I've always found the case of S Kendrick Lewis very interesting. Here's a guy that performed well while on the field at Ole Miss, posted a slow 40-time in the pre-draft process knocking his stock, then he's picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round and, when healthy, goes on to perform well in his first year.
Chiefs GM Scott Pioli has said that the most important piece of the evaluation pie is game tape. So when I asked Pioli a couple weeks ago about Lewis and the 2010 NFL draft, the most important part was what he first said:
"Loved him as a football player," he said.
OK, that's the most important part. If you like the game tape, he's in the discussion. Of course, there's more to it than that. Lewis posted what was deemed a poor 40-time at his pre-draft workouts. So, Pioli says, they flagged those numbers, which is basically their way of saying more research is needed.
"When he first ran," Pioli said, "when he was timed, even at his pro day, he was running with a bad hamstring. Not everyone knew that. He didn't talk about it a whole lot."
The Chiefs research on him -- Pioli says they had a private workout with Lewis -- resulted in better times. Not great times -- but better times.
He says draft weekend came and, by the third day, Lewis was still on the board.
"There were a couple people in here that were strong supporters -- this is why you have a strong staff, a scouting staff. And when he continued to last on the board, we spent additional time -- actually the morning of the third day -- watching more tape."
So Pioli and members of the personnel department spent some more time Saturday morning confirming the numbers they had on him and watching a little more tape. He says they all liked Lewis but sometimes you have someone who feels strongly about a particular player and he'll "fight" for him. Not in a combative sense, he says, but in the sense that you have a strong scouting staff with strong feelings.
"Last year there was a group of players that people had strong feelings about at that point in time," he said. "We went back, a small group of us, and watched those players together. And we said, 'Wow, this guy is still here. We still have some need at safety. This guy needs to be a priority today.'"
And he was. The Chiefs selected him with their first pick that day -- the fifth pick of the fifth round.
I found this process pretty fascinating. You spend so much time throughout the year scouting these players, writing reports and gathering information yet, on draft day, you have to be able to process it all and determine who is gone, who remains and what the best move will be -- and do it all in just a few hours.