GREEN BAY - Regardless of what their professional football careers may hold, each class of NFL hopefuls is unlikely to experience anything quite like the pre-draft process.
They are courted by agents and probed by doctors. They are tracked by the media and ranked by analysts. Their characters are examined in public settings. They crisscross the country for visits with potential employers.
Then, in late April, everything ends some 24 hours after the conclusion of the NFL draft. They are officially professionals, and never again will they experience such a whirlwind.
MCGINN'S DRAFT SERIES: Position-by-position analysis, rankings
The following roundtable discussion offers a window into the chaotic world of college prospects. The players included range from the likely No. 1 overall pick to those who hope to be taken on the third day. They spoke about the draft process in interviews at the NFL scouting combine and telephone conversations with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Meet the prospects:
» Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama: 6-2⅝, 286 pounds, first round.
» C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa: 6-2½, 219 pounds, late rounds.
» Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan: 6-5⅝, 277 pounds, first or second round.
» Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State: 6-0, 195 pounds, first or second round.
» Dalton Crossan, RB, Villanova: 5-10½, 202, late rounds or priority free agent.
» Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell: 6-6¾, 318 pounds, middle rounds.
» Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss: 6-3⅜, 233 pounds, first or second round.
» Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: 6-4½, 272 pounds, first round.
» Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova: 6-6¾, 289 pounds, middle rounds.
» Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: 6-2, 225, first or second round.
» T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin: 6-4½, 252 pounds, first or second round.
» Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan: 6-5⅛, 298 pounds, second round.
Areas of focus in pre-draft training
Allen: I feel like I need to take my film study to another level, that’s something I pride myself in, doing a lot of film study. But from all the vets I talk to, there’s just another aspect, another level you need to take your film study to. So that’s something I’m going to be looking into to improve just knowing what to look at right down to the formations. Just little stuff you never thought about in college.
Garrett: Skill and consistency. Some games were — I feel like there were some plays I should’ve made or things I should’ve done better. Hindsight is 20/20, but just looking at that and maybe thinking through some situations differently and make some plays.
Mahomes: Definitely nutrition was the biggest thing. In college, they really tried to get us to do nutrition but I feel like I didn’t take full advantage of what we had at Texas Tech. We did have the resources, but I just didn’t take advantage of it. Going into this two months, really selling myself on your body is your business. You’ve got to have your body in perfect shape, and I really took advantage of that.
Reading mock drafts and other stories
Charlton: All that, it's all for the media. … I love the recognition I'm getting but I'm not satisfied. I won't be satisfied until people start saying, “He's one of the best guys out there.” … So the mock drafts may say something, but in my head I'm an undrafted free-agent guy.
Engram: Mainly it’s just my friends, my guys talking about where they want to see me play. We’re all on Madden and we play Madden a lot so they want to use me in Madden and what team, wherever I get drafted to, has been a main topic of discussion.
Conley: I haven't really paid attention to it.
Davenport: I know my name’s out there but I just look at it real quick and just get on, don’t really give it too much attention. I may read it over real quick and be like "Oh, they say I need to do this or they critiqued that." And if it’s something bad in my mind, I make sure that’s sticking and I use that as motivation to better whatever it is and prove people wrong.
Watt: I don’t really read it. If it shows up on my phone from someone sending it to me, maybe I’ll look at it for a second. But other than that I just try to control the controllables.
Crossan: I don’t really search it and go look out for it. If I see something pop up I’ll take a look at it, or if someone sends me something I’ll take a look at it.
College programs preparing players for NFL
Allen: I feel like I’m mentally prepared for whatever happens. At Alabama it’s definitely not the easiest thing to do for four years. I feel like coach (Nick) Saban has prepared me really well for this opportunity and I plan to take advantage of it.
Garrett: (My college coaches) instilled in me a work ethic that I don’t think many others have. They said be comfortable in an uncomfortable zone. You have to get out of your comfort zone to become a great player. I just carried that with me to A&M and tried to become the best player on the field.
Wormley: I saw this thing on Twitter, there’s 67 years of experience when it comes to coaches that have played and coached in the NFL on our staff. We were in great hands the last two years with coach (Jim) Harbaugh and his staff. Coach (Greg) Mattison, my D-Line coach, has been tremendous help not only for myself but for (my teammates in the draft), so we’re very thankful for their help and advice.
Beathard: I can't thank coach (Kirk) Ferentz and coach (Greg) Davis enough. The stuff they taught me and things they asked of me at Iowa have really prepared me for talking to all these coaches and offensive coordinators. They can tell I really know what I'm talking about and I've had to make (middle linebacker) points and change protections all the time. That's all we did at Iowa, so it's really prepared me.
Private workouts with teams
Watt: For a workout, a private workout, you don’t know what drills they’re going to do at all, so you kind of have a disadvantage there. But the main purpose of the drill is that the defensive line coach or the outside linebacker coach will fly in and he’ll run you through the drills they do every single day in practice. The reason behind that is they want to see you do the drills and they’ll videotape it so they can go back and watch the film and see how you compare to the guys that they have at their facility doing the same exact drills.
Crossan: The Seahawks worked me out as a receiver specifically, like a slot kind of guy. They had me do all kinds of receiver stuff and catching the ball and what-not. Then some other teams like me as like a third-down back, so they had me run more routes out of the backfield. For the most part they’re all similar. It’s only like 30-40 minutes on the field. They’ll just put you through some bag drills to kind of see your agility, your feet, your speed, your explosion, stuff like that. Then just have you run some routes out of the backfield or in the slot, see how well you catch the ball. It’s not like a long workout. They just want to see what they want to see, and then you’re out of there.
Jumping from small school to NFL
Kpassagnon: Some of the older guys on my team told me you belong there (at bigger schools). You can play at a higher level. To tell you the truth, the competition wasn’t really that much different (at the Senior Bowl). The guys were a little bigger, but the skill level was kind of the same as I’ve been used to.
Davenport: I didn’t have that great of a strength program at my school (Bucknell) I would say, only one strength coach who’s taking care of the whole football team. Nutrition is also a big thing, as well. For us, I was the first scholarship class, so all we had was unlimited (cafeteria), and our caf was nowhere near as great as some other schools have. … We just have to eat what was there, so just kind of fending to survive. And now that I’m getting good nutrition, I’ve seen my body change a lot since being in the training facility, and I’m definitely getting a lot stronger.
Crossan: The one good thing about it is every NFL team knows there’s guys at the FCS level that can play and that will be NFL players and NFL stars. It’s also kind of that phrase of being a big fish in a small pond or a little fish in a big pond, you know? But being from an FCS level, teams know you can play but you also have to work hard and maybe even work harder than some of the bigger school guys to get noticed and to prove I can play at that next level.