Who are BLESTO & the National?

Sharing the wealth doesn't come cheap

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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 history.

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.

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NFL Draft
NCAA Football

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