nfl, ryan leaf, recruiting, strategy, Toby Elwin, blog

The NFL draft and your company recruiting strategy

Ryan Leaf, talent, NFL, draft, evaluation,

Past performance does not predict future result in San Diego, Tampa Bay, or Dallas

There is little doubt each National Football League (NFL) team spends an extraordinary amount of resources preparing to draft their number 1 pick.

An NFL team’s number one pick is intended as the team’s future star and this year the NFL draft has changed their format to glorify the first round draft even more.

Sure the NFL draft rounds 2 through round 7 does allow teams to fill their talent needs or find complimentary players, but with upwards of a $30 million guaranteed payout, an NFL team looks at their first draft pick as an impact player and as a team franchise star.

However, the NFL has shown the sad state of talent evaluation because something more than technical skill is clearly required to succeed in the NFL. If technical skill was the most important evaluator of future success, then every NFL team’s first round draft pick would be a star.

The reality is every draft pick has proven their technical skill, but let me give an even more sober reality, one statistically proven: technical skill is not an indicator of future success [more on that later].

How does your organization draft (or hire)?

How does your organization assess fit?

Does your organization have an organization-wide recruiting strategy that is consistent?

Does your organization provide interview training skills for your interviewers?

Fit or Flab

How does your organization measure fit:

  • GPA?
  • IQ?
  • Work samples?
  • References?
  • Interviews?

NFL teams have an incredibly high stake in their top draft choice. As Vic Carucci of NFL.com says about an NFL team with the top overall pick,

[t]he top overall pick of the NFL draft assures its owner of only one thing: It will pay a player, who is no more a proven pro than an undrafted rookie, more than $30 million in guaranteed money just for putting his signature on a contract.

With first round draft choice guaranteed money, when a team makes a mistake on a rookie who does not deliver, the organization can be back for years. How does a bad hiring decision affect your organization?

Look at all the assessments the NFL uses to evaluate talent before they make a commitment:

  • 40 yard dash,
  • Bench press,
  • Vertical jump,
  • Broad jump,
  • 20-yard shuttle,
  • Three-cone drill,
  • 60-yard shuttle,
  • Position-specific drills,
  • Physical measurements,
  • Injury evaluation,
  • Drug screen,
  • The Cybex test,
  • The Wonderlic test,
  • Game film,
  • Scouts and coaches attending games,
  • Coaches coaching all star games,
  • Interviews, and
  • Recommendations

Even with all these evaluations teams drop the ball more than they get what they wanted. From 2000 – 2009, the total number of Pro Bowls earned by the number 1 overall pick in the NFL draft was 9. The highest amount of Pro Bowls earned by 1 player is 3 and the player with that dubious distinction is Michael Vick – he’s kind of the Kenneth Lay of number 1 picks.

Show Me the Money

So, outside Michael Vick, who has done his time and is completely rehabilitated [would you hire him?], the numbers reveal 6 Pro Bowls earned out of a possible 55 Pro Bowls. That is only 10.9% of their expected return. Do you have similar numbers when you set out to recruit stars. Of the number 1 overall picks, 3 of the 9 are no longer with the team that drafted them. [Which is a good analogy for today’s job market, but I won’t dig into that…]

As the NFL marshals great resources in talent evaluation, talent evaluation is equally your concern. How do you evaluate who to hire?

The NFL, like you, gets it wrong.

The NFL does not get it wrong not once in a while, but considering the evaluations and proportion of resources involved, the NFL gets talent evaluation so wrong, so consistently, you might begin to think the NFL were screwing up on purpose.

Some picks, however, may look more emotional than rational.

However, if talent evaluation was a simple assessment of technical ability, the NFL draft would be a certainty. The reality is in the NFL, or the NBA, NHL, MLB, and other sports leagues, the draft has come to be known, at its best, as an inexact science and, at its worst, a crap shoot.

There are more failures in stocking teams with talent then there are successes. Is your recruiting policy really a crap shoot as well?

I am sure you are thinking with the amount of footage available and resources dedicated how can an NFL team possibly misfire on so many draft choices? The talent evaluation reality is that draft day busts are far more common then draft day success.  The right person may be more cultural fit than technical fit.

Does this sound similar to your company’s strategy? Are the results of poor drafting/recruiting endangering your company or your team in the face of the market or your clients or your customers who have to deal with the results of your organization’s poor recruiting?

In practice you, and the NFL, look to assess someone’s potential on at least 4 levels, as I mentioned in human capital portfolio management:

  1. person to job [position];
  2. person to team [team/scheme];
  3. person to manager [coach]; and
  4. person to culture [organization]

Toby Elwin, draft, NFL, New England Patriots, recruiting, hire

From 2004 – 2008 the percentage of all draft choices still on the roster of the team that drafted them is 46%. So, 54% of players drafted are no longer with the team that drafted them.

What is the record of your company’s recruiting over a 4-year period? I would expect a smaller percentage, but have you figured the replacement costs, turnover costs, lost productivity costs?

Friday I’ll follow-up with my proposed solution to better recruiting and better drafting. In the meantime take a look at draft failures across the four major U.S. sports leagues while you think about your company’s recruiting strategy.

Update: 05/07/2010 Raiders release former No. 1 overall pick Russell; there’s a valuable talent management lesson here, thanks to the NFL.

Update:  06/21/2013 Patriots’ 4th round pick, and All-Pro, arrested and charged with murder with team now facing heavy scrutiny on their personnel moves.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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