Gil Brandt: Draft has come a long way since we picked on gut feeling

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Gil Brandt has worked 57 drafts in some capacity, spending 30 years in the Cowboys’ personnel department and now almost as many as a commentator. He’s seen a lot of changes to the way things are done.

Brandt said today on PFT Live that the biggest difference is that now teams have specific characteristics they’re looking for in a player, whereas in the 1960s a team would just think a guy seemed like he’d become a good player and would draft him based on that feeling.

“We used to have a coach say, ‘I’ve got a gut feeling about this guy.’ Gut feelings have gone a long time ago. Now we try to grade people on what we see in the five characteristics that lead to success,” Brandt said. “The five characteristics are character; quickness, agility and balance; strength and explosion; competitiveness; and, more than all, mental alertness.”

Brandt said that teams are better now at learning from past picks, both successes and failures.

“The best way to really do it is to have a system where you can tell by previous results what led to success and failure,” Brandt said.

Of course, there are still a lot of bad picks made in every draft. The draft has come a long way, but it’s far from an exact science — and will be even 57 years from now.

28 responses to “Gil Brandt: Draft has come a long way since we picked on gut feeling

  1. “The best way to really do it is to have a system where you can tell by previous results what led to success and failure,”

    Um, Cleveland.. did you catch that ?

  2. I’d like to see how many panned out in the first three rounds on gut feel vs. big data. I doubt there is much of a difference. The top 200 will be selected one way or another, I doubt positioning affected by the stats guys makes much difference.

  3. Yet, there are still lots and lots of mistakes in the drafts, its a literal crapshoot — you gotta wonder if the football guys are any better today with their data and statistics than the gut feeling guys.

  4. I think a few teams had gut feelings in 2011 at QB…Locker, Ponder, Gabbert QB run was all gut feeling. Gabbert was as shocked as anyone because the Jags never even talked to his agent beforehand.

  5. Back then the Cowboys ignored arrests … now they don’t ignore them, they just don’t care. Progress?

  6. Gil Brandt is something else. He would be as valuable to an NFL front office today as he was back in the salad days w/the Cowboys.

  7. “The five characteristics are character; quickness, agility and balance; strength and explosion; competitiveness; and, more than all, mental alertness.””


  8. “The five characteristics are
    1) character;
    3) agility and balance;
    4) strength and explosion;
    5) competitiveness; and, more than all,

    6?)and, more than all, mental alertness.”

    Like the 5 D’s of Dodgeball
    1) Dodge
    2) Duck
    3) Dip
    4) Dive
    5) Dodge

    If you can doge a wrench, you can work in the Cowboys draft room.

  9. Yeah, they still don’t know what a guy will be, even with the data or 5 points. The difference between a flameout and a 10 year career is so small. Imagine if Cleveland takes someone else in 1999 and the Eagles liked Tim Couch; Couch would have been a much better player under Andy Reid than he was in Cleveland. Luck of the draw for him. Imagine if an old school, vertical offense team drafted Joe Montana? You just never know, and that is why I hate draft experts like Kiper who rip teams for their picks, yet have never had any real pressure on themselves to get it right.

  10. Predicting the future (ACCURATELY) is a tough business no matter what field you are in and no matter what technology you use.

    Tomorrow will be Thursday. I’m a genius!

  11. There are probably a couple great “gut” guys out there who subconsciously process all those factors in making their calls.

    Similarly, there are stats guys who misread the data. The old “garbage in, garbage out” problem.

    So in the end, the rich get richer.

  12. at the end of the day even with all the stats, measurables, game tape, etc. It still comes down to FO personnel, coaches, scouts fighting for the players they believe in (with healthy debate). The best organizations have good/great input from these sources and are the catalyst for selecting a player at any particular point in the draft, whether it is the first overall pick or Mr. irrelevant.

  13. Gil Brandt has an amazing memory and mind for his age. Love listening to him.

    However, I do disagree with the author in that 57 years I do see it as being close to an exact science. Assuming the NFL exists anywhere near its current form, a lot of tech has happened since 1960 – 57 years ago including things like DNA research. We could be “fine tuning” prospective athletes DNA before being born. In the 1960s if you told someone they’d be using a handheld mobile computer/phone to access a global interconnected network with anyone in the world they’d have laughed.

  14. The Cowboys under Gil drafted the Dirty Dozen, in 1975, laying down the foundation to Super Bowls 10-12-23 and 3 NFC Championship games.

    Now under Wil McClay, the Cowboys are laying another foundation in 2017, that will produce the Magnificent Seven. The result the next destiny under Coach Garrett, with Prescott @ the helm. Jerry Poppins can finally ride out into the Blazing Saddles with numerous Super Bowl Trophies.

  15. Yes, there are bad picks made in every draft even today. That doesn’t mean the process isn’t 500% better or so. The fact is that the margin of error for players already in the NFL is MUCH smaller than it used to be, due to the level of physical talent and preparedness, so naturally there will be just as many “misses” even though teams are better prepared.

    The other difference is that the nature of a “miss” has changed. There was a time when a second round pick could show up for camp and the team would know just by looking at him that he was going to be cut. Nowadays, highly drafted players are all impressive specimens, but some just fall short of hoped-for productivity levels.

  16. Its still a gut feeling. Those categories aren’t quantifiable except by someone putting a number on it. I think he is X character or Y character.

  17. Gil is 84 years old, and as anyone who listens to him on the radio knows, he can still run circles around most modern day draft pundits.

  18. Im sure the picks on eye test was much more reliable than analytics.

    With analytics, there is always a built in bias and formulas generated emphasize what that team feels is important, which as it turns out, may be totally inaccurate

  19. How about the TAPE! The list of guys who’s measurables stunk is a mile long, but many of them still produce at a pro-bowl level.

    The only thing that matters is the TAPE, i.e., Elvis Dumervil, Steve Largent, Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, Wes Welker, Karl Mecklenburg, etc., etc.

    The best predictor of future success, is past success. How many “combine studs” are selling used cars these days….a lot.

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