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Drafting the Best Player

Drafting the Best Player

“With the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft…”  For years, those words echoed in the minds of young men all across America who dreamt of playing professional football one day.  Recently, we saw hundreds of thousands of people turn out in Nashville to witness those words being said at this year’s NFL Draft, as the most talented college players heard their names called from the stage.  It is truly one of the most exciting events in professional sports. And it’s one that our industry can learn from.

It’s hard to capture just how much time, research, and strategic planning goes into an NFL team’s approach to their draft.  Teams analyze their current roster and determine what weaknesses they need to address.  They balance those needs with the team’s overall salary, the age and health of certain key players, and the projected performance of those players in the future.  But most of the work is dedicated to analyzing the players available to them in the NFL Draft.

In any given year, there are hundreds of players available to be drafted.  They all come from different backgrounds, with varied skillsets, playing separate positions, and possessing unique personalities.  Teams spend months, sometimes years, scouting individual players and pouring over every detail of their lives.  Teams want to know not just how a player performs on the field at his specific position, but how he behaves off the field and what he brings to the team as a whole.

The NFL Draft can also be one of the most controversial events in sports, as commentators, experts and fans alike enjoy the tradition of second-guessing decisions made by teams.  One such occasion occurred in the 2018 Draft, when the New York Giants selected Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick.  They were widely expected to select a quarterback, and were sharply criticized for the move by scores of fans who demanded they draft a quarterback.  Giants leadership said at the time that they considered Barkley to be the best overall player in the draft, and in Barkley’s rookie season, he proved them right.  His performance in his first year in the league was nothing short of spectacular, earning him a trip to the Pro Bowl and cementing his status as not only an unquestioned leader of the team, but one of the best players in the league.

Employers in our industry should learn from this example.  At a time when companies are desperate for talented individuals who bring not only unique skillsets but also leadership capabilities, they are wise to recruit the best player available.  That means that rather than focusing ONLY on an individual’s ability to do a specific job perfectly, employers should hire the candidate who offers the most overall benefit to the organization.  Consider their personality, leadership skills, growth potential, cultural compatibility, trainability, work ethic, outside network, etc.  Often times the best widget-maker may not necessarily be the best overall applicant for the widget-maker position.  But very few employers are willing to think in terms of finding the best player available.

When they do, organizations should be prepared to be doubted, just as the Giants were in 2018.  Ignoring the criticisms and investing in new talent will pay off in the long-run.  Working with teams like Schaffer Associates will help organizations cut through the clutter and plan strategically.  And ultimately, trusting recruiting professionals like us to execute the right plan for your team will lead to the best possible results.  It worked for the Giants, who despite more criticism, selected Daniel Jones with the sixth pick in this year’s draft in Nashville.  And by the way, Jones is a quarterback.


Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Schaffer Associates is a national management consulting firm specializing in executive search and organizational strategies for the hardware, home improvement, building materials, and consumer products industries. As the premier management consulting firm serving the industry, we help build organizations and leadership teams that foster corporate growth and success well into the future.