Posted: 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, 2013
By David Fucillo
A couple days ago, socalisteph discussed how the 49ers medical staff is an essential part of the team's draft evaluation process. The 49ers have some of the best and brightest minds on their medical staff, and in their football operations department. Add in a coaching staff that is constantly looking for an edge, and it should surprise nobody that the team looks for an edge in their draft evaluation process.
USA Today's Jarrett Bell discussed the 49ers work with SAP to develop a custom database for the draft. This was initially announced at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytic Conference. Some of you might recall Paraag Marathe and other NFL personnel execs on an analytics panel.
SAP initially formed their relationship with the 49ers through the new stadium. The team announced SAP as a Founding Partner, with SAP serving as the team's "exclusive Business Software, Statistics and Performance Partner". As described in the press release last September, "SAP will support the 49ers year-round operations by enabling the organization to run better in all facets."
Given the volume of players and picks involved in the NFL Draft, the process is as much a matter of data-mining as anything else. The 49ers and SAP developed a draft app called SAP Scouting, which the front office can access from secure smart phones, laptops and iPads.
InformationWeek had a great article about SAP Scouting. According to InformationWeek:
The version developed for the 49ers, and now available to other NFL teams, pulls together disparate data from multiple league databases plus external other sources including NCAA all-star reports. Teams then add coach assessments, scouting reports and other proprietary information to customize the app to their needs. This single source of player and prospect insight then provides dashboard-style analysis options that let users quickly explore the strengths, weaknesses and potential market value of more than 12,000 player prospects.
The app runs on SAP's "Hana in-memory database". I did some research, and from what I'm seeing, Hana provides greater speed in processing through the information. While this speed is probably not a big deal during the months leading up to the draft, I have to imagine every second can count later this week. When you get into the later rounds of the draft, teams need to be able to process information quickly as players are coming off their board. Even with extra time to pick in the first round, if the 49ers are looking to trade up or down, they will need to be on the ball to get deals done before a team picks, or another teams is able to get a deal done ahead of them. Having this kind of system in place provides the 49ers with an efficiency edge this year.
The 49ers are the first team to use this software, but it is likely that it will be used across the league before too long. The NFL is a copy-cat league, and with the 49ers returning to prominence, you just know much of the rest of the league will look to copy their tactics.
A member of the SAP team pointed out what should be fairly obvious in that regard: this is but one tool in the NFL Draft evaluation process. If you are plugging in bad information or poor scouting reports, you could be the most efficient team in the world and it won't make you draft better. The 49ers have the minds in place, but this allows them to develop greater efficiency.
Part of Jed York's vision has been taking this team to new heights in the technological realm. The team's new stadium will feature some of the most advanced technology at any stadium in the world. It is only fitting that the team uses technological advances to boost what the team is doing on the field. If you think about it, this is one more home field advantage for the 49ers. The team's offices and new stadium are in the heart of Silicon Valley. The team already takes advantage of their proximity to Stanford University on the medical front. Why not take full advantage of all Silicon Valley has to offer?
Head over to Vimeo to check out Paraag Marathe talking about the 49ers relationship with SAP.