The Seattle Seahawks are a team that believes in measurables.
Their specific requirements and guidelines vary by position and while they try to avoid it, they do draft some exceptions.
But height, weight, speed and athletic testing are components that every team can access. Film study is obviously an area where personnel evaluators can separate themselves. And then there are the intangibles.
Whether it's off-field behavior, resiliency or work ethic, this is an area that continues to gain more significance in the scouting world.
"I was blessed enough to start in '92," said Seahawks general manager John Schneider during an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle earlier this month. "So I've watched social media evolve, like these guys on Twitter and Facebook and everything. I think there's just so much out there for everybody to see that that part of the background part of it has become, the private investigator part you said, that's definitely true.
"Whenever I'm at a school, I try to talk to the equipment guys for sure. I want to know: Do they pick up their locker? Are they treating everybody appropriately? Do they treat the trainers right? That's kind of my shtick when I go to a school. But I know the guys that are responsible for those specific areas, it's all about their teammates and how their teammates feel about them, specific coaches, their academic advisers. It's just whoever you can possibly speak to because there's so many different ways to look at these guys. And the hardest part about it is that you never truly know what's in a man's heart."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talks often about the idea of grit. He believes identifying players who have shown the ability to overcome adversity can help create a winning culture. Perhaps that's part of the reason why the roster is built largely with undrafted free agents.
Paying attention to things like competitiveness and perseverance is something Carroll learned as a young coach in the NFL. During an interview with the Real Football Network at the combine in February, Carroll recalled his time as the defensive backs coach of the Minnesota Vikings in 1985.
"The first day I was ever on the practice field with Bud Grant and the Minnesota Vikings, the first day of camp, at the end of practice, he took each position group and said, ‘OK, I want you to take a lap around the field, one at a time.’ ... It was a big field, about three football fields, so it was a big field, maybe over half a mile or something like that. So all the guys were out running. And I’m talking to one of the coaches, and all of a sudden, he goes, ‘Pete! What are you doing?’ [I said], ‘I don’t know, coach. Just talking to the guys here.’ He goes, ‘You’re not watching your players! You’re not seeing who’s in front, who’s in the back of the line. Is your position group trying hard and competing or are they just jogging? Who’s screwing around? You’re not paying attention. Look at all the information they’re giving you that you’re not looking at.'
"Well, I’ve never been the same since. He embarrassed the heck out of me, called me out, he got me. But the point was there’s so much information. There’s so much stuff out there. How well can you observe? How deeply can you look into and draw all of the stuff that’s there to learn. So the better observers that we can be, listeners that we can be, the more we can take out of this."
This is not to say their process is perfect. The team came under criticism last year for the manner in which it vetted Frank Clark before selecting him in the second round.
And there's no doubt the Seahawks are looking for athletes. They also covet certain attributes like length at cornerback. But as they prepare to add players in the draft, the intangibles will matter.
"We watch everything," Carroll said. "And we’ve always said to our guys because of what Bud told me a long time ago, everything counts. Everything they do shows us something. How they dress and how they don’t dress and who they’re hanging with. Are they respectful? Are they not respectful? Do they brush somebody off? Are they throwing their trash on the ground? If you look, there’s a lot of stuff going on."