Rams' 'top 30' visits underway

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Along with the rest of the NFL, the St. Louis Rams have begun the process of bringing in college draft prospects for what is known as "top 30" visits.

Each team is allowed to bring up to 30 prospects to its facility for a pre-draft meet and greet. Those players are not allowed to work out at the team facility, and if the team wants to work that player out, they must venture to the player's college campus or home base. ESPN's Field Yates offered some excellent insight into what teams are hoping to accomplish with each visit.

Teams can also bring in players who are considered "local" prospects. Using a radius from the team's home city to determine if the player is "local," those players can visit and go through a workout at the facility and do not count toward the visit limit of 30.

Every team has a different approach to the visits, and it varies based on the regime. When Billy Devaney was the Rams' general manager, he liked to bring in a large group of players at the same time, usually splitting them into two groups of 15 over a four-day span. Under general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams prefer to spread the visits out and get to know the players on a more individual basis.

With two extra weeks to prepare for the draft, this year's visits have started earlier. The Rams began bringing in players this week and have not hesitated to get to know some of the draft's biggest names.

Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, who many believe is a realistic option for St. Louis with the No. 2 pick, arrived in St. Louis on Wednesday and spent the day at Rams Park.

This week the Rams also visited with Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt. None of those players figure into the mix at No. 2, but could be options later in the first round or, in Gilbert's case, in the event of a trade down to the lower part of the top 10.

Those visits are just the beginning as the Rams have plenty of others lined up over the next few weeks.

Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan visited the Detroit Lions this week and also arrived in St. Louis on Wednesday. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who went through the paces of his pro day Wednesday, told ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton that he has visits with St. Louis and Atlanta lined up soon.

And Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald are also expected to visit the Rams at some point.

While the pre-draft visits are a decent indicator of a team's interest, they should still be taken with the appropriate amount of salt. With so many players coming to visit, teams can't draft them all. Most teams do diligence on all of the top players in the draft and bring them in for visits as a way to get to know them better.

Like pro days, combines and private workouts, the top 30 visits are just another piece of the puzzle.