MOBILE, Alabama -- Ray Farmer had a specific task as he watched Wednesday's Senior Bowl practices. The Browns general manager served as the overall leader of Cleveland's group of scouts throughout the week, but on this day his focused was locked on the biggest players on the field.
Farmer spent this morning watching the offensive and defensive linemen because the focused approach allowed him and the Browns' player personnel staffers to maximize their time at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. At the end of this session, Farmer and his staff swapped notes with the other members who were also watching the same position group. It's a small part of the large process that goes into determining who will land on the Browns' draft board a little more than three months from now.
So what was Farmer looking for as he evaluated these players? It's best to let him explain it without us getting in the way.
"You want to watch the get-off, the lateral ability, strength in his hands, hip snap, a lot of different little key points that we focus on," Farmer said. "How's he playing the run? Is he getting off blocks? Is his vision there? Is his awareness there? In the passing game, does he have a pass rushing plan? How's he attacking his opponent? Is he giving the same moves over and over or does he have an arsenal that he can switch his game up? Can he counter?
"There's a lot of intricate pieces of the game you try to focus on but inevitably the thing I really want to see most is who's the most competitive. Who wants to get after that guy in front of him? Who calls out the guy that everybody else says is the best player here on the opposite side of the ball? You get in those situations, I think is when you really start to figure out who you want as Cleveland Browns."
For quarterback, the analysis focuses less on the technical aspects and more on the player's mental makeup.
"Most of these guys take the game and they try to be spot-on perfect," Farmer said. "I think the reality for me is I'm looking for a guy that's willing to work on the shortcomings of his game as well as accentuate his positives. This is a game that really tests a person's fear level. Are they afraid to compete? Are they afraid to make that tight throw?
"There's a lot of pieces of this game that really come down to the natural competitiveness you see in a guy. Then those guys that want to work, those guys that are looking for extra reps, those guys that want to get in the game and take those chances and demonstrate what they can do."
There's some truth to the importance of first impressions, but Farmer stressed the Senior Bowl is "just a single event." A so-so week might raise some skepticism about how a player performed during his college career, but it won't render all the good film he logged to be worthless.
The NFL Scouting Combine in February and the player's Pro Day in March provide opportunities for redemption.
"A bad Senior Bowl performance," Farmer said, "doesn't ruin any player."
This article is part of the Road to the Draft series, driven by Liberty Ford.