Packing The Stats: The Importance of Pre-Draft Visits All Green Bay Packers All the Time

Packing the StatsSo it’s not exactly a busy week in the world of the NFL (try as they might to might to make it a year long sport), and there isn’t really anything going on until the draft; the Combine and Pro Days are essentially over, free agency has definitely hit that point where teams are now waiting to see what pieces they manage to pick up in the draft before signing anyone new and basically the headlines are now composed of DeSean Jackson missing the Redskins voluntary training camp (i.e. not all that voluntary after all so it would seem) and Aldon Smith trying his best to impersonate a terrorist at an airport.  Needless to say the media dull Packers are even more boring, apparently Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb are going to the Kentucky Derby…which is great and all but in all honesty I don’t really care.

There is however something going on that you should care about…if only a little.  That event is the annual tradition of pre-draft visits.  Essentially, every NFL team is allowed to invite 30 players from the college ranks to their facilities for whatever reason; sometimes potentially draftee’s are just going to get a medical update on an recent injury, some go through positional drills or even chalk board stuff (made famous by Jay Gruden’s QB camp series on ESPN) or even just a more in depth interview for the front office/coaching staff to really get to know a player.  Frankly, the Packers rarely make the news with their visits, as opposed to the Cleveland Browns, who essentially ignored the QB workouts and are instead inviting all big QB prospects for pre-draft visits instead (which is brilliant and idiotic all at the same time, got to love the Brown’s MO).

So who exactly do the Packers invite for visits and does this mean anything in regards to the draft as a whole?  Below is a list of every confirmed report of a pre-draft visit I could find going back 3 years (I chose 3 years because that’s all the data I could find, deal with it).  Also listed is each player’s alma mater, their ultimate draft pick and which NFL team initially signed them.  Two players, Jakar Hamiliton and Brandon Hardin (listed in italics) were both undrafted rookie free agents that initially signed with other teams but were released and then signed with the Packers.  I would wager that the Packers do indeed use their full allotment of 30 players, but some of these visits will never be reported (especially if they are unknown players with unknown agents), so keep in mind that this list is almost certainly incomplete.


The first thing that shows up immediately is that the vast majority of players invited to pre-draft visits by the Packers ultimately are late round draft picks or are ultimately undrafted.  The average draft pick of players who had a pre-draft visit with the Packers over the last 3 years was 215, which is typically at the bottom of the 6th round (depending on compensatory picks).  The two notable names on the list are Bobby Wagner and Brooks Reed, but other than that most of these players never made a name for themselves in the NFL.  That average is even worse when looking at player that ultimately signed with the Packers, which at pick 233 is the middle of the 7th round.  Also interesting to note is that the majority of invitees come from smaller, less well known colleges; Texas A&M center Patrick Lewis is the only player on the list who attended a SEC school, while several players heralded from schools that most fans would be surprised even had a football team (anyone watch the Colorado School Of Mines Orediggers?).

However, the interesting note is that of the 39 confirmed players who visited the Packers over the last 3 years years, about a third of them ultimately ending up with the Packers with 5 players out of 13 actually being drafted.  However none of these picks were all that high, Jerron McMillian leads the group being picked with selection 133, followed by Nate Palmer at 193, Charles Johnson at 216, Ryan Taylor at 218 and Kevin Dorsey at 224.  Interestingly, none of these players has made much of an impact, Jerron McMillian obviously had the best shot (and also was the biggest bust), while Charles Johnson was injured waived, leaving question marks with Kevin Dorsey (who was also injured) and Nate Palmer (who at least survived his rookie season).  Ryan Taylor is definitely the best of the bunch, but again that’s not saying all that much since he’s been a career special teamer even with the injuries to Jermichael Finley.

