said, is an approach that's part science and part art, and really, he said, a combination of the two.
"We try to make it as scientific as we can, but in the end, there's a lot more art than science," said Polian, who also built four consecutive Super Bowl teams (1990-93) in Buffalo and a 1996 NFC Championship Game team in Carolina.
Polian said while the system is important, the people executing it are critical.
"Experience, having the talent to judge players – and it is a talent and a skill – is terribly important," he said.
Once the talent is judged, Polian said another step in the system is taking the information and using it to select players. That, he said, becomes paramount in the coming week.
"Managing the process is another issue that takes place in the couple of days leading up to the draft – and then the draft itself," he said.
Polian said the process wasn't always as systematic as it is now. Far from it.
"We have gone from almost no science to all kinds of science all across the board in terms of trying to measure accurately what people can and can't do, but in the end, there's still more art than science to it," Polian said.
The idea, Polian said, is to create a system from in which the art process can properly flow and create the best roster possible. And to do so without the use of a certain word.
"It's designed to create an orderly flow of information so that gut never gets into it," Polian said. "It's designed to keep gut out and make an objective decision. 'I like this guy' is never a reason to draft a player."
Which, by the way, is another set of words Polian said he doesn't want to hear from scouts or personnel people in the weeks leading to a draft. But he is willing to hear the phrase if connected to something else.
"I don't want to hear, 'I like this guy,'' Polian said. "I want to hear why you like him and why he is going to make us a better football team, why he can be a good player in the NFL.
"That means measurables. It means so-called 'intangibles,' which we try very hard to measure. It means production. It means visual evidence. It means data. It means all of those kinds of things."