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2023 NFL Draft

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'Let the board talk to you': Inside the Giants' 42-screen draft room
By Dan Salomone Apr 27, 2023
Photographs By Matt Swensen

To call it a "chair" wouldn't do it justice. When Joe Schoen sits down in the Giants' draft room, he assumes the captain seat of what looks like the control room of a submarine.

The 1,200-square-foot space on the second floor of the two-story Quest Diagnostics Training Center has no windows. Football Ops needed every inch to fit 42 screens across three walls, each meticulously placed with a purpose and each capable of pulling up any piece of information on a prospect at the tap of a finger.

Last year, he had magnets.

Schoen would carry them around in his pockets and pull them out whenever he wanted to go over scenarios with someone. Frequently, that person was Brian Daboll, and two of those magnets were printed with the names Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, their first two picks made as a general manager and head coach tandem. No one can argue that the "magnet" year didn't turn out to be a resounding success, but Schoen and Daboll have a growth mindset.

"The thought on changing the draft room and revamping the way we did things in here was just trying to evolve with technology and modernize the football operation the best we could," Schoen said. "We went away from the manual process of printing out magnets, putting labels on magnets, manually moving them up and down the board. Any time we would move a player we'd have to type it into a computer. So we tried to digitize the room the best we could, not just from our scouting grades, coaches' grades, but [also] analytics, medical, security. We developed a scouting system that can truly be utilized throughout the entire football operation. We've been much more efficient this year through our meetings, and the technology has been a big part of that."

"We're trying to use this as a decision center."

In 2022, there were just 97 days in between Schoen's hiring and the first night of the NFL Draft. Conversations about revamping the room were put on hold until the Fall and then quickly took two tracks.

One was the physical infrastructure. They met with a large group from the facility, information technology, and security departments, and also brought in a consultant to design the key elements.

Adjacent to that was how to use the room year-round and decide what would go on the screens. To solve that puzzle, a half-dozen people gathered from the software and data sides.

"That was somewhat of a challenge, to be building things for screens that didn't quite exist yet," Giants Director of Football Data and Innovation Ty Siam said. "But I thought the team collectively did a great job putting the conception to delivery with the software we built and the screens we have access to.

"I think the room as a whole is really a collection of technology and software to put together all the meaningful points that we're trying to do at different points in the calendar here on the football side. We're trying to use this as a decision center where we're putting up as much information as we can about players or teams, whether that be about draft, free agency, cutdown period, trade deadline, and really build tools that help Joe and our leadership group in the football operation make the best decisions for the Giants."

View photos from inside the Giants' newly-renovated draft room at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

"I am a pacer on draft night. I get antsy. I don’t know if I’ll have to do it as much this year in this new room. There’s not as much space up near the board."

The front wall, i.e. the draft board, is comprised of 22 55-inch screens. They are flipped vertically in two rows of 11. The sidewalls have eight apiece in the rear (also 55-inches in two rows of four) in addition to another 55-inch one in the middle on the left side and a 40-inch screen in the middle on the right. The latter two are above keycard access doors and will be used for clock purposes in between picks.

Then there are the ol' 98-inchers, mounted diagonally near the front on both sides. One will show the NFL Network broadcast during the draft, and the other will have ESPN.

For installation and maintenance, the inner walls can slide, and the entire room is raised nearly four inches to accommodate the yards and yards of wiring beneath it. One can feel the incline in the carpet as you approach the door.

The only thing the old draft room had that the new one doesn't is extra space to let out some nervous energy.

"I am a pacer on draft night," Schoen said. "I get antsy. I don't know if I'll have to do it as much this year in this new room. There's not as much space up near the board. It's hard to tell. In the heat of the moment, I'll probably be up pacing all over again."

Nerves don't apply only to the person making the picks. The man running the technology also has to be on point.

"Super excited and a little bit nervous," said Siam, who has conducted at least 30 reps of mock drafts. "But I think we've put a lot of thought into how this room is supposed to work. We've been fortunate to see the process from years past and how draft night should operate. We've done our best job to put the pieces together on the software side to execute draft night flawlessly and help Joe have the best stuff in front of him."

In case Schoen paces too far and accidentally covers up a key part of the screen that someone else is trying to see, it won't be a problem. The room, which is 38 feet deep and 31 feet wide, was designed for it.

"We tried to build this so that we have a plethora of screens in here," Siam said. "Being able to use multiple screens and repeat information throughout is a key advantage. No matter where you're sitting you have all the information at your fingertips - that helps us make decisions. I think repeatability is one of the most important things. We put a lot of thought and process into where should things go, and a lot of times we built this room on diagonals because it's longer than it is wide. A lot of the content that we're putting in the front right, we're going to try to do somewhere in the back left. And in the front left, we're going to do somewhere in the back right. You'll see that repeatability."

"A lot of people throughout the building have come in, and they’re a little bit in awe in terms of how nice it is. And it really is.”

The room can be controlled by two panels – one mobile and one fixed at the control station – which allow users to push content from multiple sources to any screen in the room. This is a powerful feature, but a key element to the room's function is the presets that can be chosen from the head of the U-shaped table, where Schoen sits. He will be flanked by Daboll, and they will be bookended by John Mara and Steve Tisch among the roughly 30 people in the room.

Schoen can tap a button for "DRAFT MODE," which turns the lights down, puts the board up, and sets up all of the side screens with the information he will need when the Giants are on the clock. It is one of the many bells and whistles that got the office buzzing when it was completed in time for February meetings.

"A lot of people throughout the building have come in, and they're a little bit in awe in terms of how nice it is, and it really is," said Schoen, who may or may not have turned on March Madness and The Masters this spring to "test" out the room. "You've got to thank the Mara and Tisch families for giving us the resources to turn this into a real-life deal. … Our development team has done an excellent job creating a digital draft board along with some other tools that we use not only in meetings but on draft night, from trade calculators, trade scenarios - whatever it may be, whatever may come up - with a touch of a button we'll be able to bring some of that stuff up on screens and quickly make decisions based off some of the developments we made in the technology department."

The state-of-the-art draft room, which has a framed photo of late owner Wellington Mara hanging inside the main door as a reminder in the ocean of technology, is part of the Giants' route to sustained success. Now it's time to take it out to sea.

"You narrow the circle the closer you get to the draft," Schoen said. "A lot of the conversations, we've already had. You really let your board talk to you."


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