The Eagles have begun hosting pre-draft visits, of which they like every other NFL team are allowed a maximum of 30 between now and the Draft.
I never know how much weight to put on these “visits”—they do not involve physical workouts, which are verboten. It’s a chance for the players to put their best interview spins on medical or character issues, which seems like a worthwhile objective, and it’s a chance for the Eagles to show off their training facilities which are right up there with the best. But in the end, we always seem to end up drafting several players who never had a single visit here.
These are guys who visited the Eagles late last week:
RB Dalvin Cook
RB Leonard Fournette
WR Mike Williams
WR Corey Davis
There’s a lot of reasons not to get too excited over these visits. Sometimes the purpose of a visit is to confirm a reason for eliminating a player from consideration. Sometimes you’re basically just paying respect to the player’s agent or to his collegiate football program by hosting a visit.
Several years ago I thought NFL.com’s Conor Orr (“Around The NFL” Writer) came up with the definitive primer for judging the value of “The Visitors”. Here are some boiled-down summaries of the points Conor Orr was making:
- It might be just as important to focus on the players they aren’t meeting with.
- Injury history and criminal history are almost always going to warrant a visit, especially if the player has a high draftable grade on the team’s board. While many teams stray from trouble high up in the first round, they wouldn’t mind if a star player slips because of his misdeeds or serious injuries. A pre-draft visit is a great way to do some background work or to update their medical information just in case a player begins to slip.
- Pre-draft visits can be used for information four years down the road (when that player hits free agency). If a team is picking toward the bottom of the first-round but covets a certain player who is expected to go well before their pick, they’ll invite him in for a chat anyway. Perhaps there was a missed opportunity at the combine.
- Teams often meet with players who have a reputation for a “unique” personality. “For some coaches, that actually means spending time with the guy to figure out if they can even tolerate having that player in their building,” one source said.
- Another type of visit: When a team has a high draftable grade on a player who is not necessarily at a position of need, and isn’t necessarily someone they would have gone out of their way to visit at the combine. Remember, combine visits are hectic and timed stringently. Maybe something has happened to the roster (free agency, suspension, injury) since their last opportunity to talk.
- If your team hasn’t spoken with one of your favorite collegiate players, perhaps they’ve Skyped. According to a different source, a Skype session counts as a phone call and not against one of the top 30 visits. Therefore, a coach could screen a quarterback and do all the necessary board work over his computer screen.
- Smokescreens remain prevalent. A coach or general manager simply wants another team behind him to think he’s drafting a certain player. Simple as that.
- One underrated reason for a visit: A team wants to glean information about another player they’re taking lower in the draft from the same school. An old example from 2015—maybe Marcus Mariota has something to offer about Chip Kelly’s system in general, or he knows something about one of his wide receivers that could be useful later on in the draft for a mid-level prospect.
- Many visits focus on fact checking: Asking about criminal background, personality or injury history information with another player they’ve had in for a visit.
Hope that doesn’t take too much away from the entertainment value or excitement we get when we hear a big-name prospect is in Philly for an interview…but sometimes reality bites.
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Paul Hudrick’s first seven-round mock draft for the Eagles in 2017 is here. In his NFL mock draft 1.0, he had the Eagles taking Washington corner Sidney Jones. With Jones suffering an Achilles injury during his pro day, the Eagles go in a different direction.
First round (14th overall (from Vikings)): Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, 6-3/259
“Yes, I’m aware corner may be a bigger need, but with Washington’s Sidney Jones suffering a torn Achilles, Barnett is the best player available that would also fit a need. Barnett accumulated 32 sacks in his three seasons at Tennessee. He could be the type of player that registers double-digit sacks consistently on the next level. Last I checked, the Eagles don’t have a player like that on their roster.
“Barnett isn’t the twitchy, physical specimen of a pass rusher we’ve seen drafted recently. He wins more with brute strength and violent hands. He’s not just a one-trick pony either. He defends the run well, setting the edge while also making plays on the ball carrier (52 tackles for a loss in his career). He tries to make up for his lack of twitch by anticipating snap counts and will get flagged for the occasional neutral zone infraction. That’s something Jim Schwartz and the Eagles will likely live with.
“A popular notion is that the Eagles have to take a corner, but that type of thinking has gotten them into the trouble in the past. To grab a potentially elite pass rusher at 14 is excellent value. Much more than say, a certain Florida State running back.”