As Vikings director of football information systems, Paul Nelson was tasked with programming a giant, one-of-a-kind “smart” draft board that General Manager Rick Spielman says is “tailored to how my brain works.”
And if that weren’t enough, Nelson had to make it “Rick-proof” to avoid a draft-day disaster.
The result was 40 55-inch TVs all intricately coordinated into a draft board that can with one touch sort and display information that used to take Spielman 20 minutes to arrange manually with cards and magnets.
“I was just at our league IT conference and literally no one has done anything to this extent,” Nelson said in May while in the draft room at the facility. “The Cowboys did something last year, but on a smaller scale. Nobody is real open about what they’re doing, but I had multiple teams come up and ask me a bunch of questions. I gave them specifically vague answers.”
The smart board reflects the color-coded and precisely-numbered grading system Spielman has used since taking charge of the Vikings’ draft in 2007. The board’s efficiency also helps in pre-draft meetings because it’s big enough to display a player’s game film and all his information, including stats, injuries, off-the-field concerns and a report from the Vikings’ analytics department.
The smart board is used the same way for free agency.
“We have grades and information on every player in the league,” Spielman said. “We’ll have up to 11 grades per year for every year a guy has been in the league. Before, you had to look through books. Now, one touch puts it up on the screen for everyone to see.”
He added: “You still have to evaluate and pick the players, but this makes us more efficient. And, hopefully, being more efficient makes you better at what you do.”