Every year there are thousands
of players scattered across the nation (and elsewhere) who consider themselves
to have NFL potential. Out of the thousands of draft eligible players,
only roughly 250 will be drafted. The numbers dictate that teams can seriously
study only a relatively small group of players during each twelve month
cycle. To create an in depth character study from scratch on all of these
people every year with no outside help would be a tough task for the NFL
scouting departments acting on their own.
The expenses of scouting are shared to save time and money. Teams share
initial evaluations and workout information as a baseline starting point,
hence the phrase "Scouting Combine." This is a practice steeped in
Although currently it's a duopoly with only two major companies, there
have been variations of scouting alliances throughout the years.
An interesting early example of this shared scouting was Troika, founded around an IBM mainframe computer shared by the Cowboys, Rams and 49ers in the early 1960's. With computers the size of small houses, the cost of technology was prohibitive and the teams were able to afford the luxury of machine calculated statistics by splitting the cost and the results. Troika added the New Orleans Saints in the late sixties and became Quadra.
In 1963 three teams formed "LESTO" (Lions Eagles Steelers Talent Organization)
based in Pittsburgh. The Bears came on board the following year to make
it "BLESTO." The Vikings came through in the later part of the decade
to call it BLESTO-V and that is the official name current. However that
catchy acronym apparently did not stick and most just call it BLESTO.
Another organization CEPO (Central Eastern Personnel Organization) was
formed in 1964 by the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers
and St Louis Cardinals. It grew to include the NY Giants, Atlanta Falcons
and Washington Redskins, and eventually re-emerged as the National Football
Scouting organization a.k.a. "the National" based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In 1977, the National, together with Quadra and Blesto, consolidated
their workouts at the Scouting Combine event (currently held in Indianapolis,
Indiana every Feburary).
Fast forward to the present day:
There are twelve teams in BLESTO (ATL, BUF, CHI, CLE, DAL, DET, HOU, JAC,
MIA, MIN, NYG, PIT).
There are fifteen subscribers to the National (AZ, CAR, CIN, DEN, GB,
KC, NO, NYJ, PHI, STL, SD, SF, SEA, TB, TEN). National Scouting also is
the logistical organizer of record for the event in Indianapolis.
Note that the National includes BLESTO founding member Philadelphia who
switched subscriptions. These alliances are not static.
Membership responsibilities includes over $100,000 in annual dues and
the assignment of at least one scout to the group.
As scouts evaluate the current class of seniors visiting schools' pro
days, they often work out underclassmen for future draft years. This data
and other information is presented at meetings (usually in Florida) about
two weeks after the current draft.
The BLESTO and National reports are published from these meetings. These
reports serve as a both starting point for the lengthy evaluation process
and also a rough guide as to where players are regarded by the group.
Some teams assign their most junior scout to the job of BLESTO/National
regional rep, and the best ones are usually promoted or headhunted away
from the role in short stint. This instability with the reps (and the
lack of evaluating the senior season) can and will affect the accuracy
of the reports.
There have been many infamous rankings over the years, including 2003
overall pick QB Carson Palmer not appearing in either publications top
25 players. The lists leak and become common knowledge among interested
parties such as player agents and draft gurus.
As a tool, the organizations fill a need by presenting a starting point
for the twelve month cycle based on information that would be hard to
keep secret. General managers are often quoted as saying the medical and
interview aspects of the combine event are more important than the times,
which at that point are common knowledge.
Five teams out of the thirty-two NFL teams are unaffiliated with either
scouting combine organization: Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, New
England Patriots, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins.