With 21 days remaining until the draft, spring workouts are coming to an end and teams are wrapping up their private workout tours. Now they will concentrate on draft meetings, scenarios and “what-if” decisions while putting the final touches on their draft boards.
The NFL allows each franchise to bring 30 draft prospects to their club headquarters. While all clubs don’t use their full allotment of prospects, clubs must send the list of players that visit to the NFL’s player personnel department prior to the visit. This list is kept confidential by the league. When the club’s list gets out, it is generally agents that contribute to the chaos.
There are a few rules and stipulations about these visits:
If a player’s birthplace is the same city as the NFL franchise, that visit doesn’t count against the allotted 30 prospects.
If the college or university are in the same metropolitan area, that visit doesn’t count against the allotted 30 prospects.
The final day that visits can take place is the Friday before draft day (April 22).
Several teams use this time period to strategize and smoke-screen other clubs with their visitation lists by inviting prospects they have no interest in. Others use the top 30 visits to mix in players they have great interest in, and draft from the group that attends. Many teams also invite players of great interest that were not invited to the combine.
If a team’s medical staff has red-flagged a player because of medical concerns like injury history, medical issues found at the combine and issues that were not cleared up at the combine recheck, then teams are allowed to give physicals, MRIs and meet with the club’s medical staff (trainers, physicians and doctors).
It allows the coaching staff another opportunity to apply more board work and film review if there are any doubts in the area of learning or mental capabilities. All players meet with the head coach, and some may visit longer, if there are character issues or other concerns that need more investigation.
In my tenure in the NFL, I’ve worked for two organizations, five head coaches and five general managers. All of them had their own style and ideas along with strategies on the prospect’s visitation period.
The Carolina Panthers reserved several of the top restaurants in Charlotte, N.C., for a sitdown dinner with coaches, scouts and the prospect themselves. These dinners provided great interaction among prospects and coaches, while the scouts asked several probing questions.
The Rams serve dinner at the Russell Training Center office of the late Georgia Frontiere. This office is more like a giant living room with a beautiful home feel to it, and is catered by Morton’s. Again, coaches and scouts mingle and observe player interaction among both other players and staff.
While all NFL franchises have their own style when it comes to entertaining the potential draftees, all have a taste of class that allows the prospects to feel comfortable. Again, observing the players in another setting outside their environment or the confines of the combine is a great help to the teams that are looking at them.
When you go on a job interview, you want to look sharp and present yourself well. With the top 30 visits, it is always interesting to see what the players choose to wear. Several players over the years had $2,000 tailor-made suits on that the agent has provided, accompanied by expensive foot wear (Allen Edmond’s, Ferragamo’s or Gator’s). Others wore dress sweats like Jordans, Reeboks or Pumas, and a few were poorly dressed with jeans and a sweat shirt or workout gear.
It is always interesting at the end of the night when they are dropped off at the hotel, to see which ones head to bed, go downstairs to the bar or catch a cab for the closet night club and in St. Louis’ case, the casino. I was called out of my bed when working with Carolina by a police officer who was a close friend and undercover in a local strip club, where he recognized a prospect that was extremely intoxicated and out of control.
Needless to say the next morning when meeting with the coaches he was still drunk, had not slept or showered and was ushered directly to the airport after several trips to the men’s room for vomit sessions. While I have several other stories, I think you get the point. The top-30 visit period serves several uses and teams won’t tip their hand or develop a pattern that can be tracked over the years.