ITP Glossary: Area Scout

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From vertical leap to bench press, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Area Scout

Area scout is the standard label for someone in the college scouting department of an NFL team who prepares evaluations for draft-eligible prospects. Area scouts do the bulk of the work in identifying and evaluating potential draft picks; between them, a team’s area scouts (typically five or six individuals) will look at each of the thousands of potentially draftable prospects during the college football season. Each scout is responsible for a particular geographic area. For instance, Chris Hobbs of the San Diego Chargers, “scouts California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Hawaii” and would generally be labeled as the “West Coast scout.” During the college football season (mid-August through early January), he travels from school to school watching players practice, talking with coaches, attending games, watching game film, and preparing reports.

Former NFL general manager Floyd Reese describes an area scout’s in-season activities as follows:

During the college season, scouts will begin visits on Monday, and their best chance to see a player practice will be between Tuesday and Thursday. A scout shows up on campus between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and spends about six hours visiting with coaches and watching film until practice. He then watches practice for about two hours in the afternoon. Afterward, he jumps into the car and drives to the next campus, checks into a hotel, and spends hours writing reports on the players he just evaluated.

Area scouts are not only responsible for evaluating the on-field qualities of potential players but also obtaining information on any injury issues or discipline concerns. They are expected to evaluate not only how a player’s physical and mental skills will translate to the football field but also how well he takes coaching, gets along with his teammates, and works off the field to improve. Dan Hatman, director of The Scouting Academy and a former scout, describes the job of the area scout as “part data collector, part evaluator, part private investigator, part amateur psychologist, and part journalist.”

Most NFL teams are part of one of the scouting services, either BLESTO or the National Football Service (NFS). Typically, one of the team’s scouts will be assigned to prepare reports for that larger organization, which is then shared with all member teams.

Most teams also have two more senior scouts who cover a larger area and provide another evaluation and additional context on interesting prospects. These scouts are known as national scouts or national cross-checkers.

After the end of the college football season, area scouts are often assigned to cross-check a particular position. Hatman recently relayed his experience as a scout for the Philadelphia Eagles. After finishing his area scouting, he spent the first few months of the year evaluating all the running back prospects with draftable grades, including short (5-10 minute) interviews at the Senior Bowl or NFL Combine.

Area scouts generally ascend to the role with modest experience, often spending just a short period of time as a small college coach or working for a year or two as a scouting intern or assistant. The Scouting Academy is another avenue that helps individuals break into scouting careers. Occasionally an experienced football veteran will work as an area scout for a limited area as a way to stay in the game in a smaller role. For instance, longtime NFL special teams coordinator Scott O’Brien currently works for the New England Patriots as an area scout.

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Dave Archibald wrote this entry. Follow Dave on Twitter @davearchie.

Dan Hatman also contributed to this piece. Follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hatman.

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