The NFL combine workout in early March was the unofficial kickoff to the draft season.
All 32 teams got a chance to watch draft prospects in Indianapolis go through workouts comparing their skills on the football field. The same is true for the many pro days leading up to the week before the 2023 NFL Draft.
Houston Texans assistant director of player personnel and director of college scouting James Leipfert and his staff have a lot to do in evaluating prospects. Regardless of how many workouts a player does or doesn’t do from January to early April, one thing remains the same for Leapfert.
“I’ll always go back to tape,” Lipfert said. “I think every player has the right to work when and where they want to. Just because player X didn’t work out at the combine, or he only did position drills at his pro day, a lot of times those people trust are what their agents are telling them. Agents usually have a very good reason for, ‘That’s why I ask you not to do this, or only work here, or only there ‘ These guys are listening to their agents and that’s fine.”
What Leifert has been able to control is “evaluating how a guy played,” which he considers the most important element of his job.
“I don’t think it’s a state secret,” Leifert said. “You probably have every team in the league probably thinking the same way. After all, when he has a helmet on his head and shoulder pads on his shoulders, he will always be a king for me. It’s not a secret. This is football. You’re grooming them to play football, so you want to know how they play football.”
The Combine and pro days are still important in the scouting process, but are more about picking aspects than about a prospect’s athleticism.
Leifert said: “I would say mix the pro day in with the private workouts, you’re really trying to get a little bit more confidence or figure out something about certain granular parts about his athleticism. ‘How well does this guard really bend? How powerful is this center on contact really? Let me hold his bag and feel this guy hitting the bag.’ I think it has (more) value than saying, ‘I’m going to work with this guy and I’ll find out everything I need to know.’ I’d say watch the tape and base your decisions further away.
The Texans have plenty of time between now and April 26, the first day of the NFL Draft, to determine who looks good on tape and will fit into Houston’s identity under coach Demeko Ryan.