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Chiefs' Dorsey embracing technology for draft

Published on -5/7/2014, 10:12 AM

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By Terez A. Paylor

McClatchy-Tribune

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After spending years around the game of football, including several as a front-office executive for the Green Bay Packers, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey has gained a certain reputation.

"He's a real scout," said Packers general manager Ted Thompson, Dorsey's former boss. "In this day and age, sometimes those are hard to find."

Dorsey, a 53-year-old former linebacker, has embraced that description while tackling the task of turning the Chiefs into Super Bowl champions.

However, you'd be wise not to put the Chiefs' second-year boss in a neat little box.

"I'm an old-school guy," Dorsey said recently. "But I'm also open-minded enough to see if new technology can help make us better."

One of the ways Dorsey has backed up his words is with the use of Decision Lens, an analytics-based software firm based out of Washington, D.C., whose advanced software platform is designed to help the Chiefs' internal decision-makers identify the players who best fit their criteria for what they want at every position.

"It's just another mechanism (we use)," said Dorsey, who also called it a "game changer for identifying and analyzing talent" in a news release provided by the company.

But how does it work? Let Dan Saaty, Decision Lens' chiefs technology offer, explain.

"You're going to collect data on these players all year," Saaty said. "Some of the data is highly accurate, quantitative measured data (from the combine). Some of it is subjective, judgmental data (from scouts). How do I take their raw capabilities from the combine and blend it with the scout's (judgments) about how the guy will play in the field, what his character is like, how intelligent they will be and get a whole picture of how a player performs for a given position?

"That's what we help them do. We give structure to that."

In other words -- and without going into too much detail, Saaty noted -- the company essentially asks each team how much they care about each workout drill (such as the bench press or 40-yard dash), then based on that, the software can assign each player a physical score. The software then integrates that score with each team's own scouts' subjective assessments of the qualities the team deems important in order to produce an overall score.

"It helps them synthesize information that most teams can't," Saaty said.

Saaty said the company also counts another NFL team as a client, but declined to give the name because he wasn't sure he had permission to do so. He said the Oakland Athletics and Arizona Diamondbacks have also used their services.

"It's a progressive way of doing analytics," Saaty said. "But the truth of the matter is, how you use the tool and wield it defines how it works for you. You can put this in somebody's hands, but if they don't know how to use, they might not get a lot of value out of it."

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