Russ Lande, a former scout with the Rams that now writes a draft preview publication and blogs for Sporting News, was on with ESPN's Bob and Groz yesterday, and made some interesting points about NFL teams' use of smoke and mirros during this time of year. None of this will be new information, none is news to you, but I did find it interesting to hear from one of the more respected analysts in the business exactly how these campaigns of deliberate leaks and calculated misinformation work in the real world.
When the Seahawks surprisingly chose James Carpenter last year with the 25th pick in the Draft, John Schneider noted in a post-draft interview that, "We tried to stay under the radar with this guy. We told our group yesterday that we were very proud of them that his name never got out." This lines up pretty well with a few things that Lande mentioned as to the modus operandi of teams at this time of year.
"Teams are constantly trying to [feed reporters and media bad information]. I mean, the perfect example, this morning, I got a text message from someone that works for a team saying, 'Hey, just finished final meetings - if Michael Brockers is there, he is definitely our pick.'"
"No one's going to tell anybody that!"
"And clearly, I know this guy, and I consider him, not a friend but an acquaintance, and [Groz: And he's using you!]... They all are! I shouldn't say most teams - in many teams draft rooms, starting three months ago, when you've gone through your preliminary meetings with your coaches and scouts, they'll put a list and say:
'Hey, here's 20 guys - anybody asks you about them, "we love this kid!" Nobody says anything negative, tell every reporter - if they have questions, talk about this kid.'
'Here's 20 guys, I don't ever want to hear their names mentioned outside of this room, even if you're at dinner talking amongst yourselves. Don't ever speak about this.'
"They do everything they can to get names out there. And, sometimes teams also put stuff in the press so if they want to take a guy higher than everybody projects him to go, they won't get killed in the media because someone will put the name out there. That's one of the rumors that everyone says about when the Chiefs took Tyson Jackson a few years ago, out of LSU, most teams had him as a 3rd, 4th rounder, a lot of people believed that the Chiefs put the word out there that he was an elite prospect so when they took him 3rd overall, they wouldn't get a lot of backlash. Except, the fact that he's been a flop now, now they can get punished for it."
Now - obviously, information does get out now and again. It's an inevitability, especially now that the NFL and the Draft is such a big industry. As Robert Redford's character in Spy Game, Nathan Muir, would put it - "It's a small world. People talk."
Inevitably, someone spills the beans on this, that, or the other thing. Information gets out, and teams' plans get leaked. It happens every year. Sifting through all the rumors and misinformation to land on what's real intel is the tough part though, something that is essentially impossible as an outsider looking in until after the fact.
Lande was next asked about what he does when a team offers a nugget of information. How does one respond? Is the first inclination to say "I ain't putting that out there?"
"You know, the only ones that I'll put out there are from the ones that I know and trust immensely, and are really good about stuff. They'll say, 'Hey, I'm willing to tell you the position we're going to address, if you promise me you'll use the guy's name in the mock draft, that I want used.'"
"And to me, that's a fair tradeoff, because for me, at least I can narrow down what they're looking for. And, I just promise not to use a few names and just use a few other names in the mock drafts. And that's a fair tradeoff for me. But you have to be very careful of who you're dealing with, and you have to remember the relationship you've had with them, because everybody lies, and this is the part of the year where the best guys in the business won't even talk to their best friends in the league, because they don't want to have to lie to them."
"Because they have to. You cannot take the risk. You're talking about - teams put $3 million dollars into their scouting budget; you're signing these players for millions of dollars; Can you afford to let it slip and miss on the one guy in the first round you're really targeting? You can't. You'd get fired over that."
Food for thought anyway, with just about 30 hours until the Draft starts. Listen to the full interview here.