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Technology helping Bengals to evaluate prospects better and faster

One way to get better at your job is by using technology to turn a task that once took one month into a 75 minute project.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Fans often criticize the Bengals for their small group of scouts. But there’s no doubt about it, that small group of scouts get their jobs done, which includes evaluating hundreds, if not thousands of NFL prospects each year. According to the team website, the Bengals employ eight people in the player personnel department, which includes Duke Tobin, director of player personnel. The Bengals also heavily rely on their coaches to do offseason scouting and player evaluations.

One thing that helps the Bengals’ scouts operate is advancing technology. What used to take weeks or even months can now take a matter of minutes as the Bengals have perfected the craft of scouting prospects and using technology to their advantage.

One man who’s largely responsible for those advancing efforts is Travis Bramme, the Bengals’ video director. He spoke with about how video plays a role in preparation for the NFL Combine as well as scouting overall.

The Bengals compile about 90-100 snaps per player they’re scouting, which took extensive amounts of time 10 (and even two) years ago. Now, with the technology at their disposal, that process has been simplified and allows the Bengals to maximize their time and get more done.

“That took us months,” Brammer says of creating player cutups during the days of tapes and VCRs. “Time codes and tapes. That’s all we would do. It was a slow process. It’s a process that really got even more efficient a couple of years ago.”

For example, when Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney requested every sack from the last two seasons from some of this year’s top defensive tackle prospects, it took the video team about 75 minutes, as opposed to one month, like video assistant Kent Stearman said it took just two years ago.

The NFL also helps out each of its teams by distributing video footage from the combine. From photographs at the weigh-ins to video of the 40-yard dash, and data from all the other combine drills, technology allows for that footage and information to be shared within hours and added into the computer systems that each team utilizes.

“It’s an efficiency we haven’t had in the past and now we’re adapting to use technology as best we can,” Brammer said. “We’ve never been this mobile. Now we can allow people to do on the road what they can do in the office. They can do in Indy (at the combine) what they do at the stadium.”

One thing is for certain, technology has advanced scouting and what teams can do in the lead up to the NFL Draft. Additionally, the combine isn’t the biggest thing scouts are looking at. In fact, Mike Potts, the Bengals’ southeast scout says that potentially only 10 percent of what they’ll look at when evaluating a prospect comes from what that prospect does at the combine.

“It’s hard to put a percentage on it. Maybe ten percent,” Potts said of how the combine factors into scouting evaluations. “If it’s a guy you haven’t seen and you’re trying to get a feel for his body type and how he moves around, you’ll take a look at him working in t-shirt and shorts and what he looks like in the weigh-in.”

With that said, Tobin has a policy that when evaluating players, all games have to be watched from start to finish. You can’t just look at a few highlight plays and determine a player is a good fit. It takes watching a full game and that’s the way the Bengals evaluate prospects. So while there have been many advances in time saving with technology, scouts still need to, ya know, watch football games to best evaluate a player.

“You would never spend more time watching (the combine) than the guy playing football,” Potts said.