NFL scouts trade the warmth of Orlando for the scenic gulf shores of Alabama this week as they monitor the practices that lead up to Saturday's Under Armour Senior Bowl.
They took in the East-West Shrine Game preparations and now move on to the practices and interviews of the players who will rank even more highly on so many draft boards.
The Redskins' contingent is headed by Scott Campbell, the director of player personnel and a 25-year veteran of the NFL, the last 10 with the Redskins. The Senior Bowl and the workouts, in Mobile, Ala., will offer Campbell and his people greater insight about the prospects than the previous week's gathering.
"The Senior Bowl tends to tell a little more because it's coached by NFL coaching staffs and is run in a way we're familiar with, with the one-on-one type drills with an NFL staff coaching it. It's catered to our needs and the best players come to that game. It's going to be the best product from a college standpoint," Campbell says.
The Cincinnati Bengals staff, headed by Marvin Lewis, will handle the North team. The Buffalo Bills staff, under Chan Gailey, coaches the South team. The game will be televised Saturday by the NFL Network at 4 p.m. ET.
The last of the players due in arrived on Sunday and underwent physicals. They also filled out questionnaires and met with the coaches before getting into the height and weight measurements Monday morning. Now they'll face scrutiny in the practices, in the way they face their one-on-one battles, how they interview and conduct themselves.
While most scouts don't stick around for the game itself, they'll review the video of it later. And they do love the atmosphere in Ladd-Peebles Stadium and the city's zest for this event.
"The great thing about the Senior Bowl is you know that stadium will be sold out. That game has great community support," Campbell said.
At the conclusion of the Senior Bowl, the Redskins staff will meet for about 10 days, rank the players they've seen and provide lists to the coaches of the draftable and likely free-agent players shortly after the Feb. 6 Super Bowl. That gives the coaches a chance to digest the material before the Indianapolis scouting combine that begins Feb. 24.
Immediately thereafter comes the Pro Day workouts on college campuses across the country, generating more clockings of the 40-yard dash and the creation of more reports critical to the decision-making process that concludes in April with the draft.
"I would say in the beginning of the fall, we probably start off looking at about 600 to 700 college senior prospects. That's the top guys all the way to the free agents," Campbell says. "Each player is going to have three to four reports written on them, between the area scout, myself, the position coach. The area scouts also do a position cross-check. So there will be a minimum of four reports on each guy, multiplied by 400 or 500 guys. We have not begun whittling that list but it will narrow as we get to April.
"At the end – and I've never counted it – it's safe to say that there will be well over a thousand reports because there are multiple reports on each guy and there are several hundred prospects. That's a lot of volume."
It's not really the end, though. The Pro Day workouts often include prospects from neighboring schools or those that play at the lower levels of NCAA competition.
"Those guys will emerge as late as the spring," Campbell says. "What happens is, the smaller school guys won't maybe get invited to the all-star games or the combine. They'll go to the workouts, the Pro Days, at the major schools. Everyone's going to be at the Alabama Pro Day but they may not be able to go to Alabama State so they let those players come to Alabama. And suddenly that guy pops up on the radar."
Generating more reports. The hunt for talent, under way since last August, never really seems to stop.
Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.