Charley Casserly was the general manager of the Washington Redskins from 1989-1999 and the Houston Texans from 2002-2005 and is now an analyst for NFL Network and NBC Sports Washington. He joined Glenn Clark Radio March 27 to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the draft process and more.
PressBox: You more than anybody can give us some insight into how much this situation really is impacting NFL teams as they’re going through the draft process. What really does this do for a team as they’re trying to build their draft board not having the ability to bring these players in or get in front of them the way they have in the past?
Charley Casserly: I was in the league before there was a Combine. There were no senior pro days. It was not uncommon to draft players that you didn’t have a physical on, believe it or not. I came from that era, so even though it is not the right thing to do, you’re going to have to work with it. Again, I was there when we didn’t have these things. It comes down to a couple of things. The quality of your area scouts. In other words, if you’ve got good area scouts, they know these players. They know their backgrounds. They know the red flags on them.
Now, the medical’s a little tricky, so you may have to just pass on some players that you couldn’t get a complete medical done on at the Combine. But if a player has no medical issues in his history, I would go ahead and draft him. If we can’t find anything, I’d go ahead and draft him. That’s what we did for years, and it rarely ever backfired. In other words, if a guy’s never missed a game, that’s a pretty good indicator he’s going to be OK. That’s one thing there.
Interviews? I was in a time when players were rarely interviewed. Players were drafted — this was before I got in the league — in December and January while they were playing college football. In the war between the AFL and NFL, they signed players on the field after their last game. So we’ve been in an era without interviews. Now, what they’re doing right now, they’re doing technologically with Skype and things like that. Now, that’s not the same as being with a player one-on-one. So yeah, there is a little bit of a wild card there, but at least you’re getting some contact with him on the interview.
The 40 time, that’s tough now if you don’t have a 40 time on a player because you’re guessing. You go back and you look at the tape and you write down play speed. If a guy has seen him in a game, what’s he look like there? That’s the biggest wild card is the guess on the times. Because there’s some times a guy isn’t quite as fast as you might think he is, and that can be very dangerous at a skill position. I’ve been there when it’s been done with a lot less information. If you’ve got a real good scouting staff, especially area scouts, you’re going to have an advantage in this draft — and if you have extra picks.
PB: There has been an argument from a few people that a team like the Ravens might actually be one of the teams that does benefit from something like this because of, as you point out, the strength of their scouting and their system as a whole and maybe some of their willingness recently to rely on a little bit more on analytics, that that would benefit them. Do you think there is something to be said for that?
CC: I don’t know where the analytics would fit in, to be honest with you, and I don’t mean that in a negative or a positive way. I just couldn’t answer that question. But the Ravens have a couple of things going for them. They scout in the spring a year ahead of time, so they’re always ahead of everybody at the beginning of the season. Right now, the teams that always play catch-up in the spring don’t have that ability. So that’s where the Ravens are ahead of everybody. The other thing is they’re a team that always values getting extra picks. That’s where they’re ahead of everybody, too. So they have two things going for them that are real positive in this year’s draft.
PB: You had your second mock draft go up on NFL.com March 24. In that draft, you have the Ravens taking Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray with the No. 28 pick. There are a lot of logical reasons why that makes sense for the Ravens. The bigger fear from a lot of people right now has been: Is Kenneth Murray definitely going to be available by the time you get to 28? Do you think there is a chance that Murray is off the table before the 28th pick? How would you compare Murray and LSU linebacker Patrick Queen? Is there a significant difference between the two?
CC: I don’t know if there’s a significant difference. Queen’s name is consistently ranked behind Murray when I talk to people, so that’s why I have Murray ahead of him. I’ve watched them both on tape. They’re very similar. They’re athletic, they’re instinctive, they can cover. I don’t know if either one is necessarily a big thumper inside, but I don’t know if you have to be that. If you’re instinctive, you usually avoid most of the blocks anyway in that situation. Watching both of them, I feel that Murray was a little bit better tackler than Queen. Both of them are very good to the outside, they both show good cover ability and they both are a little bit inconsistent taking people on. Murray’s a bigger guy, at least height-wise and weight-wise. I’d say it’s 50-50 [Murray reaches the Ravens]. There’s not a lot of teams looking for inside linebackers that would be high on their priority list. That’s what they have going for them at that point as far as him being there.
PB: Do you think it’s necessary for the Ravens in addressing wide receiver to find someone who’s truly not just someone who’s maybe willing to block begrudgingly but find someone who really takes it as part of their craft?
CC: That’s your wish list, but you’ve got to be careful. The first thing is you better find somebody they have to defend. You want a guy that alters the coverage, a guy that can beat man-to-man coverage because they see a lot of one-on-one coverage. So if you have guys that can’t beat man, that’s not going to help yourself when you throw the football. I’m not dismissing the value of blocking in their offense, because it’s a rather unique offense. But what really scares you if you have to defend them is if you can’t cover one of their receivers one-on-one because you’re not going to be able to double him because you need the other safety to be able to be assigned to the quarterback to support on the run.
PB: The Ravens have a lot of picks in this year’s draft. Could you see a world in which this is the year for the Ravens to try to be bold to address an issue they have, whether that’s edge rush — because it doesn’t look like there’s a great edge rush class outside of the top of the draft — could you see them trying to be bold? Or do you just think that’s very un-Ravens-like for them to try to use their picks that way?
CC: Well, this is the year not to be bold. This is the year to collect picks and get extra picks because of so many unknown issues in the draft with these players. So you’re liable to be better off with a couple of thirds and a couple of fourths than trading up to get one guy. Now, if the board says, “Go get that guy,” that’s fine. I’ve always been for that. But you’re also going to have the advantage that this is a team that does a good job scouting. There’s going to be a lot of unknowns with players as this thing goes on. You might be sitting there doing a heck of a job with your extra picks.
For more from Casserly, listen to the full interview here:
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