Between the Senior Bowl, scouting combine and pro days, there are plenty of opportunities for NFL teams to get to know players.
There is still more to be done before the draft, though. Prospects have met with these teams in organized settings, but teams often like to see more. Many players will meet privately with interested teams in the coming weeks.
There will also be a lot of waiting, as the prospects count the days until they finally learn their fate after a grueling process that spans upward of eight months.
Let's take a look at all the different events the predraft process has to offer.
Each NFL team gets to bring in 30 prospects for a predraft visit to their facilities.
These visits can carry any number of purposes. The coaching staff and general manager may sit down with the prospect in the film room or put them up on the whiteboard to test his football knowledge. They may go out to dinner, as well.
In a piece written for National Football Post, former NFL college scouting director Greg Gabriel explains that these visits may take place in part to supplement the scouting combine and Senior Bowl, offering a closer look at some players who weren't a part of those events:
Another thing to remember is many of the players that clubs bring in are players that they have an interest in but were not at the Combine. Every year, there are about 40 players who weren’t at the combine who get drafted and some of those players will get drafted as high as the second round. You need to get a medical on these players before you draft them. Another large group of players brought in are players that you may have no interest in drafting but are very interested in signing as an undrafted free agent after the draft. By getting the medical done you know if the player is healthy and all right to sign.
In an email exchange, Gabriel adds that the interviews during private visits are more team-friendly because there is no 15-minute time limit like there is at the combine.
"Same goes for private workouts," Gabriel said. "You get to spend more quality time with the player. You get him on the board, talk to him, [and] get a good feel for what it would be like working with him."
GMs and head coaches are always looking for the best players on the field, but they also may want to spend as much time around these prospects as possible off the field just to see how they interact with others around them. A prospect may treat the coaching staff with the utmost respect, but how do they treat the attendants at the entryway? How do they treat the wait staff at the restaurant?
No workouts are allowed during a private visit. Those can only be accomplished away from the team's facility.
Between the scouting combine and pro days, NFL talent evaluators have plenty of opportunities to see prospects work out. The team can create yet another opportunity, though, by flying out to work out the player individually. In doing so, the team can get a closer and more precise look at whether the player has the right tools to fit their team.
As mentioned above, the workouts can take place anywhere except the team's facility.
A member or members of the team's front office and coaching staff may take the trip out to work out a player that has piqued the team's interest. Bleacher Report NFL featured columnist and former NFL linebacker Ryan Riddle told me about his experience in the predraft process via email:
My private workouts consisted of teams sending representatives out to me. Andy Reid, when he was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, sent his linebacker coach Steve Spagnuolo to work me out. The purpose of his visit was primarily to get a feel for my ability to play linebacker and to see how much it would take to crack me in terms of conditioning. The workout was only 15 minutes or so, but incredibly intense and without a single break. By the end of it, I could barely stand up. He flew all the way out to Long Beach just to put me through hell for 15 minutes.
As was the case with Riddle, a position coach may come along to offer his expertise. He could help to select the workouts, evaluate the player's performance in those workouts or offer his knowledge in any number of other areas to help inform the team's opinion of the player.
There are some limitations on the kinds of workouts that will take place prior to the draft. An agent will not allow his client to be put in danger of getting injured, as that would cause his stock to fall. However, it's not uncommon for players to go through specific drills that can help a team get a sense for the player as a fit for their scheme.
"They basically just put me through linebacker drills to see how fluid my hips were, and if I could be an inside linebacker," said Riddle. "It seems these workouts will focus on the elements in which they have the most questions. These workouts are designed to remove uncertainty in an area of a player's game."
B/R lead writer and former NFL safety Matt Bowen shared a similar workout story to Riddle's—he went through his own set of workouts in Iowa City with then-Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backs coach Perry Fewell, but Bowen's workout lasted three times as long at 45 minutes.
"The workouts on the field had some carry over in terms of drills from scouting combine and Pro Day," said Bowen, "but there were some drills and techniques I had never practiced. It was a challenging session that tested both my skill set and my conditioning level. Perry worked me pretty good."
Bowen pointed out one other advantage to making the trip out to work out a player: getting to talk to that player's coaches. When putting together the mosaic of what these players will eventually become, one of the key components is knowing what already exists within the player.
Hurry Up And Wait
The draft process is longer and more daunting than you think. These prospects hit the ground running in August at training camp for their final year in school, and they don't get to slow down until after their pro day or later, depending on how many workouts and visits they take before the draft.
As such, the downtime between the pro day and the draft can often be used as a period of relaxation.
"For most prospects, this is a rare opportunity to take a bit of a breather and actually rest their worn out bodies," said Riddle. "Most guys go from a long grueling season to All-Star games with a week of incredibly intense practice to training for the combine, then pro days. By this time, these guys should be physically spent and eager to allow their body to recover. I think this grueling offseason for rookies is partly why they end up burning out midway through their first year, hitting the proverbial 'rookie wall.' "
Of course, the prospects can't get too complacent to the point where they are out of shape or unprepared for rookie minicamps, which begin shortly after the draft.
The lull between the pro day and the draft can also be stressful for other reasons. Imagine being one of these prospects. You've done everything you can possibly do in order to prove yourself worthy of being drafted by any number of teams that are interested. Now, all you can do is wait. The draft isn't for another month.
For some, the reprieve from the grind of the predraft process can be seen as a blessing and a time for relaxation. For others, it can be a nuisance and just another mental obstacle prior to entering the NFL.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.
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