Cyber draft


The Bengals video crew: Ricky Palmer, Travis Brammer, Kent Stearman and Richard Jones

Posted: 4 p.m.

Check out Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree's last-shot-Remember-The-Alamo catch from the comfort of your office computer?

Go to the folder for Crabtree's profile card, bang the cursor, and scroll to the date of the Texas game.

Find out whether Alabama left tackle Andre Smith's campus workout was an out take from Family Guy or a solid enough effort to get him back into the top 10 without leaving the aisle seat on the morning flight?

Double click the mouse on your laptop to "Pro Days," then find "Alabama," and then stop at Smith's video.

Want to see the side-to-side range of USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga without having to go cross country?

Punch up his profile card and scan for the file "Combine," click down, and then search for the video of his 3-cone drill.

Is Jackson State safety Domonique Johnson's blocked punt the difference between the fifth round, sixth round, or free agency on your board?

Jackson State is 1-AA, but you won't have to go YouTube. The Tigers, along with Division 2 and Division 3 schools that have prospects, have had their game tapes digitized.

Unfortunately for the general public (and even more unfortunately for the media), it is only a dream. But for Bengals scouts and coaches, the cyber draft is a way of life these days with the NFL Draft less than two weeks away and Travis Brammer's top 10 video system blazing away in 4.2 fashion.

Brammer, the Bengals Vicar of Video, is riding herd on one of the NFL's most massive computer networks that houses 20 terabytes of college games played in 2008 on about 50 computers and/or laptops.

With a DVSports computer network, the Bengals are one of only eight teams to have all college games online. Plus, they have enough space to store the last three seasons of all NFL games.

Offense. Defense. Special teams. All digital. Brammer says the Bengals have one of the league's three biggest video networks combining pro and college.

"The system has changed everything; there's almost no tape anymore," Brammer says in his hut humming with extra drives instead of drive blocks. "You'll almost never see a coach putting a tape into the deck on his desk. Unless it is something that has been archived."

What has been archived, along with VCRs and notepads, is the once insurmountable and incalculable wasted time. Kent Stearman, Brammer's assistant, believes the time a coach spends putting together a prospect's tape has been cut to a quarter of what it once was.

"The big thing is how that helps you on the back end," says secondary coach Kevin Coyle. "Now you've got extra time to go back and look at a guy. In the past, we had already put in plenty of time. But now, maybe if you want to go find another game, or take another look at the Pro Day, you can."

Before all the games were digitized, a coach had to go through tape and write down on paper the time code of the plays he wanted spliced into an individual tape for a prospect. He would then have to hand the paper to Brammer, Stearman or assistants Ricky Palmer and Richard Jones, and wait.

And that's if he could even get his hands on all the games he needed in timely fashion to put together such a tape. With all NFL teams each juggling one copy of each game, Coyle, say, might have to wait on an offensive coach combing through the same game tape.

Thanks to digitization, no more. Think back to before cell phones and cable TV and that's what has happened to NFL scouting in the past year.

Brammer, who hooked up with the Bengals video department four years before he got out of Marshall in 1994, has watched his world go from the Model T to the moon landing.

"The biggest change has to be those time codes," Brammer says. "The time efficiency has improved tenfold. We used to have tapes piled up all around the office right up until two weeks before the draft. Now there is no tape."

The process began this September when the Bengals video department got its first shipment of college games sent out by the NFL Dub Center in Mount Laurel, N.J., and converted it into digital while it was also pounding daily practice film into digital and cutting up that week's opponent so it could go online.

By the time the season was over, Brammer and Co. had the majority of games available for the coaches to view online so they could start putting together individual profile edits.

The scouts had already done their work on the system because once the tape is digitized, it is on the network.

"It made it easier for us, too, but it has got be a great thing for the coaches," says Jim Lippincott, director of football operations.

Now instead of walking down to the film room with his time codes on a piece of paper, a coach can sit at his computer, name a file, click through game film, tag a play, and put it into a file that becomes part of a prospect's profile card.

"I'm flying across country last month," says Coyle, with James Bondian intrigue not saying who or where, "and I'm looking at the guy's profile to refresh myself because maybe I haven't seen him since February. But they've also uploaded a bunch of games into my laptop so I can also do work on other guys while I'm out of the office. The time efficiency is just amazing."

Assistant offensive line coach Bob Surace stopped by Brammer's office last week to drop off an extra hard drive that had given him more storage space on his laptop.

"The time it takes is the biggest thing," Surace says. "Travis and his guys were busting it during last season to get it ready for us and now it's like you can almost see twice as much in half the time."

Take that day last week. Surace had heard about a prospect's Pro Day and wanted to check it out before the 9 a.m. draft meeting.

There was no hunting it down in the offices. There was no finding it hadn't come in yet from the NFL. He went to his computer, opened the file, and jotted down his thoughts in time for the meeting.

"You go to the combine and it used to wipe out three days of work," Surace says. "Now, you don't get behind because you can take it with you."

Brammer says it should be even smoother next year, when the NFL eschews tape altogether and sends all its college games over the Internet. The Bengals should be even more adept at the system because they've got a year under their belts.

"To think that a few years ago we were worried about storage for our pro and college tapes," Brammer says, "and now everything we need is on a small server rack in our IT closet."

Brammer sounds like a man who has gone from the Wright Brothers to the Palmer Brothers. If you go back to 1990, he has.

"Yeah, there were still a few cans of film and some projectors when I got here," he says. "We've really come a long way."

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