The main events of the college football postseason pre-draft process are: the All-Star games (mainly the week of practice leading up to the games), the combine in Indianapolis and the pro days held on numerous college campuses throughout the country.
A lesser-known tactic that NFL teams employ is to schedule private workouts with a draft prospect. The locations vary based on logistics, but often it is the player's school, the team's headquarters or possibly where the prospect is training during his preparation for his selection.
Teams value these private meetings as an opportunity to conduct a more open and intimate session with a prospect. It often involves a meal the night before or at some point during the visit where club officials are afforded the chance to interact with a young man external to his football persona.
Social skills and intellect, manners and overall increased feel for the player are part of the objective. It also previews the rapport that this player, almost always a high-pick candidate, may have with important members of the organization.
But the NFL is not charm school, and draft-day decision makers are not necessarily looking for boy scouts. The focal point of the endeavor is still very much about football. And in the one-on-one (team and player) construction, the workout and chalk talk become very focused on what they want to see from the player and/or specific to their projection of him.
Examples could be a re-run of on-field drills that the player previously dominated or struggled with during the combine or pro day. And with exactly how that player would fit into their team concept or scheme, a film session and play-diagnosis discussion can be tailored quite narrowly to test the prospect in this way.
Tweak the Concept Just a Little
Imagine if it were possible for a single prospect to hold a private workout that could be "attended" by every team, perhaps something involving virtual technology and dedicated secure communication channels.
Or if expense and logistics permitted a player to actually be available to all 32 teams, assuming they would be interested, for a private workout in the time on the calendar following his pro day and ahead of when a club's board is finalized.
Which player in the 2012 NFL draft class would command such attention, and why?
Janoris Jenkins, CB, University of North Alabama, 5'10" 195 lbs, senior, DOB: 10/29/1988
The former University of Florida standout is arguably the most polarizing first-round prospect in this class due to upside that could make him the best cover corner in the draft. But this potential is coupled with egregious and repeated character disasters, along with a puzzling drop-off in performance in 2011 despite transferring to the Division II level.
The remainder of his combine metrics read like this: 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 33.5-inch vertical leap, 10'1" broad jump, 4.13-second short shuttle and 6.95 seconds for the three-cone drill.
Along with average size, these athleticism markers are considered mostly average, or slightly above, across the board and did nothing to excite the scouting or draftnik community strictly in this context.
At his best, Jenkins shut down premier wide receivers in the Southeastern Conference in 2010 while a member of the Gators. Notches on his belt include 2011 NFL rookie sensations A.J. Green and Julio Jones, along with possible 2012 first-rounder Alshon Jeffery.
After being off the mainstream football scouting radar during his 2011 banishment to the University of North Alabama, he seemingly renewed his first-round stock with another quality showing at the Senior Bowl.
Jenkins' dismissal from the University of Florida was already a well-known subplot in the 2012 draft analysis and scouting community, stemming from multiple drug-related arrests. To his credit, he showed admirable candor during interviews at the Indianapolis combine, but this may have only further complicated his character evaluation.
Reports of children with multiple women spread like wildfire and became a further question mark on his decision-making and honesty when it was discovered that Terry Bowden, his head coach this year at North Alabama, was not even aware of them all.
Lately, it has also surfaced in the draftnik community, as more tape and conversations with scouts have become available, that Jenkins' performance at North Alabama this fall was not dominant. There were plenty of highlights, but he also varied with his consistency and sometimes played with a lackluster interest.
Why Would Every Team Attend this Workout?
Because every team may have a shot at him in conjunction with the possibility that his upside is potentially being the best cover player in the draft. He also projects to contribute, if not make an impact, on special teams in the return game and as a gunner.
He will fall in the draft due to his character concerns. And it may be possible, even likely, that he will make it through the entire first round. This would present a value opportunity for every team in the latter half of the stanza, namely the teams after pick 20, to select him outright with their own pick.
Or as he continues to fall down the board later on Day 1, a team from the first half of the second round could look at trading up into the late first in order to grab him as what they see is a perceived steal. Under either scenario, it behooves every team to have a firm evaluation of his football skills and off-field issues.
This hypothetical private workout that Jenkins would hold is likely the optimal setting for teams to run him through every single defensive back and special teams drill they have in mind, but also to hold court in a closed-door environment for ideal character judgement.
Every club's general manager, head coach, college scouting director and relevant positional coach(es) would have the opportunity to play counselor and behavior forecaster in deciding where their club comes down on his draft stock.
Ironically, if I were in charge of an NFL team's draft board, Jenkins would not be a consideration due to the character concerns. I believe there is a long enough track record of men with this decision-making ledger to amply support not making him a part of my organization.
This is not a critique of Jenkins's natural talent, or even a prediction that he will not succeed at the next level, but an affirmation that the resources of my club would not be spent in his direction. The bottom line for me is the challenge I think he presents in terms of maintaining accountability, both to teammates and management.
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