Lions' Caldwell wades deep into evaluating draft pool

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Lions coach Jim Caldwell has taken an active role in the team's draft preparation the last two years.

At the Senior Bowl, he was on the field helping work out some of the top offensive tackles. And last year, Caldwell and his staff helped the team decide to draft tight end Eric Ebron 10th overall.

According to one of Caldwell's former bosses, Caldwell began throwing himself into the talent evaluation process even before he was a head coach.

"Jim was very involved, and I would frequently use him as a resource, particularly with quarterbacks even when he was the quarterback coach before he became the head coach," ESPN analyst and former Colts general manager Bill Polian said on a teleconference Tuesday.

Caldwell spent a decade working under Polian, first as quarterbacks coach under Tony Dungy from 2002-08 then as head coach from 2009-11. In his three years, the Colts went 14-2, 10-6 and 2-14, which led to his and Polian's firing.

Though Caldwell was a defensive back growing up, he began working with quarterbacks early in his coaching career as a way to become better rounded in his pursuit of head coaching jobs.

But quarterbacks aren't the only players he evaluates for the draft process, and he said his role in Detroit with regards to the draft is similar to the one he had in Indianapolis.

"There's not anything that I'm not particularly involved in and particularly preparation for the draft, looking at personnel, grading them, so on and so forth," Caldwell said last month at the NFL annual meetings. "Telling you exactly what we think about them and those kinds of things and sharing your evaluations and then kind of seeing where we end up in terms of a collective group."

On Tuesday's teleconference, Polian shared a story of a time Caldwell helped him evaluate a quarterback. Polian was interested and asked Caldwell to go work out the player, and the Colts eventually passed on him.

"On our way back (Caldwell) said, 'He's terrific on the board. He's everything that you thought he was in that regard,'" Polian said. "We looked at all the film. He said, 'He's very productive, but I don't think that because of his footwork and his delivery he's going to have the ability to make a lot of the throws that we want him to make.'

"So we did not draft him. He went somewhere else and didn't make it. And I had no hesitation about saying, 'Fine, let's don't consider him,' just based on Jim's evaluation."