The Pittsburgh Steelers had perhaps the best draft in league history in 1974. They did it without the various devices that are (or at least were) currently available.
Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert is using a process that generated five Hall of Famers as inspiration for 2020.
“Art Rooney Jr., Bill Nunn and Dick Haley, they put together the best draft in NFL history, and they didn’t have Pro Days, they didn’t have Combines,” Kevin Colbert said, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “They relied on what they felt those guys were as football players. If we have to go into this draft with that same mentality, that’s our challenge, and we’ll do the very best we can.”
With the Pro Days abruptly ending and private workouts and player visits canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, all teams are on a level playing field that makes the draft even more of a crapshoot than usual. Ultimately, the exercise may convince some teams that game film and instincts may go a lot farther than the information-gathering exercises that potentially cloud the more basic question of who can play football at a high level, and who can’t?
“We value the Pro Days to be able to get up and close and interact with the player, watch him work out, meet his family,” Colbert said. “That part has been taken away from us, but we’re not alone in that endeavor.”
All 32 teams have 26 days to finalize the process, with technology that prevents meetings but that also places a premium on the efforts of decision makers to focus with minimal distraction on the task of spotting the best players — and of trusting what they see.
Whatever the rules, the best teams will continue to find a way to find the best players, and then (eventually) to coach them into being NFL-caliber talent. Those who meet the challenge will end up with a group of young players they can use to make good teams great or to make great teams even better. From the perspective of those who cover and follow the sport, it’s a dynamic that will make the 2020 draft and its aftermath more fascinating than ever.