In conclusion, pre-draft visits are something that should be noticed, but just not all that much.  On one hand, the Packers will likely never select a player in the premium first 3 rounds who they previously invited to visit Lambeau Field (Thompson likes to hide his intentions too much for that to ever happen).  On the other hand, if you want to make a good guess on who the Packers are going to select in rounds 6 or 7, or who they are going to sign as undrafted free agents, then combing pre-visit news would be a good idea.  However, on the third hand (should you happen to have a third hand), it doesn’t appear like Ted Thompson’s acumen for finding diamonds in the rough is that linked with pre-draft visits with no real notable names showing up in the pre-draft visits from the last 3 years.  It doesn’t look like Ted Thompson is much different from the rest of his GM colleagues, of the nearly 500 announced pre-draft visits last year, only 6.7% of players actually were drafted by a team who invited them for a visit, with 13 teams not drafting a single player they had invited.  I think the important thing to really consider is the ultimate goal of a pre-draft visit; which is to essentially gather more information on a player when no other source or opportunity is good enough.  What exactly will the Browns gain by inviting Johnny Manziel over?  It’s not like they haven’t been scrutinizing his every move since he graduated high school for the last 6 months.  Add to that Manziel will have been coached by his agent to speak and act in a positive way and you start to wonder if there’s any point at all.  On the other hand, if you think a unknown prospect at a small school has a shot in the NFL, why not bring him in and take a better look?  In the NFL world of due diligence, there’s making sure what you know is what you know (the Browns’ method) and making sure you know what you didn’t know before (the Packers’ method), I’d argue that only one team is doing it right, and it isn’t the Browns.



Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s


20 thoughts on “Packing The Stats: The Importance of Pre-Draft Visits

  1. Nice work. I’d add that part of the due diligence is developing and keeping a list of players at each position that you might be able to go to for depth, whether they wind up on your PS, another team’s PS, or on the street.

    FWIW, Jeremy Ross, Charles Johnson and some others would up on active rosters for teams other than GB. Looking at your llist I can see at least 20 players (more than half) that were drafted or were undrafted FAs who were on a 53 man roster last season. That’s a pretty good result for the late round/udfa part of the draft.

    1. Actually one interesting thing I’ve thought about is that while Thompson obviously does his due diligence with UDRFAs, I don’t recall him poaching many PS players from other squads during the season.

  2. Ted Thompson rarely shows his hand when it comes to interest in a player. He appears to reserve the visits for the lower round and UDFA picks. I think it is a smart use of the visits. Other than the Jeron MacMillian reach, it has been invaluable.

    1. I had thought of this idea, but considering that inviting a player to a pre-draft visit is statistically showing your DISINTEREST in a player, plus the whole variability of player evaluation and the draft in general, I’m not sure there’s much of an argument that you are really making it harder for other teams to guess your intentions based on your pre-draft visits.

      1. I am not sure that I follow your DISINTEREST argument. Since we don’t get a crack at all the players that we like and we don’t get to draft 30 guys, I guess that you are right. If this is the busiest time of year for TT and his staff, entertaining a prospect is very valuable. I don’t doubt that Ted uses these visits to get the final details on his ‘project’ picks.

        1. Last year players who visited a team had a 6.7% chance of actually being drafted by the team that invited them so more often that not (like basically all the time), getting a pre-draft visit means you won’t get picked by that team. Keep in mind this include top 5 picks who likely have visited the top 10 teams picking in the draft.

  3. Ted sure can unearth those rare jewels……who can forget the immortal Shaky Smithson? Or Jerron for that matter. Fact is, he builds his teams around a very small handful of stars with all this undrafted street garbage crap, invests in zero UFA’s, resigns guys like Raji, B Jones, Hawk, Starks etc. because he must have all his guys over for scones and Johnny Mathis sing-a-longs. Ted’s gotta go! OK Kool Aid guzzlers, have at it.

    1. Yes TT likes his guys and perhaps he delves into the UDFA market more than other teams but they all do it.As for the UFA market,until and unless the number of significant FA’s that have actually enabled a team to have the success warranted by that signing,that market has been the undoing of a teams chances than has benefited.
      Please,lets keep the 20 year old Reggie White stuff where it the past.Fact is FA is a money maker for the players and a major losing proposition for the team.
      I said elsewhere,Peppers was not signed as the player to get us a SB appearance,he was signed to hopefully enable/advance the play of those already here to do just that.
      Starks was likely the smartest move of the lot regardless of having Franklin and Harris and the cloud of dust Kuhn,Flynn was a need,Raji is more a necessity due to age of Pickett and injury to Jolly and rawness of Boyd and this needs to be addressed this draft.Boykin allowed the walk of JJ.

