The Importance Of Pre-Draft Visits

By Christopher DiMarino

In my first mock draft attempt, I wasn\’t sure how much stock to put into the fact that certain players have made (or are planning to make) pre-draft visits. I figured it was a pretty good indicator that the Steelers were showing interest in that player. It could also mean that a lot of these guys have questions marks about them that the Steelers would like answered. These questions could be related to football intelligence, past experiences or testing how they would fit into the Steelers scheme. In particular, I would think these interviews would be useful for linebackers and defensive lineman especially if they haven\’t played in a 3-4 before. This could also help with the OG/OT tweeners by testing if they have the intelligence to play a new spot. Overall though, it can help address any character issues which the Steelers take very seriously.

I decided to check the past 2 drafts and see how many draftees had pre draft visits. Logically this information would be more credible in the early rounds because in the later drafts there are so many unforeseen players that can drop and become available. Realizing that the Steelers can only bring in 30 guys along with local players, stacks the odds against these players lining up. You have to also factor in that certain players can tank the visit and be avoided in the draft.

The 2011 draft was a pretty good one. Cameron Heyward did not visit with the Steelers and this might be because he was widely projected to be gone (typically to the Ravens 5 picks earlier). Oddly enough, they did have Cameron Jordan visit and he was an even higher projected player. They had eventual 2nd round pick Marcus Gilbert visit as well as 3rd and 4th rounders Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen in addition. They did not host Chris Carter (5th), but hosted Keith Williams (6th). 7th round pick Baron Batch also made a visit to Pittsburgh at the same time Curtis did.

In 2010, the Steelers brought in their first round pick Maurkice Pouncey. They also hosted Mike Iupati, Kyle Wilson, Earl Thomas and Arrelious Benn as well, adding to the confusion of the first round. Actually, looking at the list of pre draft visits is like looking at an eventual all star list. It really amazed me how many great players visited the Steelers in 2010 before the draft: Navarro Bowman (3.91), Dez Bryant (1.24) LaGarrette Blount (undrafted), Linval Joesph (2.46), Rob Gronkowski (2.42) and Sean Lee (2.55). And while it\’s hard to argue with the Steelers 1st and 3rd round picks in 2010, that is a great group of players who could\’ve become Steelers who have since excelled in the NFL. But I\’ll digress because it does no good to dwell on the past especially because it\’s unfair to take what we know now and apply it (Sean Lee>Jason Worilds in the 2nd round!!!).

The 2nd round selection was a bit of a reach with Jason Worilds and he didn’t even visit the Steelers that we know of. 3rd and 6th round receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown both visited. Thaddeus Gibson, Chris Scott, Crezdon Butler and Stevenson Sylvester in rounds 4 and 5 were all strangers. Jonathan Dwyer in the 6th and Doug Worthington in the 7th were also not invited for pre-draft visitors that we know of.

While the 2011 draft was encouraging, the 2010 draft was the opposite. So I really don\’t see any reason to put too much irrational stock into pre-draft visits. Allen visited, the Steelers reached and it paid off. Antonio is an even better example. Worilds is an example of the opposite. They reached on him a bit and didn\’t have him up to Pittsburgh as far as we can tell. Williams is a low round example of a player that visited but didn’t pan out (6th rounders have the odds against them to begin with). Overall, the only thing I can draw from this analysis is that if the Steelers bring in a player for a pre-draft visit and reach a bit for him, he has a good chance of panning out. I still feel that players brought in for visits are being looked at by the Steelers, but more importantly, how well they do in the interview is likely the deciding factor to draft, avoid or reach for that player.

  • Intropy

    You are absolutely right that it’s unfair to judge in hindsight. Still, I can’t help but want to envision a version of the Steelers with Rob Gronkowski and Navarro Bowman instead of Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson – not that they fell to the Steelers spots anyway.

  • Grw1960

    you are quite right in why there are predraft visits and that Worlids was not one of their better picks. But another thing about the visits . We have no idea how many of the first round visitors over the years that the Steeler may have picked had they still been available. Centers Wood or Unger in 2009 and maybe OT Carpenter last year 2011.
    You can see by their visitors over the years what positions they have tried to address in each of those draft years.
    This year the Steelers have basically looked at the same positions in the first 3 rounds OL , DE/OLB, ILB and a smattering of offensive weapons WR/RBin those same rounds , should those players end up BPAs at the time of the Steelers pick.
    The mid and late round visitors are a little more diverse.
    So it looks to me OL and LB possible in roounds 1 , 2 or 3. With maybe a RB or WR should they represent BPA.
    4 thru 7 – OL , LB, WR ,DB and maybe a surprise QB

  • I agree, it’s hard to find a correlation between the pre-draft visits, and draft selections. I think the other factor to take into consideration, are pro-days. There may be many instances where Colbert and Tomlin feel that they have seen enough from a particular player, and had enough of an opportunity to ask questions, at a players pro-day, that a pre-draft visit isn’t necessary. Case in point, prior to the 2010 draft, Tomlin was in attendance at the VT pro day, and would have had the opportunity to check out Jason Worilds.

  • Broderick Wallace

    I would hold back on Jason Worilds. It was going to take him 2-3 years to transition from DE to OLB. The lockout last year set back his progress with the transition and understanding the naunces of Lebeau’s defense. Chris Carter is in the same boat. That being said, it is important for both of them to improve and show it.

  • Bobby

    can anyone shine lights as to what additional information these pre draft visits can bring over and beyond Draft Combine and Pro-Day? is it their intelligence and personality?

  • Dave

    Last year – Curtis Brown, Marcus Gilbert, Cortez Allen, Keith Williams visited and were drafted, also Weslye Saunders, Corbin Bryant, and Anthony Gray visited and were signed as udfa. That’s 7 out of the 30, so I’d say it’s a pretty good correlation, especially considering how random the draft can be.