What the NFL Draft Reveals About Hiring the Right People

April 26, 2024 / by ECLARO

The 2024 NFL Draft is providing great theater, as it does every year, a mix of drama and dreams come true, franchise-quarterback picks and head-scratching selections, gigantic cheers and profane jeers we can’t repeat here fill every round from the first pick through Mr. Irrelevant. Amid the entertainment, the NFL Draft is, at its core, an exercise in finding the Right People. It’s that simple. And that is where the simplicity ends, of course.

Highlight reels are filled with blink-and-you-missed-him 40s and touch-the-sky vertical leaps. Resumes are packed with college stats and accolades accumulated since peewee league games. They all play into each organization finding that can’t-miss prospect. Or trying—because we all know that identifying the next superstar won’t result from assessing only raw physical prowess or deep-dive stats.

Executives are also on the lookout for a unique set of soft skills that often spell the difference between a promising prospect who goes bust and a transformative player. Listening to all the pundits and podcasters, the predictions and the prognostication, you can’t help but hear that so many of the skills that NFL GMs and coaches and owners prioritize when evaluating talent could well be valued in searching for top talent and predicting success on and off the field…

Leadership: True leaders influence their teammates on and off the field. NFL execs know that players who demonstrate genuine leadership qualities can set a winning tone for the entire team, fostering cohesion, a sense of united purpose and resilience in the face of adversity. Today’s rookie could be tomorrow’s captain.

Work Ethic: The journey from amateur to professional athlete demands relentless dedication and a willingness to put in the work—learning new skills and honing old ones until they are mastered (and then still working to keep them sharp). Prospects with a proven work ethic are more likely to adapt to the rigorous demands of the NFL or the workplace, continually striving to improve their game and maximize their potential.

Coachability: Certain talents and attributes may be innate—you can’t coach 6’ 8”, it’s been said—but the willingness to learn and grow is a trait that sets elite individuals apart. Even when they see all-world talent in front of their eyes, team builders seek prospects who are receptive to coaching, able to absorb feedback constructively, and implement changes to refine their skills and technique.

Adaptability: Nothing is constant except change. In the ever-evolving landscape of the NFL, where teams are always coming up with new ways to out-plan and out-perform the competition, adaptability is key to staying relevant and thriving amidst shifting strategies and game plans. Players who demonstrate versatility in their positions or the ability to adjust to new schemes—as well as the new locker room culture they are about to enter—are highly coveted.

Communication Skills: Team success, on the gridiron or in the office, requires effective communications among individuals for seamless coordination and execution. Prospects who excel in articulating ideas, providing clear explanations or instructions, and fostering camaraderie amongst teammates possess a valuable asset that transcends individual talent.

Resilience: The road to NFL stardom is fraught with setbacks, injuries and inevitable moments of defeat. Players who exhibit resilience in the face of adversity, bouncing back stronger from the down moments and maintaining mental toughness under pressure, are invaluable assets any organization.

Emotional Intelligence: Beyond the X’s and O’s, understanding the dynamics of human behavior and emotions can be instrumental in building cohesive team chemistry. Prospects who demonstrate emotional intelligence are adept at navigating interpersonal relationships, fostering a positive team culture and galvanizing their peers towards a common goal.

Passion for the Game: At the heart of every successful individual lies an unwavering passion for the game they love. Teams seek prospects who possess a genuine love for football, evident in their dedication, enthusiasm and unwavering commitment to excellence.

You’ll hear it throughout the rest of the draft, into the pre-season workouts, right up to the kickoff and then throughout the players’ careers—in the game of drafting talent, soft skills often prove to be as much a deciding factor in a player’s level of success at the NFL level and in determining what rookies of today will become the legends of tomorrow. As team execs meticulously assess prospects, they remind us all that the right blend of skills, experience, character, culture fit and those often-intangible skills can make all the difference in finding the Right People and shaping the future of a franchise.

And when the Right People come along, great organizations have the ability to see it and turn themselves into winners.

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