The environment couldn't have been more different from the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis, but the Browns' local combine carried its own value as the team eyes the upcoming draft.
About 20 prospects who grew up in the Cleveland area or played for a small college in the area worked out in a Combine-like setting Wednesday at the Browns' facility in Berea. The players ran the 40-yard dash and went through other timed drills before breaking into groups for position drills, which were led by Browns coaches.
"It gives them an opportunity to come show their stuff, it gives us an opportunity to see more players in a Combine-like setting," said Brendan Donovan, a research specialist who has worked in the Browns' college scouting department for two years. "It gives us a more intimate feeling, our coaches get to talk to them and get to coach them. Every now and then you get to unearth somebody you maybe didn't know as much about or really get to see their talent.
"We're trying to unearth some new guys for those fancy new jerseys we just unveiled."
The visits from these players, which include a meal in the Browns' cafeteria and some one-on-one time with coaches, do not count toward the 30 Cleveland is allotted throughout the pre-draft process. Most of the players were not invited to the NFL's scouting combine, allowing the Browns to interview the player like they would in Indianapolis but without the time crunch.
"Sometimes you have a scouting report may say a kid is a certain way but when you're actually sitting down with them, they're different," Donovan said. "You get 30 pre-draft visits and if you're lucky you may get somebody that's talented and it's another pre-draft visit you get for free."
Pro Bowl wide receiver Victor Cruz is among the numerous examples of players who used a local team's combine as a launching pad to the NFL. Last year, the Browns had one of their local combine invitees make the final round of cuts, Donovan said, and the team utilized numerous undrafted free agents -- RB Isaiah Crowell, DB K'Waun Williams, QB Connor Shaw, WR Taylor Gabriel, DB Robert Nelson -- in key roles throughout 2014.
"You always want to see someone when it's their time to shine, that they come out and ball out," Donovan said. "We're looking to make the team better."
Pre-draft visits will continue for the next week or so before the Browns lock in for the 2015 NFL Draft. The decisions that will be made with the team's 10 picks, including two in the first round, will be made with years of research applied to each one.
An event like Wednesday's provides yet another small, but important, piece of the puzzle.
"We're going down the home stretch not just for us, but the players. They're on pins and needles," Donovan said. "We're trying to unearth a few final diamonds, not just through the draft but also free agency."