INDIANAPOLIS — We’re getting into the nitty gritty.
Colts Productions tonight brought you Episode 3 of its five-part series, “With The Next Pick,” an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the Indianapolis Colts as they prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft. This latest installment features an interesting look at both the analytics involved with the team’s draft process, as well as how the Colts structure their board.
Need to get caught up? Want to watch every episode? You can find them all at Colts.com/NextPick, and, as always, you can see each episode at 8 p.m. every Wednesday night through May 1 on the Official Colts Mobile App, @Colts on Twitter, @Colts on Instagram and on the Colts’ official Facebook page.
Without further ado, here is Part 3 in its entirety, with some key notes below:
» You might see the title “Manager of Football Research & Strategy” on the Colts’ staff list and wonder just what someone like that would do for the team. This episode helps clear some of that up, as we’re introduced to John Park, who holds that role with the Colts. While the rest of the scouting staff is mostly focused on the purely football-related aspects of a prospect, Park is responsible for crunching the numbers and collecting the data needed to get an edge analytically so that the Colts are truly getting the kind of players they want. “Numbers help color the landscape in a way that provides nuance,” Park said. “Working with information at an aggregate level allows you to catch players that might fall through the cracks otherwise. … “We collect information on all the players, whether it’s qualitative or quantitative … that just helps us stack guys and rank them against each other.”
» General manager Chris Ballard talks about how there are certain parameters the team keeps in mind for each position group; “bottom lines” in various tests and measurements that prospects need to meet to be at their standards. “The numbers are important to us,” Ballard said. “We have some things that we look at, and the bottom lines that they have to hit just over the course of history tells you that they need to hit, and if they don’t hit ‘em, we’re gonna ask some serious questions about does this player really fit, and can he overcome it?”
» There are, of course, outliers to this, and the perfect example is Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II, who went undrafted back in 2017 out of Valdosta State, initially signed with the New England Patriots and then found his home in Indianapolis after being claimed off waivers just before the start of the 2017 regular season. It doesn’t take long to notice that Moore II is smaller than most players at his position — he stands at 5-foot-9 and weighs just less than 180 pounds — but he makes up for it with his incredible wingspan and arm length. There’s a clip of Moore II jumping and fully extending to knock down a Patrick Mahomes pass attempt in the Divisional Round game in January, which is a perfect example of the value of Moore II’s value as an outlier. A graphic shows that the league average cornerback is 5-foot-11, weighs 190 pounds, has a 72.25-inch wingspan and an arm length of 31.25 inches. Moore II is two inches shorter and 11 pounds lighter than the average NFL cornerback, but his wingspan of 78 inches is longer than the average cornerback by almost three inches, and his 36.2-inch arm length is almost five inches longer than an average player at his position.
» We see some more interesting chatter between the scouting staff inside the draft room as they watch film and go over the positives and negatives of each prospect. Here you’re introduced to guys like Matt Terpening (assistant director of college scouting), Jamie Moore (area scout), Todd Vasvari (senior player personnel scout) and Byron Lusby (area scout). Once a player gets on the board in February, the staff will watch his tape together four times, according to assistant general manager Ed Dodds.
» Oh, and that draft board? It’s a very fluid part of the draft process. Dodds said when the college season starts they have as many as 13,000 names to consider, which they get down to about 2,500 throughout the fall. The Colts then get that number down to about 250 by the time February rolls around, and then it’s around 170 names by the time the first round of the draft starts in late-April. Park says some teams might have as many as 500 players on their draft board, but, as Dodds illustrates, the Colts do things differently. “People (are) kind of like, ‘Well, 256 get drafted,’” Dodds said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, 256 get drafted. But there’s 170 that we would say fit us.’
» After the draft is over, all 32 teams scramble to try to sign the available undrafted players who are now free agents, free to go to any club where they think they could have the best opportunity to make the roster. Dodds said the Colts not only struck gold with their 11 draft picks last year, but many of the undrafted free agents they ended up signing were also on their draft board (Ballard uses the example of safety George Odum). “Almost all the (undrafted) free agents we signed last year we had on the draft board,” Dodds said. “You’re jacked when that happens, ‘cause now, like, ‘We gotta go sign this guy. We thought he was good enough to draft; we just didn’t get the opportunity to.’”