2014 NFL draft: Panthers switch scouting services

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers have made a huge shift prior to the NFL draft.

The NFL draft is three months away, but the Carolina Panthers made an early switch Monday that could have huge implications for who is selected in May.

Dave Gettleman is returning to well-trodden ground with the news the organization are making a wholesale shift in independent scouting from National Scouting Services, the league-leader to the lesser-known BLESTO scouting services. It's an intriguing move that moves against the stream, and according to Joe Person is a decision largely driven by the team's general manager.

"Their philosophy was the way I was raised," Gettleman said Monday. "Height, weight, speed are important, but not the end-all, be-all. It truly was about evaluating the guy as a potential prospect and player."

Understanding the shift means explaining the process. Only three NFL team scouts alone. Rather than the other 29 teams paying independent scouting departments spread around the country they pool reports. From there independent scouts will look at prospects individually, including the director of scouting and finally the general manager.

It means that there will be less of a possibility to fall into group-think, but less scouts to pool resources means there's less ability to share the wealth. In short, it increases the possibility for risk and reward.

Teams change scouting services semi-regularly, and now only eight NFL teams are using the BLESTO system: Carolina, Washington, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Jacksonville, Detroit, Buffalo and Minnesota. It's tempting to pick through each of these organizations to find draft successes and whiffs, but ultimately it's about decision makers at the top that shape a draft class.

One area that seems common in the BLESTO system is a propensity to find late-round gems, something the Panthers have struggled at in recent years. It remains to be seen whether the same luck will carry to Carolina.

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