For Ray Farmer, NFL Combine about getting to know prospects

Posted Feb 20, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS – Senior Editor Vic Carucci says that, for Browns general manager Ray Farmer, the primary value of the NFL Scouting Combine is getting to know college prospects better.

INDIANAPOLIS – Ray Farmer has visited here so often, he could be a tour guide.

He could give you directions almost as well as any long-time resident. He could offer recommendations for dining and pretty much anything else to see and do around town.

That’s true with a lot of men who, like Farmer, have spent many years as a scout in the NFL, because everyone in that line of work always ends up here for the annual NFL Scouting Combine.

Except, this year is different for Farmer. This year, he’s here for the first time as a general manager.

“It is definitely different,” the Browns’ new GM said Thursday. “A lot more demands on my time than in the past.”

There are interviews with the media. There are meetings with members of the scouting and coaching staffs. There are meetings with player agents. There are calls and e-mails and texting galore. At one point since Feb. 11, when the Browns promoted Farmer from assistant general manager to GM, he received more than 400 texts. He has since responded to roughly 340 … and is fully determined to get through the final 60.

However, one thing about the combine hasn’t changed for Farmer.

“It's really, truly about getting to know these guys as well as you can, starting to look past the other things and spend time with the players and really grow into trying to make those decisions,” he said. “It's about gathering information. That's why we're here, that's what we're doing, and it's going well so far.”

With 10 picks in May’s NFL draft, Farmer and the Browns have plenty of work to do during over the next several days. And with the fourth overall choice among the two they have in the first round, they face a great deal of pressure to find players who will make an immediate impact and who will be part of long-term success.

Farmer, coach Mike Pettine, and the rest of the Browns’ contingent will spend 15 minutes each with 60 prospects, from the 300 invited here, of their choosing. They will also watch all of the players go through drills (that is, the ones who choose to participate) while getting piles of information covering everything from their medical history to any off-field issues.

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For Farmer, the greatest value of the combine is getting to know players they have watched play in college games on videotape a little bit better to determine what kind of pros they will be … or not.

“The most important piece is probably the character aspect, the chance to really sit down with a player, get a chance to really expose him to your coaches and find out what does he know, what kind of kid is he,” Farmer said. “You do some background (checking) on him, so you have little bits and pieces of it. But this is the first time that the player gets to put a spin on whatever stories that you might have on his background. I don't know if the character ever truly outweighs the athleticism. I think, at the end of the day, a good football player is a good football player.

“So the way I could equate is, on one scale you have talent, on the other scale you have character. Talent generally gets you to the opportunity to be the fourth pick. Your character will help decide whether or not you're going to last as the fourth pick.”

>>This Road to the Draft segment is driven by Liberty Ford.

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