Dave Gettleman will attend this week's NFL Scouting Combine for the first time as Panthers general manager.
His job title is about the only thing new about this event for him.
Gettleman has been involved with scouting on the NFL level since around the time the combine made Indianapolis its permanent home in 1987. Hired in January, Gettleman is still learning the nuances of being a general manager, but he knows pretty much everything there is to know about evaluating personnel.
The Panthers hope that pays off when the NFL Draft rolls around in late April.
NFL Network's live coverage of players' on-field workouts will begin Saturday, but the action will actually get under way Thursday in the jam-packed media area inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Head coach Ron Rivera and possibly Gettleman will be among the myriad of NFL team personnel that will address the media.
They'll share what they can about the Panthers' thoughts regarding the draft, but they won't divulge too much.
For one, withholding information or sometimes even running a misdirection play is a part of every team's draft strategy. Secondly, the Panthers' plan for the draft isn't yet set in stone, with the combine serving as a key component in the process.
Panthers scouts scoured the country from the beginning of last football season to get first-hand looks at the prospects that will make up this year's draft class. Many of those players are now descending on Indianapolis, 333 in all. If recent history is any indication, at least 85 percent of the 250-plus players that will be drafted will take part in the combine.
Over the next few days, Gettleman and Panthers coaches and scouts will get up close and personal with the prospects. They'll watch from the stadium stands what we'll watch on television, studying the prospects' every move in measurables like the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump.
Then, after the on-the-field festivities come to a close, Gettleman and Co. will delve deeper to reveal qualities that are harder to measure. Each evening for upwards of five hours, teams will host players for 15-minute interviews where no question is off limits.
The combine is crucial because it provides teams with updated 40 times and the like as well as time to get to know the prospects. But it's important to remember that it's neither the beginning nor the end of the path to the draft.
Before the combine, arguably the most important judgments are formed – judgments based on the prospects' level of play in a college uniform. After the combine, teams will continue to evaluate prospects through on-campus pro days as well as by inviting select players to their facility. Thanks to the combine, teams are in a better position to pinpoint their moves in the weeks leading up to the draft.
The combine and the draft are right in Gettleman's wheelhouse. He's spent the majority of his career evaluating talent, and now he's in a position where his evaluations carry even more weight.
It should be exciting to see it all play out.