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Wide receivers led march to Rams Park
By Jim Thomas
When all was said and done, the Rams concentrated on areas of team needs when it came to the so-called “top 30” pre-draft visits at Rams Park.
At least seven wide receivers were known to visit Rams Park. So were at least four running backs, six offensive linemen, five linebackers, but curiously only one safety.
Teams are allowed to bring in up to 30 players for such visits, and the Post-Dispatch was able to identify 23 of those visits through a variety of sources. Teams don’t always use all 30 of those visits, but they usually come pretty close. So there may be a half-dozen names missing from the group listed here.
The top 30 visits usually provide clues on who the Rams are interested in, sometimes pretty strong clues. Last season, for example, five Rams draft picks under new head coach Jeff Fisher and new general manager Les Snead were players who had made pre-draft visits to Rams Park.
But the pre-draft visit isn’t an end-all, be-all. For example, Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins didn’t make a pre-draft visit to St. Louis, yet the Rams sent delegations to watch him work out at Clemson twice over a four-day period. That would seem to indicate strong interest.
No workouts are allowed during the top 30 visits. But plenty of talking takes place. The deadline for such visits was April 17 this year, so other than a few private workouts – which must be done on the player’s campus – the top 30 visits are the final act in the lengthy pre-draft process.
“In our ‘top 30’ visits this year ... we brought them in for all different reasons,” Fisher said. “What we were consistent with in the visits was the process and how we introduced offense and defense to the prospects.”
“We gave them an hour or so, and then asked them to go back in (the meeting room) and share the information, and how they process and retain (information).”
In other words, after a session in which a sample of the offensive or defensive playbook is introduced to the prospect, the Rams let a period of time pass before quizzing the player on that session. The idea is to see how much of that playbook he remembers.
“The 30-visit thing is something that is very important to us,” Fisher said. “We thought we were very productive and especially selective this year.”
During the visits, the prospects get one-on-one time with Fisher and Snead, not to mention meeting time with the position coaches and coordinators, and other members of the organization, such as the athletic trainers or player programs counselor.
“That’s it,” Fisher said. “Les and I each had an opportunity to visit with every single player that came in on the 30 visit, as did the coaches and the rest of the guys in the organization. You sit down and observe them for the day and watch them interact and get to know them. If there’s a story, then we’re going to get to it and find out background information if at all possible.”
By “story,” Fisher meant any off-field or background issues. Perhaps it’s some topic in the player’s file that the Rams simply want more information or elaboration on. So the entire “top 30” process helps the Rams, but can hurt the player who makes repeated visits.
“It’s detrimental from a player standpoint if you’ve got a young man that’s got 10 or 12 of them,” Fisher said. “Because he’s on the road for two and a half weeks and he doesn’t get a chance to work out; and that affects him when he reports to rookie minicamp. But beyond that, we think it’s real important.”
Unlike the top 30 visits, there is no limit to the number of “local visits” that can be made to an NFL team’s facility. The local visits are for players who went to high school in that metropolitan area, and unlike the top 30 visits, players making local visits are allowed to work out for the NFL team.
In what is a banner year for St. Louis area draft prospects, six players are known to have made pre-draft visits to the Rams. One exception is defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson of the University of Missouri and Gateway Tech High – he did not make a local visit. And it’s not known if running back Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Timberland High in Wentzville made a visit.
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