Dinner, apparently, is part of Jim Caldwell’s grand scouting and drafting plan. This has little to do with any actual food consumed, though. It has everything to do with more time with prospects.
The first-year Detroit Lions coach had dinner with prospect Sammy Watkins, part of the process to see exactly what the Clemson wide receiver --and likely first receiver taken in May’s NFL draft -- is all about.
“You get a chance to see them in a different light even though you have an opportunity to interview them,” Caldwell said at the owner's meetings in Orlando, Fla. “In this situation, you get them for an extended period of time on his turf. He’s a lot more comfortable.
“That incident, we had an opportunity to visit with his mother and father. You get a good feel. One of the things I’ve learned from my days at college is that I love to watch the interaction between the individual and his parents. You can tell what type of young man it is, particularly in college you always get those young guys and most people think they can change them, but you watch the people they are closest to and hold dearest to their heart and how they treat them gives you a pretty good indication of what’s going to happen in your program when you get them.”
That, Caldwell said, translates from college to the pros as well as it does from high school to college.
Caldwell was able to do this more often when he was a college assistant and then as the head coach at Wake Forest from 1993 to 2000, but now that he’s a head coach again in the NFL, he can use a similar approach.
That the team is spending this much time with Watkins could also be a clue that the Lions are at least considering making a move to land the receiver. The chances he is available at No. 10, where the Lions are slated to pick, is minimal. So that Detroit would invest that amount of time in getting to know him means they are at least considering a possibility where they could make a move for him.
If the Lions somehow nabbed Watkins, it would likely cost picks, players or a combination of both -- and that would be a weighing point for general manager Martin Mayhew and Caldwell as to what the cost/benefit would be.
It would still be somewhat surprising to see Watkins land in Detroit, even with the attention paid to him, mostly because the team has other areas it needs to fill with immediate help.
But Caldwell’s strategy in getting to know players is a strong one and one that should be looked at positively.
And not just for a good meal.
Indianapolis Colts reporter Mike Wells contributed reporting from Orlando, Fla.