THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – After being cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pro days have returned as an evaluation tool for NFL teams' scouting departments ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Their importance is even greater this year, too. With the pandemic still ongoing, the league changed the format of this year's combine from one centralized location in Indianapolis for individual workouts to having those individual workouts take place at pro days across the country; however, teams are also limited to three representatives at a pro day for public health reasons.
According to Rams general manager Les Snead, those constraints won't impact the team's approach.
"Nothing different than in years past, because in most situations, we probably haven't sent three to a pro day anyway," Snead said during a video conference with reporters Wednesday.
When the traditional format of the combine is in place, Snead said the team weighs whether it is necessary to attend a pro day. Usually, that decision is dictated by whether or not they think they have enough information on a prospect.
"I think for every Pro Day attended, there should be a specific reason," Snead said. "Maybe the case or the file on that player is not necessarily complete yet. Is there anything that we can get from a pro day to complete that file, to help us be more certain that we could onboard that player and he becomes a contributor for us?"
The accessibility of such information – normal year or not – makes it easy to find the answer, and is also part of the reason why Snead is not worried about those limitations.
"So the interesting thing this year, with no combine, all pro days we will share data, but that occurs every year in a system that's referred to as the APT system, where every club doesn't have to attend a pro day, but let's call it a player, subset school, didn't go to the combine, we can get the standard 40-yard dash, standard short shuttles, and that data is shared," Snead said. "So, I think this year, unlike (the) combine, some of those numbers, some of those measurables, would just get to us later in the process."
Perhaps the biggest and most important reason why Snead isn't concerned about the attendance limit relates to strategy.
Capped representation or not, even just one Rams rep in attendance could tip off other teams about about who they're targeting and what direction they'll go in the draft, especially with that rep's role – for example, if they sent their offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator to evaluate a prospect at a specific position. The only obstacle that might make that a challenge is private workouts and facility visits also being banned this year for public health reasons.
"As a club, there is times where maybe you don't want to attend the pro day just because you don't want to show your cards or what have you, and things like that," Snead said. "So, there's always some of that game theory going on."