The NFL Draft is a rite of spring for all NFL teams, but preparation for the draft starts well before the leaves turn green on the trees and the daffodils start to bloom.
For NFL scouting and player personnel departments, the journey to finding the perfect fit for their team in this week's draft begins the minute the previous draft ends.
"The 2018 draft started in May, 2017," said Mark Bruener, one of the Steelers college scouts. "We have our initial meetings in May and we get the list of potential prospects. As we go through the summer, when we come to camp we are prepared to present to (General Manager) Kevin (Colbert) the schools we are going to visit, we finalize our fall schedule. The travel begins when we leave training camp and it wraps up in November. You are still evaluating players, still have the bowl games, Combine and Pro Days. It's a long process, a long, lengthy process."
The key word here, is it's a 'process.' What will be seen on television is three days of the NFL Draft. But for those in player personnel and scouting, it's a 365-day process.
"Draft prep as we all know is continual," said Pro Scouting Coordinator Brandon Hunt. "We start in the fall with training camp. In training camp when we are going to pro games, I try to schedule a day or two in advance when I can go to a couple of colleges and visit them. Obviously there are college football games on Saturdays, and we are into it getting a base of who these players are.
"It kicks into full gear after the season, post Super Bowl, into the Senior Bowl, Combine and offseason Pro Day workout evaluation."
It's after the Combine, when the player personnel department hits the road to go to the Pro Days, an opportunity to get a more personal look at individual players. And for Hunt, that time of year is also mixed in with NFL free agency and becomes a quick balancing act.
"The day you leave Indianapolis it is continual travel," said Hunt. "It starts in March and we are all on the road. There are some guys that go right from Indianapolis to their first pro day. The one unique thing I have is the Combine leads into pro free agency, which is in the middle of spring evaluations. It's one blur of continuous football evaluations, which runs right into April which is our draft meeting and draft prep."