There’s no Combine this year and NFL teams are not currently permitted to have in-person meetings with draft prospects at the moment, which means that the pre-draft process is going to be virtual outside of Pro Day workouts.
Some of that is the same as last year and Falcons head coach Arthur Smith went through the process when he was the Titans’ offensive coordinator. He said this week that he has “tried to find lessons learned from the mistakes we may have made” in the first foray into virtual scouting and the Titans’ experience offered a big one.
They drafted tackle Isaiah Wilson in the first round and saw him play just four snaps while being arrested for DUI, serving a team-issued suspension, and landing on the non-football illness list to work on personal problems. Titans General Manager Jon Robinson said Wilson showed up as a different player than the one they vetted and Smith was asked about avoiding a repeat this year.
“I think you learn from every experience,” Smith said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Just because that happened, there are so many factors and variables. Whether we were in [virtual] era or normal, there are things you can’t control. We are never going to be perfect, and I don’t think anybody is. . . . Certainly, you try to minimize risks in certain areas, but there are lessons learned in everything we do. In terms of how we adapted our teaching methods. You adapt it to how you interview. That certainly helped me when we were interviewing coaches. But you learn from everything. There are always exceptions. I don’t really want to comment on something going on in Tennessee.”
Other teams don’t have Smith’s first-hand experience with what went on with Wilson last year, but his tale will be a cautionary one around the league when it comes time to make selections this April.