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Could 49ers change how NFL teams approach NFL draft?

  • Jcool
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 15,176
In a business where technology often takes a back seat (the NFL has strict rules on where things like iPads can be used during games, for instance), the 49ers' approach is rare. York said there's a level of interaction between the business executives and football staff that he doesn't believe exists in most places. It's too early to tell how the innovations will show on the field, since many of the new employees started in the last few months. But most members of the organization said the next draft will be the first football event where their advancements will really take hold.

"We know the evaluation process and the scouting process. We don't know the technical aspects. We don't know what's available and we certainly don't know how to build it," said Trent Baalke the team's general manager. "What we're trying to do is the cutting edge. If we can do it anywhere in this country, it should be in the Silicon Valley. We'd be foolish not to."

The plan for the draft, at least for now, is to create a centralized database for scouting information that's available to anyone in the organization and is easier to digest. Baalke said there are thousands of numbers tracked in the scouting reports—heights, weights, 40-yard dash times— that are gathered by scouts and executives. Yet in the NFL, this information is rarely packaged together. Kunal Malik, the team's chief technology officer, said that so far, the focus has been on developing programs that allow scouts to easily share information and go paperless. Yu said that in conversations with scouts "what we found is we have to push them to dream even more, because usually it's like, 'OK, we can do that for you,' and it's done overnight." Now, he says, scouts are far less shy about seemingly impossible technological requests.

Yu has said that in the future, it's possible the team could open source its football technology, allowing fans to come up with applications for coaches and scouts with numbers provided by the team. While that's a staple in the technology industry, Yu admits that "probably won't be version 1.0," mostly due to the fact that it would be massive philosophy shift in a league that prides itself on keeping everything in-house.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324478304578171690940069794.html
  • sfout
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 6,310
Originally posted by Jcool:
In a business where technology often takes a back seat (the NFL has strict rules on where things like iPads can be used during games, for instance), the 49ers' approach is rare. York said there's a level of interaction between the business executives and football staff that he doesn't believe exists in most places. It's too early to tell how the innovations will show on the field, since many of the new employees started in the last few months. But most members of the organization said the next draft will be the first football event where their advancements will really take hold.

"We know the evaluation process and the scouting process. We don't know the technical aspects. We don't know what's available and we certainly don't know how to build it," said Trent Baalke the team's general manager. "What we're trying to do is the cutting edge. If we can do it anywhere in this country, it should be in the Silicon Valley. We'd be foolish not to."

The plan for the draft, at least for now, is to create a centralized database for scouting information that's available to anyone in the organization and is easier to digest. Baalke said there are thousands of numbers tracked in the scouting reports—heights, weights, 40-yard dash times— that are gathered by scouts and executives. Yet in the NFL, this information is rarely packaged together. Kunal Malik, the team's chief technology officer, said that so far, the focus has been on developing programs that allow scouts to easily share information and go paperless. Yu said that in conversations with scouts "what we found is we have to push them to dream even more, because usually it's like, 'OK, we can do that for you,' and it's done overnight." Now, he says, scouts are far less shy about seemingly impossible technological requests.

Yu has said that in the future, it's possible the team could open source its football technology, allowing fans to come up with applications for coaches and scouts with numbers provided by the team. While that's a staple in the technology industry, Yu admits that "probably won't be version 1.0," mostly due to the fact that it would be massive philosophy shift in a league that prides itself on keeping everything in-house.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324478304578171690940069794.html

Thats pretty crazy. Wonder if they could ever get to a point with simulation programs that are variations of "madden like" game settings to plug players with their attributes into "in game situations" and see how they grade out against other players.

But the simplest thing like a database of centralized and aggregated information could do wonders for scouts. Go 9ers lol.
Just read this myself, and it's pretty great to see the front office being innovative on how they use their resources.
Probably makes the front office's job easier, but I don't know if it will actually improve drafting.
Thanks for the article. Fantastic read.
Originally posted by SunDevilNiner79:
Probably makes the front office's job easier, but I don't know if it will actually improve drafting.

Anything that makes the lives of scouts easier means more time they can pay attention to scouting, rather than organizing papers and tracking down information that's now at their fingertips.

I don't think its anything like Moneyball in that we'll use different criteria to exploit market inefficiencies or anything like that, but if this new approach helps our scouts watch 10-15 more hours of game tape, or attend 2-3 more games, that increases our odds of making more informed decisions or finding a potential diamond in the rough.
Originally posted by captveg:
Just read this myself, and it's pretty great to see the front office being innovative on how they use their resources.

Agree. I for one can't wait to see how it works out in the draft for sure.
13 mutha f**king picks for the future Super Bowl champs to play with next spring. 13 picks, and no must-fill holes on either side of the ball. It's a luxury banquet future draft. Thank you Trent Baalke.
If scouts are anything worth a damn, they would have all of these players numbers, measurables, medical reports, etc. already stored in their minds. In the end, the business execs don't make the call on draftees, but I guess if it makes them feel like the are part of the process, good for them.
How about prediction percetage on who other teams will draft, what position, and when due to past drafts and his fit in their system.
Originally posted by MadDog49er:
If scouts are anything worth a damn, they would have all of these players numbers, measurables, medical reports, etc. already stored in their minds. In the end, the business execs don't make the call on draftees, but I guess if it makes them feel like the are part of the process, good for them.

Sounds like Moneyball. If we can repeat the 2011 draft, I don't care what system they use.
Ask Daryl Morey (of the Houston Rockets) how the sabermetric approach is working out for him. We already use Moneyball techniques for the draft since York brought in Paraag eight years ago. I can't say it's worked or if it has not worked. We drafted high quite often, and it was hard not to get talent. But the same Moneyball ideas had us drafting Alex over Aaron Rodgers...it also had us drafting some busts as well.

I'm a math/stats guy myself...but I think rapid access to massive volumes of data is not really the advantage that people think it is. You have to know how to use that data to your advantage, and you also have to understand its limitations. The idea that you can eliminate the human element from talent evaluation and just go with data/numbers is very misguided.
  • Jcool
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 15,176
Originally posted by kray28:
Ask Daryl Morey (of the Houston Rockets) how the sabermetric approach is working out for him. We already use Moneyball techniques for the draft since York brought in Paraag eight years ago. I can't say it's worked or if it has not worked. We drafted high quite often, and it was hard not to get talent. But the same Moneyball ideas had us drafting Alex over Aaron Rodgers...it also had us drafting some busts as well.

I'm a math/stats guy myself...but I think rapid access to massive volumes of data is not really the advantage that people think it is. You have to know how to use that data to your advantage, and you also have to understand its limitations. The idea that you can eliminate the human element from talent evaluation and just go with data/numbers is very misguided.

I really don't think that was a "moneyball" pick. Nolan doesn't strike me as a advance stats kind of guy.
Originally posted by Jcool:
I really don't think that was a "moneyball" pick. Nolan doesn't strike me as a advance stats kind of guy.

No, that was just Nolan picking the guy that he could control (develop) better. He put them through those strange workouts just to see how they'd respond. Skill-wise it was close. They were just looking for the harder worker, more humble guy. Nolan missed big on that one, but so did almost every other team too.