While personnel departments turn their attention to the draft immediately following the season, the final week of preparation is extremely important. It is vital for a general manager to have the most up-to-date information. In the final week, a GM will generally review the following:
Every kid at the combine gets a world-class physical to determine his medical grade. All the physicals are performed by one set of doctors, eliminating any potential variables. If a player does not attend the combine, or if there is any health concern, a team interested in drafting him might invite the player for a pre-draft visit and perform its own physical.
If the player is not brought in for a visit and was not at the combine, teams are forced to rely on college trainers and their doctors for medical history.
Many teams use a number system to represent a player's medical grade. Here is an example of a grading system a team might use:
0 -- perfect health
1 -- minor issues
2 -- notable injuries (healthy enough for a career)
3 -- significant injuries (shortened career)
4 -- reject (cannot pass the franchise's physical)
Teams will often make the system even more detailed, perhaps by using a plus sign to represent a player between two number grades. To get even more specific, a team might add more to the medical grade:
A -- small injuries (several small injuries, but not all at once)
B -- several significant injuries (to the same body part)
C -- several significant injuries (to multiple body parts)
Putting all the information together should provide an accurate picture of the health of a prospect. The final medical report on a player will read as follows:
1+A: Minor issues due to a number of small injuries (an injury-prone player). This would not prevent the player from playing.
2+B: Notable injury concerns, multiple times, to a specific body part (knee problems for example).
3+C: Significant injuries to multiple body parts. Player will probably miss practices and games and he will have a shortened career.
In my time as a general manager, the medical rating became so important that even at the very last minute, we made sure to double check it. This weekend, you will notice players receiving phone calls right before they are drafted. The first question a franchise will probably ask the player answering the phone is "Are you healthy?" You never know who slipped in the shower and broke his leg this morning.
Security reports are often reviewed near the end of the week, as a team needs the best, most up-to-date information. At the combine, a player will be asked to sign a release allowing teams to research his background. These background checks reveal tickets, arrests and convictions -- pretty much anything from stealing a pack of gum to a major drug offense.
If the player was not invited to the combine, a team might bring him in for a pre-draft visit to get more information, or his permission to perform a background check. Once the club has all of the information on a player, it must determine if any issues are serious enough to affect his draft value.
A misconception exists regarding draft-day trades. People envision long negotiations in an attempt to create the perfect deal, but negotiations rarely occur prior to the clock starting.
A team will talk before draft day about another team's possible interest in moving up or down. Most franchises would prefer for their trade partner to be under pressure to make a decision, because it increases the chances for a trade to get pushed through.
Suppose my team has the 26th overall selection in the first round, and the team with the 25th pick just made its choice. Another team calls and offers us its 40th overall, 71st overall and 138th overall selections for our current selection.
After examining our charts and tables, as well as the picks our trade partner has left in the draft, we call back and ask for the 103rd overall selection, in place of the 138th overall. There could be a number of counters in the negotiation process. The trade partners will call back and forth until they reach an agreement or run out of time.
Teams will often entertain multiple offers at once. There can be 6-10 calls in that 15-minute period. It can be hectic, to say the least.
A team must to some degree be able to project how a draft will unfold, so it knows what players are likely to be available when it comes time to make a choice. The higher the selection, the easier it is to create a mock, because there are simply less options.
If you are willing to take any top-10 player, and you have a top-10 selection, your job is easy. When you only like six of the top 10, you have to prepare mocks involving each of the remaining four players falling to you.
A team must also account for the 1,800 players currently in the NFL, and picks from next year's draft. Any of this information can be applied to the current draft.
Former NFL general manager and coach Floyd Reese will contribute frequently to ESPN.com.