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Road to the Draft: What’s happening now in Berea and why it matters for Combine

Posted Feb 16, 2017

A weekly look at everything you need to know leading up to the draft

Welcome to the second edition of Road to the Draft, a weekly column that will cover it all as the Browns march toward the final week of April, when they have the opportunity to make the No. 1 overall pick and five of the top 65 selections.

We’re back in action today with a look behind the scenes at what’s been happening inside the Browns facility in Berea and why it matters for the big event at the end of the month.

At the end of January, the Browns’ scouting department, front office and coaches came together for a productive, busy week in Mobile, Alabama, for the 2017 Senior Bowl. About a week or so later, those same scouts, who are spread from coast to coast with many living in different corners of the country, converged on Berea for two of the most important weeks of the year when it pertains to the draft.

For hours on end over a two-week stretch, the team’s scouts, coaches and other members of the player personnel department huddle inside the team’s Draft Room to discuss hundreds and hundreds of college prospects. The scout assigned to the player’s area leads the presentation and the group goes one by one in tedious fashion, making sure what one scout saw matched what the other did. If they didn’t, the floor opens for discussion and the player’s tape is analyzed.

“We're encouraged to have discussions and disagree with each other,” said Zac Bocian, a longtime Browns scout who resides in San Francisco. “We end up with a consensus that allows everyone to speak and be heard.

“We put on the game tape. If there’s a discrepancy and one person thinks X about one player and another thinks Y, then we put it on the video and there’s the answer. It allows us to put in an additional amount of time and an additional amount of work to make sure we’re feeling comfortable with the player in the end.”

The discussions are lengthy and encompass every player the Browns could possibly consider with their picks, ranging from the No. 1 overall pick to the team’s final selection in the seventh round. They’ll also serve as a guide for the players they’ll target after the draft in free agency, an important and often overlooked part of the player acquisition process that has netted valuable contributors such as Isaiah Crowell, Dominique Alexander and Tracy Howard in recent years.

It’s a vital step in the process and, ultimately, necessary before the upcoming Scouting Combine. The evaluations of the prospects for what they did as football players provide context and set expectations for how he’ll perform in the numerous Combine drills. It also identifies areas to cross-check in Indianapolis, whether it be a player’s injury history or off-the-field question marks.

Teams are limited to interviewing 60 players for 15 minutes apiece throughout the week in Indianapolis. The decisions of whom to interview and the strategy for those rapid-fire sessions are largely made during a stretch most fans view as one of the slowest times of the year in the NFL.

“We really want to understand the players,” Bocian said, “from all angles.”

First Five

Earlier today, the NFL released its full list of invitations to the 2017 Scouting Combine. It’s a big one -- 330 big. It’s a cold, hard fact that not all of the players who are invited will be drafted in late April, but the odds are in their favor. And it’s not a guarantee that the players who went uninvited will go undrafted -- it happens all the time -- but the odds are simply better if you’re selected to go through the gauntlet in Indianapolis. With that in mind, here’s a look at the notable exclusions from this year’s list.

LB Jordan Evans (Oklahoma) - The Sooners’ leading tackler in 2017 will have to impress NFL teams at his Pro Day. Over four seasons, Evans (6-2, 233) compiled 286 tackles and five interceptions.

QB Chad Kelly (Ole Miss) - He was one of the top signal-callers in the country through the first half of 2016 but a knee injury cut it short and prevented him from participating in any physical activities at last month’s Senior Bowl. There are also off-the-field questions for Kelly, who is the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

OL Erik Magnuson (Michigan) - The Wolverines tied the Combine record with 14 players in this year’s crop, but the All-Big Ten tackle wasn’t among them. He made 37 starts over three seasons at Michigan and was simply one of the best at right tackle in his conference over the past two years.

QB Antonio Pipkin (Tiffin) - An invitation to the Senior Bowl doesn’t guarantee a trip to the Combine, and that’s ultimately what happened to the Division II star. Pipkin had an up and down week in Mobile and will miss out on the opportunity for further exposure at an event such as the Combine.

WR Chad Williams (Grambling) - The 6-foot-1, 204-pound FCS star appeared to impress on the South team at the Senior Bowl but it wasn’t enough to land a combine invite. Williams, though, got some quality time in front of scouts at both the Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl.

How many days until the draft?

71

Draft news you might have missed

More notable prospects who weren’t invited to the NFL Combine

Top LB prospect Reuben Foster is out of combine after shoulder surgery

Mike Mayock’s 2017 NFL Draft position rankings

Is Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon the next Jason Pierre-Paul?

Small school spotlight

TE Adam Shaheen (Ashland) - It’s not often when a Division II player declares for the draft as a junior but Shaheen isn’t like most prospects from this level. A former college basketball player, Shaheen transferred to the small Ohio school in 2014 and broke out one year later. He caught 70 passes for 803 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015 and posted a 57/867/16 slash line this past season. The Galena, Ohio, native measures out at a whopping 6-foot-6 and 277 pounds and is one of just two players from his entire conference invited to the Combine.

Did You Know?

Last year, the Browns drafted two players -- TE Seth DeValve and DB Trey Caldwell -- who were not invited to the Combine. Meanwhile, the team signed four undrafted free agents who were invited to the Combine, a group that included LB Dominique Alexander and DL Nile Lawrence-Stample.

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