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Notes: Lions assistant director of pro personnel breaks down Detroit’s scouting process

How do the Lions identify future greats? A front office veteran in his 12th year with the team offered some thoughts.

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2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Ben Raven and Kyle Meinke from MLive are fun guys with a great podcast called the Dungeon of Doom in honor of former head coach Jim Caldwell’s label for the local media. The weekly episodes they post are regular items we include on the weekend Notes, but this week there’s a particularly good episode with an unusual and relevant interview worth highlighting: assistant director of pro personnel Joe Kelleher. Kelleher used to be a pro scout but was promoted to his current position in 2022. Over the past 11 years with the Detroit Lions, he’s been a college scouting coordinator, regional scout, and BLESTO scout. With the NFL Combine as the backdrop for the week, hearing Kelleher’s thoughts on how the Lions evaluate players is incredibly timely.

The first half of the March 3 podcast episode is a discussion of Ben Johnson, the Lions offense, and risks at quarterback in the upcoming season. That stuff is cool, but what we’re really interested in starts at around the 21:30 mark. Meinke introduces the segment with a clip from head coach Dan Campbell at the NFL Combine about the “it factor” the team looks for, and then go into the regular interview portion of the show with Kelleher at 25:10.

While it’s wonderful to simply hear about what really goes on from someone who truly knows what happens behind the curtain like Kelleher, there are a number of great bits in the interview. Hearing about head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes getting into the nitty gritty of scouting in a hands-on way is very cool. It was particularly gratifying to hear a scrappy undersized cornerback prospect who ended up being a Pro Bowl safety oozing leadership stood out way back when the Lions were scouting him for the draft:

When Kelleher used the term “authenticity” with respect to Quandre Diggs, that seems like exactly the right way to label him: authentic. The point Kelleher makes about how it’s not just one interview or one thing that informs their analysis of a player’s personality is a good one; repeated interactions over a long period of time evaluating and watching a player (multiple years sometimes!) allows them to get a better sense of the player’s core, especially in less-rehearsed or spontaneous/unguarded moments.

“The more time you spend around somebody, it’s like the more opportunities they have to kind of show variance. To be different.” Not just what the players says, but how they say it. Absolutely right.

Kelleher’s characterization of player evaluation as a cumulative thing that draws on so many different sources certainly meshes with what we hear from throughout the organization. Yes, there is what Kelleher gives as the subjective evaluation of football intelligence, passion for the game, and tape but then he also brings up the analytics and objective data methods for determining comparables and such. So everything matters! Not just tape, not just measurables, not just personality or intangibles; it’s all in there reinforcing and confirming each other to form a better picture.

It’s a fantastic half hour window into the world of player evaluation and worth a listen. You can stream the entire episode in a web player on Spotify. Now let’s move on to the rest of your weekend Notes:

  • As always, the more you read from Erik Schlitt, the more you learn. On a Twitter thread, Erik talked about two drills he particularly likes to watch with defensive backs:

  • Well, this is interesting:

  • Good choice here by Texas running back Bijan Robinson:

  • The team has such a beast for a defensive coordinator:

  • Whoa.

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