A Deeper Look at BLESTO Scouting Services

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

You may recall earlier this week James Dator posting on the announcement the Panthers had switched scouting service providers. My first thought was that this wasn't a real big deal. After digging a little deeper...still not so much! But I did learn a lot doing the research and so I thought I would share.

There are only two major players in this industry, BLESTO and National. I did some research on BLESTO that I found interesting, bold text emphasis is mine

Draft Daddy: Feature Articles
Membership responsibilities includes over $100,000 in annual dues and the assignment of at least one scout to the group. As scouts evaluate the current class of seniors visiting schools' pro days, they often work out underclassmen for future draft years. This data and other information is presented at meetings (usually in Florida) about two weeks after the current draft. The BLESTO and National reports are published from these meetings. These reports serve as a both starting point for the lengthy evaluation process and also a rough guide as to where players are regarded by the group. Some teams assign their most junior scout to the job of BLESTO/National regional rep, and the best ones are usually promoted or headhunted away from the role in short stint. This instability with the reps (and the lack of evaluating the senior season) can and will affect the accuracy of the reports.

This pooling of resources with personnel at various levels of experience in order to reach some consensus opinion on each prospect sounds like a crap shoot honestly. Since Gettleman worked for BLESTO back in the 80's as the Bill's rep and then used them in NY I'm sure this move it more about moving to a familiar service versus some indictment on National. In the end Gettleman and his team will make their draft picks based on their own assessment. But where I do see a service like BLESTO earning its money is finding those diamonds in the rough.

BLESTO sounds like it would be at least a medium sized company given they service so many NFL teasms but actually it's quite the opposite:

Blesto Inc - Saint Augustine, Florida (FL) | Company Profile

Blesto Inc A privately held company in Saint Augustine, FL. our records show it was established in and incorporated in Florida, current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $180,000 and employs a staff of approximately 4.

A little more info on them, they recently hired a new director in charge:

Tom Modrak hired as BLESTO Scouting director - CBSSports.com
BLESTO was centered in Pittsburgh and led by Jack Butler for years before he retired five years ago. Rob Kisiel was hired as his Butler's replacement and the organization relocated to Jacksonville, Fla. Modrak, who initially broke into the NFL by working for Butler, is a logical replacement. While every NFL team relies on their own scouting department to ultimately guide their draft-day decisions, some clubs find that joining a scouting service such as BLESTO is an effective way of cutting down the hundreds of thousands of potential college prospects to watch to a more manageable number.

Here's how they operate this time of year:

Inside The Bills | BLESTO

"Since the official declaration of the juniors eligible for the draft was January 18th, those guys (BLESTO) have been working on those juniors since the 18th hit," Whaley said, during an appearance Wednesday night on The John Murphy Show live at the Senior Bowl. "What they (BLESTO) do is give us a breakdown on what each of those juniors is about, and how they categorize those guys draft wise. And that will help us narrow our focus." "The BLESTO scouts will give us his information, here’s his lineage, here’s how he played , here’s what we thought about him when he played. Obviously, we had some scouts in on him, but we like to use that information resource as well, to get as much information on the players."

So these guys start their files on prospects when they are juniors so they then have a whole season to watch their progress and senior year performance.

Here's a former player I remember on the field who broke into scouting as the BLESTO rep for his former team:

Steelers hire Dan Colbert, Mike Butler as BLESTO and college/pro scout - Behind the Steel Curtain

Previously, former Steelers tight end Mark Bruener represented the Steelers in BLESTO in West Coast scouting. He has been made into a college scout with the Steelers.

So what exactly do these scouting reports look like when they are done? Well I found a National report from 2009  and I have say two things: (1) I would thought there would be more detail and (2) based on the grades given to the Georgia Tech players listed at the time I think they nailed it pretty good. I'll give more details on that at the bottom:

NFL Scouting Foundation - Blesto & National - Business Arena Sports Representation
Below is a preseason list of players graded by the National Scouting Service.  These players were eligible for the 2009 NFL DraftAs a general rule, a grade of 5.0 is a 7th round/priority free agent. Do you see players on this list graded much higher or lower than their NFL productivity has demonstrated thus far?  Scouting is definitely the bedrock to a successful NFL franchise.

Follow this link to view the National Scouting Report Example

Being a Georgia Tech fan I am familiar with most of those players and how their NFL careers panned out (if they had one). Of the seven players listed, four played in the NFL:

CB Jahi Word-Daniels (6.1) went undrafted, spent some time with the 49ers but is now out of the league. So they may have aimed a little high for this guy though he played well for GT.

DE Michael Johnson (7.4) was the most prolific of this group as he went in the 3rd round to the Bengals and is currently set to be a highly sought after free agent. It would have been hard to miss the talent in this 6'7" beast.

OT Andrew Gardner (5.6) was drafted in the 6th round by the Dolphins and is now active with the Texans. Gardner was actually more highly regarded than the 6th round but a late senior year injury forced him to miss the combine and caused his stock to drop. So they have missed a bit on Gardner.

DT Darryl Richard (5.3) had a ton of talent but injuries derailed his future. He was still drafted in the 7th round by the Patriots and stuck for a season or two but is now out of the league. They nailed this one.

DE Vance Walker (5.8) was drafted by the Falcons in the 7th round and has actually had a decent career. After four seasons with the Atlanta he signed with the Raiders this past offseason. So I would say they missed a bit on Walker too.

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