      1. Do you really think signing an up and coming, young and relatively speaking affordable (4 yrs $23 million)TJ Ward to insure we have at least one proven safety back there would have undone the teams chances?? Byrd yes, Ward absolutely not! Starks wasnt a must sign, Ward could have been. Need cap space, get rid of all the LB’s except CM to start with.

        1. If the play at Safety was/is the only problem for the defense,sure,I would be upset,but it isn’t and simply adding Ward because Hyde didn’t come down with the INT is wrong.Unless the front seven plays to a higher level,I don’t care who’s playing at safety.Can we use a safety sure,but who’s to say Hyde won’t fill that spot if the front plays better.

          A teams problem is never just one guy away and FA proves that yearly…

          1. Your inclusion of the front seven is spot-on. I like Hyde at safety and the draft will provide some depth. We have made the necessary moves so far.

        2. TJ Ward might be a good player, but the Broncos are desperate to win now while Peyton Manning can still play and gave Ward a terrible contract; while you are correct that the contract is for 4 years and $22.5 million, $13.5 million of that is guaranteed, which is 60% of the contract. To put that in perspective, Aaron Rodgers re-upped with the Packers for $130 million with $54 million guaranteed, which is only 40% of his contract. There was no way the Packers (or any other sane team for that matter) was going to offer a better deal for Ward.

    2. I’m starting to wonder if you really know what you want from Ted Thompson:

      “he builds his teams around a very small handful of stars” – This is what every teams does right? This is the NFL not the MLB, the salary cap makes it hard to have stars at every position

      “(He builds his team) with all this undrafted street garbage crap” – Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Kuhn were all young undrafted players who made careers out of themselves. Also what’s the issue, worse case scenario they don’t work out and they get cut without much penalty to the Packers. Also with a 90 man roster in the offseason, why wouldn’t you give a couple of unknown players a chance?

      “invests in zero UFA’s” – Julius Peppers. You can argue that Peppers was a poor signing, but you can’t argue that he hasn’t invested in UFA this year. I’d also argue you can’t determine whether or not this was a good signing until you see Peppers play a game.

      “resigns guys like Raji, B Jones, Hawk, Starks etc. because he must have all his guys over for scones and Johnny Mathis sing-a-longs” – I don’t think Thompson is really a scones kind of guy. Also, everyone of the players you listed are on very team friendly deals, save maybe Jones (who will likely be asked to take a paycut).

      1. You are obviously not paying attention…..did you watch games 7-15 last year?? This team MAY wim 4 games without Rodgers. Why,because aside from whatever Peppers brings at 34 and more untesteed rookies and street guys yet to come, it’s the same bunch that should have gone 0-8. And don’t go down the if Casey Heyward were healthy road. This team lacks talent in very important areas and Ted didnt do squat to address it. What do I want from Ted? I want him to go away…..the sooner the better while AR is still upright.

        1. I did watch games 7-15 and I think the Packers did pretty well considering they lost Rodgers. Most teams are going to tank the season if they lose their star quarterback; the Broncos will, the Saints will and the Patriots won’t get as lucky as they were with Cassel.

          Again, come up with an alternative, if you want to fire Thompson, you better have a superior replacement.

      2. Oh and by the way, Peppers was released by the Bears and not an UFA. As a matter of fact, only one NFL team this off season signed zero UFA’s. Wanna take a guess?

        1. After being released was Peppers not able to sign anywhere…free agent.How he became one is of no significance..could have signed anywhere.

          1. Exactly right Taryn! The only difference is that when comp picks are handed out next year, Peppers isn’t going to count against the Packers because he was released and not an UFA.

            That’s the problem with the TT haters. Even when TT makes moves that are positive for the team, they try to spin it into something negative.

        2. I think you’re really nit picking here; technically Peppers is not a UFA because he was released and therefore did not have his contract expire, but the real point is that Peppers is free to sign with any team and his previous team (the Bears) will receive no form of compensation from the Packers.

  4. bag o donuts 52? Taryn for 12? I think you both need to turn in your reference to green and gold players for another team. By not signing unrestricted free agents we receive free draft picks in next years draft. Are you aware of this? They are called compensatory picks. By not signing Greg Jennings and Erik Walden last year, we received a 3rd round and a 5th round pick in this years deep draft. This was a smart move by TT that gets overlooked when we don’t sign all these overpriced free agents. Please try to keep up. GO PACK!

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