By Using Video Calling to Draft Football Players, the NFL Could Create a Golden Age for Scouts

Drafting football players using video calling could change the NFL.

You’re on a mountain in Alaska on a bus going 100 mph–where are you sitting on the bus? How many ways could you use a brick in a minute? Do you find your mother attractive?

These are the types of questions hundreds of college students will be presented with this spring as they interview for multi-million dollar careers in the NFL. It’s the hidden process that underpins the annual NFL draft, and quirky questions such as these are supposed to give pro staff an insight into the minds of college athletes as young as 20.

And it could be about to get even quirkier, because the NFL has relaxed the rules around teams using video calling to interview potential draftees, allowing an even greater number of athletes to face this seemingly off-the-wall interrogation. But at least the move to embrace video calling makes total sense, and could give teams previously unforeseen drafting accuracy.

Video Calling and the NFL Draft

NFL teams have been allowed to chat with draft prospects via remote video calls for years. What the unofficial reports about a new policy mean is that those interviews will no longer count against a team’s pre-draft quota.

Instead of being limited to 30 prospect interviews, regardless of medium, all the virtual calls will go unrestricted. It’s a potentially huge expansion of what is one of the most demanding character assessments any job seeker would encounter from a potential employer.

The NFL is more conscious than ever of its public image, following a recent run of negative stories about player behavior off the field that received national attention, so the importance of understanding a potentially high-profile player’s mental makeup has become crucial.

That means it’s a good thing video calling has evolved enough to replicate all the nuances of an in-person interview.

Online Character Assessment in the NFL

Obviously, conducting an interview remotely over the internet saves both teams and draft prospects the time and financial cost of traveling all over the country in search of one another.

And it removes the stress of a hectic travel schedule, hopefully keeping all involved calm and cool enough to conduct worthwhile conversations. What’s most important, however, is that the technology is up to the task.

Several studies have shown that video calling is as effective as the traditional in-person experience when used in counseling and psychological therapy, which suggests even the most detail-driven of NFL personnel executives should be able to glean what they need know about a player over a remote connection.

In fact, several major universities are already trialing virtual counseling services on campus, confident the likes of Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts can provide a reliable service.

So, if a video call is as effective as an in-person conversation then allowing NFL teams to interview hundreds of student athletes should make for a golden age of drafting, right?

Scouting Via Video Call

Video calling is about a lot more than just the replication of a one-on-one chat. It can be used to share videos, screens, files, even the control of a remote PC among many other features, which lends some nice potential to a pre-draft Q-and-A.

Coaching staff and draftees could share and discuss football film instantly, and even draw all the necessary Xs and Os with the doodling features already common across video apps.

What’s more, taking a lead from the augmented reality technology driving interactive gaming like Pokemon Go, NFL execs may soon even be able to drop draftees into simulated game environments to see how they react. Young quarterbacks could be forced to make quick decisions while being chased by virtual pass rushers. Defensive backs could be asked to visually track a virtual ball in flight while simultaneously having to make physical contact with a virtual receiver.

And you could introduce other stressors like limited vision, or overwhelming crowd noise to see how players adapt to intense surroundings. Or even throw in some 3D spatial recognition and lateral thinking exercises, like everyday employers like to use.

Remember, this is all going on within an interview, all streamed live through a common VC connection into homes and offices. If you really wanted to see how young players cope under fire, you could implement some of the mental and physical demands the Navy uses to battle-ready its recruits within a safe, virtual world.

So taking the shackles off the video calling interview process should really be a boon for scouts and personnel departments. They’ve just gained an unlimited supply of interviews that should be even more revealing than the traditional poker table and clipboard variety.  

If the process isn’t reliably turning up future gridiron greats within a few seasons, perhaps the fault lies more with questions like “Would you rather be a dog or a cat,” than it does with any technical issues.

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