The Ravens scouts scout the scouts.
Yes, you read that right.
With a wide receiver (or two) likely in the cards for the Ravens in April's draft, there has been concern around Baltimore about the team's track record at the position.
What makes the team ready to draft the right wideout this time after so many misses? Well, for one thing, the Ravens aren't hiding from the fact that the success rate needs to improve.
"I think we're always trying to tweak how we scout all positions," Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said on "The Lounge" podcast last week. "Obviously, it's been well-documented that we haven't had as much success at the wide receiver position. It's a fact."
So, here's what the Ravens do to scout themselves and make changes.
Every year, the Ravens go back and look at each scouts' initial grades on prospects and then compare them to how they've performed in the NFL after getting an adequate sample size. This is a collaboration between the college and pro scouts.
Ideally, the grades would match up. For example, the prospect was scouted to be a Pro Bowl-potential starter and they turned out that way. But sometimes the grade on the prospect was too high or too low, which is determined by how they went on to play in the league.
It's a historical assessment that then goes on the scout's record, per say, to build a profile.
"We'll assess each of our scouts, their strengths and weaknesses, their strong positions, their weak positions," Hortiz said. "We'll say, 'These are your three bottom positions, go back yourself and look and see why you missed on these guys.'"
Players obviously come in all different packages. At wide receiver specifically, some are size/matchup nightmares, others are speedsters, some get separation with great routes and others out-muscle defenders to make contested catches.
There are so many different attributes that players are graded on, and the Ravens go back to evaluate scouts' final reports on players, and where they were ranked on the board, to see if too much weight was placed on certain qualities.
Baltimore also runs checks to see if they simply aren't valuing certain positions enough (or are overvaluing others). Is the rest of the league valuing (and drafting) wideouts higher than Baltimore?
These are all questions and trends that the team's scouting analytics department has explored and changes have been made.
"As a group, you look at historically, what positions are we overvaluing or undervaluing?" Hortiz said. "What traits does it seem like we're putting too much emphasis on when we put these guys on the board? What traits are we not paying enough attention to? We're always trying to tweak the process here and there and tweak the way we identify players."
The Ravens have also tweaked their interview process, starting at the ground level. At the combine specifically, they get 60 10-minute interviews. While they used to ask a lot of questions about the prospects' background/family, now much of the time is spent talking about football.
It's one thing to see the prospect on film, but impossible to know what was going on inside their helmet without talking about it with the player.
"Our scouts do such a great job of getting background and talking to sources, it becomes redundant information," Hortiz said.
"We take pride as an organization, scouts and coaches, in trying to correct the things we're overlooking or maybe overvaluing or undervaluing. And pour more and more effort into it. I don't know if you can watch more film [than we already do]."