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Our discoveries, after tracking pre-draft visits and workouts

2011 NFL Draft Getty Images

For the last two offseasons, PFT has used the media and our own resources to track pre-draft visits and workouts. We’ve hoped to find a connection between those meetings and what happens on draft day.

Visits and workouts are often written off as smokescreens, routine due diligence, or mere medical checks by observers unwilling to put in the time necessary to track them.

But we are willing.

And here are our findings:

1. In 2011, twelve of the top-14 picks either worked out for or visited their team before the draft. The only players who did not work out for or visit the team they were picked by were Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Jags G.M. Gene Smith did personally attend Gabbert’s Insight Bowl game against Iowa, however, and the Texans don’t use pre-draft visits on first-round prospects. Which brings us to our next discovery.

2. Some teams don’t use any pre-draft visits on elite prospects. The Texans, Bears, Jaguars, and Packers concern themselves almost strictly with late-round, undrafted types when scheduling visits. For example, the player drafted earliest with whom we know Green Bay formally visited was Markell Carter, the 194th overall pick. The Raiders and Colts, for the most part, also fall into this category.

And either the Houston media is not at all concerned with reporting pre-draft visits and workouts, or the Texans just don’t have many of them. (Our guess is the former.) We counted a league-low six Texans pre-draft visits, and each team is allowed up to 30.

3. 21 of this year’s 32 first-round picks visited or privately worked out for the team that drafted them. One notable outlier was Seahawks tackle James Carpenter. “We tried staying under the radar with this guy,” Seattle G.M. John Schneider confirmed during Carpenter’s introductory press conference. “I told our group … we were very proud of them that his name never got out.” The Seahawks rated Carpenter as the No. 2 offensive lineman in the entire draft.

But the connection is still strong between first-round picks and pre-draft meetings. Throw out the Texans, Bears, Jaguars, Packers, and Colts for reasons mentioned in point No. 2 here, and there was a 77.8 percent chance that a team’s first-round selection officially visited with or privately worked out for the organization he landed in.

And that’s pretty substantial.

4. No team puts in more face time than the Patriots. Bill Belichick’s team has had more private workouts than any club in the NFL over the past two seasons. (Which is as long as we’ve been keeping track.)

5. The Broncos smokescreened the hell out of quarterbacks. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but here’s a look at QBs Denver showed “interest” in: Colin Kaepernick (both private workout and facility visit), Cam Newton (facility visit), Blaine Gabbert (visit), Jake Locker (private workout), and Christian Ponder (workout). The Broncos didn’t draft a single signal caller.

So we’ll know to be on our toes when trying to read into John Elway’s future visits and workouts lists.

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19 Responses to “Our discoveries, after tracking pre-draft visits and workouts”
  1. gosuhgo says: May 5, 2011 2:34 PM

    Interesting article. The Lions seem to like to be extra tricky come draft time – I think Fairley got in on the last day before the draft it at all, and Best last year didn’t get so much as a phonecall until he was being drafted. Funny how they all do it so different.

  2. snowpea84 says: May 5, 2011 2:37 PM

    Stupid.
    How about you tell us also, how many other teams had work outs with each player from the top 12, that didnt draft that player?
    If one of ten teams that had a player visit drafts that player, how much have you learned?
    How many players did each team have visit that they did not draft as compared to how many they had total?

    What we’ve really learned here is that you aren’t even good at making up justifications for wasting your time.

  3. minnesconsin says: May 5, 2011 2:43 PM

    Not exactly a revolutionary discovery?

  4. hobartbaker says: May 5, 2011 2:44 PM

    The whole pre draft coverage is pointless crap. From the ever changing mock draft lists to tracking the visits and everything in between. Every mock draft in the country was out the door by the 7th pick of the draft. Fully ONE THIRD of first round picks were taken without even a face to face private session.

    Everything said or done prior to the draft means absolutely nothing when the teams start to pick the players.

  5. thereisalwaysnextyear says: May 5, 2011 2:45 PM

    So that’s great that they worked out with the team that drafted them, but how many teams did they work out for that DIDN’T draft them.

  6. possiblecabbage says: May 5, 2011 3:08 PM

    Not using your visits with elite prospects is actually probably the smart play. You have a lot of information on how good a top defensive end or offensive tackle is just by watching tape and workouts at the combine or his pro day. You have a limited number of visits, so working him out again, on your own probably isn’t the best decision for the guy you have the most info on.

