By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
The media and fans always focus on the general managers and coaches when it comes to assessing an NFL team's ability to evaluate talent. While those heads of the organization make the final decisions, they base that off of the work of their scouting staffs. Coaches don't watch college players during the season and many general managers are only loosely watching college football as they focus on their teams during the week. The best talent evaluators in the industry at any given time aren't always general managers. Walter Football asked around the league to hear who people in the league regard as the top talent evaluators. Here is the alphabetical list league contacts came back with.
Dallas Cowboys: Jim Abrams
Abrams is a veteran scout that covers the West Coast for Dallas. For years he was a national scout for Tampa Bay before being hired away by the Cowboys. Abrams is considered to be one of the experts of the West Coast territory knowing the area intimately down to the high school ranks. In only his second season with Dallas, Abrams could rise in the years to come.
Tennessee Titans: Blake Beddingfield
Beddingfield was a great scout for the Titans before becoming their director of college scouting in 2012. He worked his way up from an area scout, pro scout and advance scout. Tennessee has a lot of good young talent on both sides of the ball and the Titans were making strides last season before an injury to starting quarterback Jake Locker derailed their season. Tennessee is a team on the rise thanks to the young core of their roster that Beddingfield has led the way in drafting. With Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Chance Warmack and a healthy Locker under the direction of new head coach Ken Whisenhunt the Titans could be playing in January next season. One can expect that Beddingfield will be receiving general manager interviews next offseason.
Dallas Cowboys: Bill DeKraker
The Cowboys had DeKraker covering the Midwest for years before moving him to the Northeast. The Dallas organization is protective of their scouts and doesn't want a lot of information getting out there about them, but contacts from around the league have told Walter Football that DeKraker is one of the better evaluators in the business.
Miami Dolphins: Chris Grier
Grier has been the Dolphins director of college scouting the past four seasons. While Jeff Ireland had some blunders as general manager, Grier and his scouting staff have put together some talent on the Miami roster. Grier is the son of Houston Texans executive Bobby Grier and the brother of NFL veteran Michael Grier. Chris Grier was part of the Patriots front office for five years before joining the Dolphins 14 years ago. Many questioned why Grief wasn't promoted to general manager when Ireland was fired.
Oakland Raiders: Shaun Herock
Herock was a veteran scout with the Green Bay Packers before being hired away by Reggie McKenzie in May of 2012. Both Herock and McKenzie had a lot of success helping to build the Packers into a perennial playoff team. Herock is the son of Ken Herock, a long-time NFL executive who worked with the Raiders, Buccaneers and Falcons. The Raiders are leaning on Herock hard to help them rebuild their roster on the fly with 2014 being a critical year for the McKenzie regime.
Green Bay Packers: Alonzo Highsmith
After starring at the University of Miami, playing in the NFL and having a pro boxing career, Highsmith has risen up the ranks in Green Bay to become the right hand man to Ted Thompson. Highsmith started as a college scout for the Packers in 1999 and has helped build multiple playoff rosters including their Super Bowl Championship team in 2010. Sources from around the league say that Highsmith is a huge part of Thompson's successful drafts and he should become a general manager shortly. All across the NFL, league sources felt that the Dolphins made a huge mistake in not hiring Highsmith this offseason and reuniting him with Joe Philbin.
Houston Texans: Mike Martin
Last year Walter Football featured Martin in our profile of a super scout.
Martin is the scout that led the Texans to signing Arian Foster as an undrafted free agent. Martin also had a big success in the scouting of Duane Brown. While many felt Brown was a second-day pick, Martin saw that Brown was a future franchise left tackle. Houston has leaned hard on Martin's territory of the southeast with picks of DeAndre Hopkins, Kareem Jackson, D.J. Swearinger and others. This year they should draft another player that Martin scouted in the first round with options of Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles. Martin should be a director of college scouting in short order and eventually a general manager.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Kyle O'Brien
O'Brien is the Jaguars director of college scouting and is in his second season with the team. Prior to being hired by Jacksonville, O'Brien was a regional scout for the Kansas City Chiefs for one season. From 2002-2011 O'Brien was part of the Patriots personnel department. He was a national scout for two years and an area scout for five years with New England. The Jaguars are counting on O'Brien to be a key cog in rebuilding their franchise.
Another scout on the pro side that has received a lot of endorsements is Brian Gardner. He was with the Texans for years, but left the team earlier this offseason. He is considered one of the best pro scouts in the industry and he should be joining a team after the draft.
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