Grigson on scouting for blank canvass

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson fielded a great question today in Anderson, Ind. as the Indianapolis Colts held their first training camp practice.

How did the team come to find outside linebacker Daniel Adongo, the Kenyan national who was a professional rugby player.

Grigson’s answer, via a team transcript:

“We, kind of under wraps, last fall started talking about it. A pro scout of ours, Jon Shaw, was kind of delegated the duty of like, ‘Hey, this is your baby. Let’s see what you can do with it, see if you can give me a cluster of guys that are worthwhile, the right age group, have the right traits, the right makeup to actually even be able to even make the transition since it is a major one.’

"But you know, when you look at the rosters going from 80 to 90, we’d much rather, as a staff, I don’t know about everybody else, but as a staff, we’d rather give the coaches something to work with than just a true camp body that we know is going to be cut in a week or two and is not going to help us get where we want to go because injuries, like we learned last year more than anybody, with injuries, you have to have someone at least viable. If you have someone that can’t play or the arrow’s not going up at all, even slightly, you’re not going to win when you’re playing a 16-game season. Then you factor in the playoffs.

"You need depth. So hopefully by the 16th week, some of these guys that when you see in camp and you’re like, ‘Wow, he’s got a long way to go,’ well we had guys like that last year that by midseason, you’re ready to put him in or someone from another team is trying to sign him. That’s kind of the mindset.”

I love the thinking. I’ve wondered in the past if a team wouldn’t be wise not to even use all 90 roster spots. In having that many guys, you waste coaching efforts on guys with no chance. Instead a team could streamline the operation and give players with real potential even more hands-on attention and potential for development.

The reason no one can do that, obviously, is they’ve got to have guys on the very bottom of a roster to sacrifice to the second half of preseason games.

Yes, undrafted gems are found there. But in less than a week of practice, every team in the league can point to at least a dozen guys with no realistic chance of ever being in their plans.

Finding a blank canvass like Adongo might prove fruitless, but it does give a staff a chance to try to develop some special athletic talent -- the kind that isn't left after seven rounds of the draft.

“Right now he’s the 90th man on the roster,” Grigson said.” He’s a guy we brought in that has a very raw skill-set, obviously. We watched him throw a football for the first time and in about a nanosecond we said ‘You know he’s not a quarterback.’ He had never thrown a football before. But once you start seeing him move around with those long limbs and you see the type of competitor and really the traits he has as a human being and as an athlete, you have something to work with. You basically have a lump of clay for these coaches to work with.”

Grigson doesn’t believe there are any places his scouts shouldn’t be looking.

“Don’t come to me and tell me after you looked at every guy in the CFL, Arena League and the IFL or UFL, don’t tell me out of 1,000 bodies, we can’t find three guys that have a chance,” he said. “It’s a numbers game.”

Now the search area isn’t limited to places where football is being played.