Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune comments on the visits prospects make leading up to the draft:
“With exactly three weeks to go until the first round begins at Auditorium Theatre, we’ve reached one of the most loathsome periods on the NFL calendar, when the thirsty news cycle feeds on prospects’ pre-draft visits to teams.
“Despite no established correlation between whether teams that host prospects on pre-draft visits actually draft them, these meetings garner public interest. In reality, these visits are procedural. Every team scouts players to some extent ahead of the draft.”
I’m not too sure about the “no established correlation part. Campbell might be right about top players who attended the Combine with no injury history. But I’m pretty sure there is a correlation for a subcategory of the prospects. Former Bears Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel at The National Football Post comments:
“Clubs don’t always bring in players that they hope to draft in the premium rounds. They may also bring in players who were not at the Combine but the team had a draftable grade on. Every year, we see 35 – 40 players who were not at the Combine get drafted, so it is important to get a medical on them. No team is going to draft a player who hasn’t had a thorough medical. It makes no sense. The club wouldn’t take the risk of drafting a player who may not be able to pass the medical.”
“Visits don’t always turn out the way either side would like. Sometimes, a player can turn off a coach to the point that he says he doesn’t want the player. While that may seem harsh, it is better to find that out before the draft than after you drafted him.”
Campbell has a point in that the teams have undoubtedly seen enough on tape to make the players draftable. But I think these pre-draft visits are still important. A player might not help his stock too much with these visits but it sure sounds like he could blow it in interviews or by failing the medical.
Yes, some of these visits are smoke screens. But I think that they are still important enough to pay attention to.