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Gabriel: Why Private Workouts Are Important In Evaluating Draft Prospects

By Greg Gabriel--

(CBS) The evaluation process of NFL Draft prospects is broken up into several different phases.

The first comes during the fall of the prospect's final year of playing college football. Scouts make school calls and evaluate the player off his game tape, practices and through interviews with his coaches and support staff surrounding the school.

The second phase is the All-Star games, where the scouts typically have their first opportunity to sit down and talk to the player, as well as again evaluate his skill set in practice.

The third phase is the NFL Combine in February, when the prospect goes through a thorough medical exam, interviews and all the physical testing that we see televised. After that come the various pro days, where prospects have an opportunity to improve on any of the combine drills they felt they didn't do well in while at Indianapolis and work out for coaches around the league, with a focus on position-specific drills.

At pro days, there can be anywhere from 20 to 100 NFL personnel members attending. A scout or a coach seldom gets the quality time that's needed in order to answer all the questions they have on a player.

With many prospects, they still need to do more work in order to get the right feel for and grade on the prospect. For that reason, the private workout has become crucial to both the club and the prospect.

I have felt for years that if a club is interested in drafting a quarterback in the first three rounds, it's almost a necessity to have a private workout with him. At the pro days, the quarterback's workout is almost always run by the his quarterback guru in a scripted affair. It will usually be an affair that has up to 75 throws and will always emphasize the strong points of the quarterback. The various NFL teams have no control over what goes on at a quarterback's pro day.

At a private workout, the NFL team holding the workout is in complete control. The team may spend an hour or two with the player in the classroom to see how he's able to pick up the offensive concepts the team uses. Once they go on the field, the team looks to see if the player can take what he learned in the classroom and apply it to the field. The club had more personal time with the player and gets a better idea of how the he thinks and acts. This time can be invaluable.

The same holds true with the other positions. All told, a coach or coaches may spend four or five hours with the player, and they come away from the workout/meeting with a better overall feeling about the player.

This doesn't always work in the player's favor. Just as it can be a positive for the team in getting to know the player and understanding his skill set better, it can be a negative. The coaches can come away from the meeting and workout with the feeling that they want nothing to do with the player come draft day.

Just as private workouts are important for a quarterback, I feel they're nearly as important with offensive linemen. Like no other position group on a team, the offensive line has to work a cohesive unit. The position coach has to feel that the new player will fit it well with the veterans in the group. If there are going to be personality conflicts in the locker room, it's not good for the team.

With most colleges utilizing unsophisticated spread offenses, having a private workout out with a receiver prospect is also beneficial. The verbiage of an NFL play call is far more advanced than most college play calls. Also, the route tree that a receiver runs in college can be much different that an NFL route tree. Because of this, spending time in a meeting room with a receiver prospect is vital. The coaching staff has to find out if the player can pick up the system and apply what he learns in a meeting to the field in quick order.

Scouting is all about getting as much information as possible. The more a club knows, the better it feels when it comes to making the decision on drafting or not drafting a certain player. All phases of the evaluation process come into play here.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.

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