With the Combine underway, fans and experts alike will be searching every nook and cranny for nuggets of inside information. This often comes in the form of anonymous scouts and sources linking players to teams. It is then up to us to either buy or sell what that source is claiming. Quite often these juicy details are spilled to form a smokescreen around what a team is really thinking.
This was the case when, before the 2014 draft, a Jaguars coach finished a meeting with the following: “Don’t worry about this stuff. We’ll put it in when Johnny gets here”. This quote, which would lead you to believe that the Jaguars were a lock to target Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, made the rounds with a fury and raised the value of their pick in the eyes of those who coveted Manziel.
One of those teams was the Browns, sitting at 4th overall. This likely made them enticed to move up to the 2nd overall. In the end, the Jaguars took UCF QB Blake Bortles, much to the surprise of Bortles, and the Browns would end up trading back with the Bills, confident that the main threat to take their future franchise QB had gone another route.
Dispensing false information isn’t the only way to skin a cat. Another tool used by teams is official visits. The Jaguars hosted Manziel as part of their deception, but other teams played the same trick. The Buccaneers hosted a total of 7 quarterbacks in an effort to raise their bargaining potential. They ended up sticking at 7th overall and picked WR Mike Evans. Evans never blipped on their radar to the outside world. No combine interview, no pro day meeting, and no official visit. Lips sealed.
I likely would’ve fallen for this ruse, as I’m a visit tracking junkie. When the Eagles interview a player at the Shrine Game I will immediately learn everything I can about that prospect. If I like what I see, I will likely convince myself that they are absolutely drafting that player. In 2014 the Eagles drafted 6 out of 7 players that visited their facility before the draft. Surely this was the exception, not the rule right?
With the draft right around the corner I made the decision to revisit the 2014 draft and see if I could nail down what teams were playing games, what teams were transparent, and a general consensus on percentages of players drafted to the teams they visited. I did my best to research and double check for official visits, combine visits, and all star game interviews. It’s not perfect, but I feel it’s a solid overall representation of what to expect when trying to link players to teams using this method.
DRAFTED= Players drafted that had official visits or interviews.
PICKS= Total number of picks for that team used.
DRAFTED %= Percentage of picks with official visits/interviews.
VISIT %= Total number official visits/interviews vs. actual drafted.
As I suspected, the Eagles were well above the average when it came to drafting players they vetted heavily. The Steelers and Seahawks also showed little concern for showing their hand. On the other side of the coin were the Packers, Saints, Patriots (go figure), and Raiders, who kept their cards close to their chest.
In the first round 19 of 32 (59.37%) picks had an official visit or multiple visits with the team that drafted them. This was over 29% higher than the league average over the entirety of the draft. This echos the sentiment made recently by Titans General Manager Jon Robinson, who said the following:
“Usually it’s guys that you have spent time with. You want to make sure you get to know the guy, because you’re going to work with him, coaches are going to work with him on a daily basis. Seventh-round, sixth-round or if all the scouting information you’ve accumulated and you’re just rock solid and you know that you know, if it’s a first- or second-day pick, then maybe you don’t have them in. But for the most part, you spend time with them.”