An inside look at prospect visits

There's been quite the buzz surrounding visits from two of the top three quarterbacks in this year's draft, as Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater are at Gillette Stadium today.

The first question many have asked: Why would the Patriots bring these players in?

We don't know for sure, but colleague Mike Reiss had solid perspective earlier today.

The second question some have asked: What exactly are these visits?

Here's the skinny: Beginning April 1, each NFL team is permitted to bring 30 prospects in for a visit, not to exceed one full day (players may travel in the night before, but they cannot stay for multiple nights).

The visits are not workouts -- players do not do any on-field work. They are, more accurately, one-day interviews that also involve medical exams.

The next question many asked: What do the visits mean for a team's interest?

There's no clear answer to that.

In 2010 when I was working in the Chiefs' scouting department, our first visit that year was Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike. We didn't have a major need -- or really any need -- for quarterback depth, but he was a player we deemed worthy of receiving more due diligence.

In the end, he wasn't a player we considered drafting. That's the reality of the visits: Some players who visit won't remain on a team's radar come draft day.

Several of our visits homed in on players who projected to be available when we selected fifth overall: Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain and Tennessee safety Eric Berry, the player ultimately picked.

There's no precise blueprint for how these visits work, but they often begin with the medical exam for teams to answer any outstanding questions.

Players then meet with coaches and members of the personnel department, reviewing film or just speaking more extensively than they have previously.

The visits also often include a sit-down meal so the players can enjoy and familiarize themselves with the city (for us, that often meant a trip to one of the many renowned barbecue joints).

A player's stock might not rise or fall dramatically during a visit, but the contact certainly can help a team develop a more comprehensive evaluation.

Everything about Berry's game-tape and background research suggested he would be an ideal choice at No. 5. The way he carried himself -- he elected to wear a suit, approaching the day in a businesslike manner -- and seamlessly connected with several coaches and front-office members reinforced that he should be our target with pick No. 5.

The bottom line on these visits is that they are one piece of the information-gathering puzzle. The Patriots will be more informed on Manziel and Bridgewater after the visits than they were before them.