Analytics the last thing new Lions brass is worried about

New Orleans Saints assistant head coach and tight end coach Dan Campbell Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints assistant head coach and tight end coach Dan Campbell Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /
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House of Athlete Scouting Combine
House of Athlete Scouting Combine for athletes preparing to enter the 2021 NFL draft Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

Scouting the football player before the numbers

I think you can argue whether trading their first-round picks actually benefited the team more than it would have to just use them. But, either way, Los Angeles has been very successful with the mid-to-late round picks they’ve had to work with by banking on their ‘intangible’ based scouting methods.

Campbell went on to elaborate on those methods again via his interview with 96.7 The Ticket in Dallas

"“We graded these players as football players before we ever looked at the numbers. The numbers were the last thing we ever hit, which was damn near right before the draft. We’re grading the football player. That’s what we’re doing now, that’s what you have to do.”"

‘Which was damn near right before the draft‘ is what really caught my attention. That means their big boards are pretty much set before both the Saints and Rams even dove into the numbers.

Which would tell me, at that point, they’re just looking at any major outliers (good and bad) that may not run congruent with the film scouting. Then going back to the film to figure out why the two didn’t line up.

This is very similar to what Brad Holmes told Yahoo Sports back in 2019 when discussing the evolution of analytics in scouting.

"“And it’s funny now, because I am so much focused on the intangible traits way more so than the physical traits. Now I am like, ‘OK, yeah, he’s fast, but does he work hard?’ You know? I just don’t care about that stuff quite as much. Of course, I care about it. But I’ve learned so much as to why a player is or isn’t successful in this league. It falls so much on the intangibles more than the physical.”"

Both Holmes and Campbell put much a higher priority on the intangibles of a football player than his physical measurables, maybe even more so than the average regime. There’s a limit to how far you can overlook physical limitations, I think we all understand that.

As long as the player isn’t out of place athletically (Tabor) … it’s the intangibles that will get the athlete where he needs to be physically, and mentally, to compete in the NFL consistently.