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.
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.