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Inside the interview process that helps determine Washington's draft class

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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For fans and analysts, the excitement of the NFL Scouting Combine centers around the on-field drills. However, the truth is that much of the real work happens when the cameras are off.

While seeing prospects run, jump, throw and catch passes better than the rest of humanity is important, the information that teams get during the interview process can be invaluable. Putting aside the outlandish questions that can occasionally make headlines this time of year, the one-on-one interactions head coaches, general managers and assistant coaches get with prospect can help round out their evaluations and determine whether a player is worth taking with a draft pick.

Most of these interactions are justifiably kept under wraps, but the latest episode of "Commanders Log" pulls back the curtain to provide a glimpse at what the experience is like.

"You go all fall talking to groups of people that know these kids...but then you actually get down and talk to these kids," said college scout Ron Rose. "It really answers a lot of questions, sometimes it can bring up a lot of questions."

Film study and getting more insight on prospects' football knowledge is part of the interview process and important, but one of the main focuses for each team is to get to know their potential draft picks a little better and determine who they are as people. Prior to the week-long event in Indianapolis, most of their perceptions on players are molded through secondary accounts supplied by scouts from conversations with their college coaches.

Head coach Ron Rivera, general manager Martin Mayhew and executive vice president of football/player personnel Marty Hurney give their scouts plenty of insight on what they look for in players, but none of that trumps a face-to-face, personal experience. 

"I think intelligence, toughness and the ability to communicate is really just the most important things," said college scout Peter Picerelli. "We've spent upwards of a year scouting these guys, and it really comes down to...not only the person and the athlete, but also their intelligence level and judging how early they'll be able to come into our team and contribute." 

The answers that players give during these interviews can go a long way toward determining where a player fits on a team's board. That's what happened with Sam Howell when Rivera asked him a simple question: "What do you do best as a football player?" 

"I think what really separates me is my ability to rally a team and just get a team going," Howell responded. "I went to a program that won three games the previous two years, and when I got there, I kind of went in there and set a new standard and held myself accountable to that standard each and every day. 

"Through that, I was able to earn the respect of the team," Howell added. 

That answer may have played a role in the Commanders deciding to take Howell at the start of the fifth round. So far, his limited sample size has laid a foundation for what could become a solid career. 

As the draft gets closer to kicking off in Kansas City, we're a week away from seeing which players in this year's crop of talent impressed the Commanders the most.  

Be sure to check out the latest episode of "Commanders Log" at 7 p.m. tonight. You can also watch previous episodes HERE.

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