As the Rams wrapped up their final prospect visits at Russell Training Center, it is a very interesting group to say the least. This time of year there is a lot of smoke bellowing from every organization, from the spring workouts, top-30 visits and even the agents jumping in to deliver their smoke signals as well.
During my 15 years as a NFL personnel man, I’ve seen, heard and done some smoke-screening myself. Sending scouts to workouts where we clearly don’t have any interest or sending coaches and scouts to a big school that may have several prospects, trying to confuse other teams regarding your thought pattern. Agents will use media friends to push their clients, or have them reveal damaging information such as medical or character problems with other players.
Over the years, several general managers and front-office executives use key words when describing a need or a want around draft time. Some talk in circles and don’t say anything, some use riddles that don’t have any meaning and others don’t say a thing and avoid speaking to all media.
What I have learned over the years is that those that want to speak this time of year, are sending out major smoke-screens, saying one thing and doing the opposite. When reviewing the prospects that visit clubs, some teams like the Giants over the years bring in players they are truly interested in drafting and do just that.
Other teams shy away from bringing in those they really covet and move in the direction having non-combine players make visits or those with medical questions so their doctors can get one last look. The other strategy I used in Carolina, and is used in every organization is called the coaches call.
The idea is for the coaches to call and check up on a player, asking questions like, “Are you healthy, what trips did you take,” while getting a good feel or gauge of interest from around the league on teams calling the prospects. The college scouts will get into the process of calling as well. The scouts will call and check for draft-day phone numbers.
What I also found over the years is that the players’ cell number will change once if not twice in the weeks after the combine. Agents give them a new number for two reasons: 1. so other agents don’t steal their clients, and 2. for control and to form a cushion from outside contacts with the exception of family. Making sure you have the right number is vital when calling them on draft day.
The Rams held their yearly dinners at Rams Park earlier this week for numerous players. Listed below are a few players and some thoughts on each. Some have medical issues or concerns, while with others this was a second or third chance for the organization to get to know them better.
RB Alex Green, Hawaii: Very good athlete with great size/speed combination and gear change burst and acceleration. Good production.
RB Jamie Harper, Clemson: Good athlete with good foot quickness, change of direction.
RB Mark Ingram, Alabama: Very good athlete and an excellent downhill runner between the tackles. Has a compact running style with power and production after contact. Exceptional balance, vision and run instincts with burst and gear change. Very good production.
RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois: Good athlete with size and speed. Has explosive running style with very good 2010 production.
RB Stevan Ridley, Louisiana State: Good athlete with size and adequate long-ball speed. Natural run skills.
RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State: Excellent size, but lacks the home-run speed. Inside downhill banger with good balance and body control. More quick than fast.
WR Julio Jones, Alabama: Freak athlete with skill-set and a huge ceiling.
OG Will Rackley, Lehigh: Small-school player projects inside; raw with huge ceiling and upside.
DE Cameron Jordan, California: Good athlete with length, better quickness then power, can play up or down and will give pass rush from edge play or inside.
DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina: Good athlete that flashed natural pass-rush skills; brain tumor is still a concern for me.
DE Aldon Smith, Missouri: Local talent with good length, explosive first step and may end up as the best pass rusher in this draft class.
DT Corey Liuget, Illinois: After Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley, he is the best interior defensive lineman in the draft. Good athlete with quickness and disruptive inside play. I really like this player.
LB Mason Foster, Washington: Good athlete with motor that runs fast. Good chase and pursuit and is a productive playmaker on defense and will be a core special teams player.