ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 18: Justin Rogers #26 of the Buffalo Bills evades a tackle during their NFL game by Jimmy Wilson #27 of the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
In a piece at the team's website, Chuck Cook - the Buffalo Bills' Director of College Scouting - revealed a very interesting change in the team's scouting process since he began his job in May. The basic thrust of the change: area scouts are now scouting more than just their area.
"They had not done cross check by position," Cook told Chris Brown. "They had done it by area pretty much. Now we’re doing it by position, and Buddy had done that in San Diego so he was familiar with it. That’s where I give our scouts a little ownership. After they scout their area, they’re assigned a position group."
Put in simpler terms: area scouts are now scouting more than just players from their geographic region. They are now scouting specific positional groups, as well, which builds in the "cross-check" that Cook refers to.
This change, for all intents and purposes, will not be felt early in the draft by fans. Buffalo has long had enough in place to evaluate the bigger-name prospects available, and much more cross-checking was built into the top of each draft class. Buffalo's coaching staff, for example, has always been involved in the scouting process, and the organization has always had national scouts (Buddy Nix used to be one) and other evaluators to cross-check the bigger names available. Those guys don't have the time to drill down all the way to the bottom of the talent pool, however, and coaches rarely get down that far, either.
Instead, where this will matter is later in the draft, when teams are taking fliers on guys that are intriguing. We'll use Michael Jasper as an example: Bills scout Matt Hand worked Jasper out first-hand prior to the draft, and the team liked his size and athleticism so much that they took him with a seventh-round pick rather than try to secure his services as a priority free agent. It is unclear whether or not more than just Hand looked at Jasper last year for the Bills, but as this all pre-dated Cook's arrival into the scouting operation, the chance at least exists that Nix pulled the trigger on Jasper based solely on Hand's suggestion and his rather staggering physical numbers.
This year, it is a certainty that more than one of the team's area scouts will have looked at the later-round guys, which in theory gives the team a more thorough evaluation process. Nix and Whaley have harped on implementing a system in which they hit on all of their picks; Cook's cross-checking tweak will make that goal that much easier to achieve.