Chris Culmer rested on bended knee, watching Arizona State defensive end Davon Coleman work through the shuttle drill during the school’s pro day earlier this month.
Culmer, the Cardinals’ area scout for the Western section of the United States, has taken charge of the outdoor work this sunny Friday. The Cardinals as an organization are out in force, not a shock given the school is just a few miles north of the team’s facility. That proximity has more to do with the influx of Cards – nine from the coaching staff, plus Culmer and a scouting assistant – than the Sun Devils being flush with prospects.
Other than being close to home, it’s just like any other pro day (and for Culmer, who lives in Seattle, it’s not even close to home.) That means it’s a somewhat large production considering its ultimate place in the draft-prep spectrum.
Culmer has already seen Arizona State play live once, this season when they hosted the University of Washington.
“That’s 95 percent of the grade,” Culmer said. “Pro day is a little tiny final piece of the puzzle.”
It’s a time for clean-up on some of the players, guys a team might not have gotten every slice of information from yet. A couple that are expected to be drafted in the top three rounds, like defensive lineman Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford, just did much of this work at the Scouting combine in Indianapolis. Many of these players won’t even be considered as undrafted rookies.
Still, the scouts and coaches dutifully watch as almost every guy gets measured on the high jump, long jump and bench press at 225 pounds. When that’s over, the entire group moves inside Sun Devil Stadium. First the players to run the 40-yard dash, then shuttle and three-cone drills, and finally individual position drills.
Bradford is a possible Cardinals target. The junior acknowledges after the workout he already has a visit set up with the Cardinals. He says he’s had teams talk to him about playing both in a 4-3 alignment and a 3-4.
Cardinals outside linebackers coach James Bettcher sees Bradford up close as he runs the linebacker drills. In fact, after Culmer more or less takes charge to get the overall drills out of the way, it is Cardinals coaches running most of the position drills. Nick Rapone works out the defensive backs. David Diaz-Infante works out the offensive linemen. Brentson Buckner does the defensive linemen.
The coaches haven’t seen as much of these players as Culmer has, nor will they get quite so detailed in their analysis. But they do watch the video of potential draftees, and then embrace this up-close portion of the process.
“There is no replacement for game tape,” Bettcher said. “But the chance to work with guys in person, you can take a look at how well they pay attention to direction, how well they do the drills, (and) live and in person maybe you see something you don’t think the player is as good at. Or it validates or maybe changes your opinion.”
The Cardinals – as of now – have just six draft picks. Six players chosen, total, out of the hundreds scouted over the past year, although they will add undrafted guys about whom they know well.
The odds of them taking an Arizona State product are slim, even with the mass number of Cardinal people watching.
By late afternoon, Culmer’s face is slightly red after standing in the sun for hours. He comes back to the team’s Tempe facility briefly before heading to the airport for an evening flight home. The draft creeps closer, but there is still a lot of work left, other pro days for the Cards to staff. There is still the main draft meetings in Tempe, when the scouts and coaches come together to give final grades on the main draft prospects.
Culmer will return to the Valley then. In the midst of the offseason, he’s in his busy time.
“The draft is our Super Bowl,” Culmer said. “We’d obviously like to win the real Super Bowl, but that’s our day, that’s the day you know you are gone from your family working a lot and that’s the day as it gets closer, you get excited. It makes all the time you spend and put in worthwhile.”