    On the other hand, using your draft visits for late round guys allows you to fill in holes in your draft board (i.e. I don’t know how good this guy really is, I need to take a closer look), and to build relationships with potential priority undrafted free agents so you have an easier time signing them when undrafted free agency starts. A guy who you’ve had in the building, has met the coaches, and has had a positive time of it is much more likely to sign with you as a free agent even if you’re not offering the most money.

  7. dietrich43 says: May 5, 2011 3:16 PM

    The Steelers pre-draft visits and selections usually has a number of matches.

  8. blackqbwhiterb says: May 5, 2011 3:17 PM

    So now please explain to me why the Redskins didn’t draft a Quarterback???

  9. zn0rseman says: May 5, 2011 3:47 PM

    “Jags G.M. Gene Smith did personally attend Gabbert’s Insight Bowl game against Iowa”
    —————————–
    In that case, I’m shocked that they drafted him because in spite of running a highly touted and talented spread offense, he made plenty of bad decisions and throws in that game, including two picks (one a pick 6), resulting in a Missouri loss. The only thing that kept Missouri in the game were two terrible throws by Ricki Stanzi which resulted in two Tiger TD’s.

  10. dericivy says: May 5, 2011 4:03 PM

    This is actually a well written and interesting article.

    …….

  11. zilla1126 says: May 5, 2011 4:05 PM

    >> 5. The Broncos smokescreened the hell out of quarterbacks.

    Why assume it was a smokescreen?

    While it would make sense to play up a possible interest in taking a QB early to drive up the trade price of the pick for a QB-hungry team – it may be simply that they were VERY interested in adding a QB but really didn’t like ANY of them.

    Based on my evaluations; I think it is entirely possible that ALL of the QBs in the first three rounds will either be straight out busts or have pedestrian careers.

    If the Broncos agree – it would be stupid to reach for a QB that high just because they didn’t like what they had.

    As for later rounds – there is still no reason to use your 2nd or 3rd pick on a QB you think will be a bust.

    Would Ryan Leaf be worth a 2nd or 3rd if you re-did the 1998 draft?

    The answer is no – no he isn’t.

  12. tformation says: May 5, 2011 4:34 PM

    Great article. Let’s keep this handy in April 2012…

  13. nanner12wojo says: May 5, 2011 4:57 PM

    The comment about the Broncos makes no logical sense. Just because they didn’t draft a QB doesn’t mean they weren’t interested in one. Seems like a lot of time and effort to waste on a smokescreen to workout/interview/visit a half dozen QBs.

    It’s more likely Elway was trying to determine if one of them showed him enough to warrant a 1st/2nd round pick to come in and compete with Orton/Tebow/Quinn for a shot at the job and ultimately realized that this year’s QB class was significantly overrated. OR, maybe he would’ve grabbed one of these guys had they fallen to round 3.

    To just assume it was a smokescreen comes off as illogical.

  14. ryancloud says: May 5, 2011 5:09 PM

    gosuhgo- The Lions this year had four of their five picks in for visits and they met with Young at the Senior Bowl… so not so tricky this year, but it worked out for them.

  15. mattsffrd says: May 5, 2011 5:31 PM

    “and the Texans don’t use pre-draft visits on first-round prospects.”

    now THERE’S a good strategy

  16. ezmoover says: May 5, 2011 6:01 PM

    “The Broncos smokescreened the hell out of quarterbacks.”

    Isn’t it simply possible that Elway just didn’t see a QB prospect that was worth drafting in one of his slots?

    Jeebus Krist how you people at PFT continue to pull conjecture right out of yer buttocks.

  17. randolph32 says: May 5, 2011 6:34 PM

    The comments that Belichik makes about meeting players pre-draft are interesting, but do they really help you 4-6 years down the line to decide if you want them as a free agent? You’ve got 4 years of tape on them.

    I suppose it would help when it comes to picking them up off the scrap heap, but that’s about it.

  18. winstonhussein says: May 5, 2011 10:59 PM

    Loving the social science aspect.

  19. klunge says: Mar 30, 2012 2:39 PM

    Whenever I read an article in which a media member suggests they’ve found a key to figuring out how teams are going to draft, I assume that factor being discussed has little-to-no real relevance on how they actually draft.

    Most GM’s keep it close to the vest, which is why draft day is so compelling – lots of surprises neither we nor the media saw coming.

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