INDIANAPOLIS – "It all starts with the tape. Then you want to confirm what's on the tape."
The NFL's annual Scouting Combine is a busy week for all involved. But it could be argued that none are busier than the scouting departments of all 32 organizations. In a week full of interviews, drills, and information sharing, there is barely time to breathe for vice president of player personnel Will McClay and his staff.
"We started at 9 a.m. and you have these 20-minute block interview formals with the players and that went until 12," McClay said. "We had agent meetings until five, then more interviews going from 7 until 11. Went back into my room and watched a little tape, try to put some things in order before getting back up here for eight o'clock interviews."
It's a jam-packed schedule that results from the limited time with draft hopefuls so early in the draft process. The combine is one of the first steps in a long list of roster building this offseason, but it could also be the only time teams get a chance to talk to the rookie class.
"Everybody has their unique approach," McClay said. "What we try to do is have the area scout who knows the guy best in the room, we have the national scout who is the over-the-top guy, and we'll have our coaches in there."
Scouts around the league have been talking to and gathering information about many of the available prospects throughout their collegiate careers. However, the coaching staff has been preoccupied by their current season and on improving the roster they already have in front of them.
As much as this week is for showcasing the players, it's also about getting the coaching staff and scouting department on the same page, while also making connections with prospects.
"We let the coaches lead the interview because they're trying to get to know them a little but more," McClay said. "We'll go through and ask them questions. We typically try to stay on the point of making the guy comfortable, because we want to find out as much as we possibly can about them in those 15 to 18 minutes that they give us."
Teams are limited to 45 formal visits throughout the week. Paired with countless informal meetings in the tight confines of Indianapolis, it makes it tough to narrow down exactly which prospects that each staff wants to spend the most time with. To do this well, it takes a calculated approach.
"With positions of need, we may try and sprinkle in some of the early, mid, late rounds, at some of those positions," McClay said. "Then guys at the other positions because you don't know, like last year, how that board is going to go."
Of course, it's also one of the first steps into deciding who to continue building with into the spring and who to move on from. With an offseason likely without COVID-19 restrictions, McClay expects for their normal allotment 30 facility visits and a 'Dallas Day' in the coming months.
Two events that will benefit the front office in deciding who could be the best fit in Dallas.
"If a player is completely clean, all the information is good, we will talk to those in formals and decide who we want to bring in for 30 visits," McClay added. "We're going to hit them with some of the issues or concerns that we have. Give them their opportunity to see if the information we have matches what they're representing."
It's been busy week for many in Indianapolis, and what many consider the starting line in the 40-yard-dash that is the NFL offseason. McClay and his staff are off to a quick start.
Now, it's all about finishing strong.