Scouts have two main duties during the preseason: evaluate the team’s roster and evaluate the league. The goal is to evaluate every single player on every team. This becomes even more critical if you have a high waiver wire position. The opportunity to claim players has the potential to expedite team resurgence and provide both depth and special teams value. While difficult, it is possible to find impact players that fell through the cracks on their specific teams.
Scouts are assigned teams to evaluate. This can range from a single team to an entire division, depending on the number of scouts a particular team has. The expectation is that you have an excellent feel for the roster, injuries, cut candidates, depth charts, and potential “hot list” players. Any and all information should be considered when attempting to project a final 53. That means watching daily press conferences to see if any information slips to reading daily league news that is filtered into your email (Rotoworld is also a good source for player news). It also means following teams beat writers for daily info and potential injury updates. They’ll give you a good feel for who is practicing and who can’t seem to get on the field. The most critical of all, though, is watching the film. Scouts should have a great feel for rotations and depth charts. They are expected to evaluate the film and identify any potential cut candidates that could immediately help the team. These claimable players are tagged and put on the “hot list”. Any player that flashes should get tagged to receive further evaluation. Developmental prospects should also be tagged. These are considered prospects that have the physical traits to ascend.
The assigned scout is the first filter in the evaluation. Once a player is tagged, they get multiple scout’s eyes on their film. These are considered the cross-checkers and are typically directors, pro scouts, and road scouts. They then evaluate the film, write up the player, place a grade, and communicate their findings in a preseason meeting. They are filter number two. The final decision is ultimately made by the leadership group. They will do their evaluation and talk through scenarios that will help them put the best roster on the field. The tricky thing about waiver claims is that you do not know who else put claims on these players. If you put a claim on the player and have the highest waiver position, you are assigned that player and must then release someone to create a roster spot. This is why strategy is critical, you can’t just put in a claim on every single player that could potentially help you because, if no one else does, you are forced to create a roster spot for all players assigned.
From a scout’s perspective, knowing the back end of your assigned teams’ roster is critical. Ever notice how, as the cutdowns approach, there tends to be backend trades of “no-name” guys that most people have never heard of? This occurs because two teams identified players that can make a team but aren’t in line to make theirs so they swap back-end roster guys to fill depth at weaker positions. These types of conversations happen way more than you know. In 2017, I had been assigned the Washington Football Team. During the last week of the preseason, I was called into the Pro Directors office and asked to give a rundown of the backend of Washington’s roster. Who was at risk of being cut, who could potentially help us, and who we should target in a trade? They needed some o-line depth and we had a few candidates that weren’t going to make the 53. I was to send a list of trade targets to the GM to assist in negotiations. Ultimately, our targets made their team and a trade never materialized but the importance of understanding these rosters never left me. You never know when your work will be needed in decisions, it’s critical you put in the requisite time and are prepared.
The conclusion of the preseason is an awesome time to be a scout. The preseason sprint is over, you now have the roster that will represent the culmination of 16 months of hard work. Expectations are varied but hopes are always high. This could be the year.
For scouts, the regular season is another shift in focus. For some, it’s assisting coaches with the evaluations of future opponents, for others, it’s visiting schools and looking for that next crop of future stars that’ll elevate your team to the ultimate prize. More on the regular season duties in the next blog.