The NFL Draft: Entry-level Talent Acquisition for Professional Football


The 2015 SHRM Talent Management Conference & Exposition is underway, and shortly after the engaging speaker series and effective networking concludes, the National Football League (NFL) Draft will be kicking off.

An NFL franchise, like any other high-performance organization, must leverage talent as a source of competitive advantage. Whether it's competing for a Super Bowl (and fans) or for the Fortune 500 ranking (and customers), an organization's ability to acquire top talent plays an integral role in getting them to the top.  As a young HR professional who happens to be obsessed with sports, I often equate the NFL Draft to entry-level professional talent acquisition. Given the selection resources and particular conditions of the NFL labor market, it would seem nice if that were truly the case.

First of all, virtually every attribute that can be measured has been measured for all potential NFL candidates. Each spring, exceptional athletes from a variety of NCAA football programs are invited to the NFL’s equivalent of a job fair and practical assessment center - the NFL Combine.  The Combine is comprised of a series of tests and events including but not limited to: the bench press, 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuttle, 60-yard shuttle, interviews, physical measurements, drug screens, the Cybex Test, and the Wonderlic Test.  Beyond the Combine, NFL evaluators have access to hundreds of hours of reviewable game film. If the best predictor of future success is how an individual has performed in a similar role previously, this type of exhaustive assessment can’t be beat.

Why is it that, despite all of these measures and a near perfect labor market, there continues to be highly touted players that fail to meet performance expectations, or, in other words, become a draft bust? My theory is that NFL teams, not unlike many organizations today, rely too much on a broad set of measurable traits and hiring metrics without focusing on the integration of those attributes to their strategy or culture.

If NFL franchises and talent-hungry companies want to succeed, it will be crucial for them to develop custom selection tools that not only identify top performance potential, but also assess the fit of the individual into the organization's culture.


"...And with the 1st pick in the 2015 Human Resources draft, Talent Acquisition selects Cultural Fit Assessments!"

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