Each NFL team is allotted 30 pre-draft visits. When those visits happen, NFL teams, by rule, are supposed to send an email to the NFL to let them know who they hosted. An email notifying the league about a visit doesn't need to be sent until it actually takes place, which is partly because some visits can come about in the final days leading up to the draft.
On Saturday night, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported that the Detroit Lions sent an email about some of their pre-draft visits to the entire NFL rather than only the league office. This means that the NFL's other 31 teams got a look at the list, which contained an unknown amount of names of players that the Lions had hosted for visits. Florio reports that the Lions did the same thing when Matthew Stafford was placed on IR last season, sending the email to the entire league rather than only the league office.
As expected, Florio mocked the Lions for this supposed mistake by mentioning Matt Millen's tenure with the franchise. He also tried to connect the dots with his sources' information to what Jim Schwartz had to say at the NFL owners meetings last month in response to a question about the Lions' website reporting on the visits.
"The fact is, everybody in the league knows (whom we're bringing in)," coach Jim Schwartz said during the NFL meetings last week. "So if everybody in the league knows, it really doesn't matter. And if it's interesting for the fans, ... then I'm all for it."
Tom Kowalski clarified what exactly happened, according to his "information," stating that Schwartz "was not discussing an e-mail error when he said the team would become more open in making that list available to the public." Kowalski noted that information about pre-draft visits isn't exactly a big secret anyway with agents spreading the word to teams about where their clients have visited, and he also made it clear that all of the Lions' visits were not in that email.
It can be inferred from the PFT report that the Lions' entire list of 30 pre-draft visits has been compromised. That is not the case. By my calculations, the Lions have about half of their visits remaining and, at this stage of the game, they don't even know who will be invited yet for some of those remaining visits.
As Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has said in the past, the Lions hold back many of those pre-draft visits to get the latest possible medical information available. They also hold back some of the visits for players who might have slipped through the cracks and weren't invited to the scouting combine. The Lions haven't had those personnel meetings yet so the identity of some of those players isn't even known at this point.
What I find interesting about this whole being secretive or not so secretive about draft visits story is that Dave Birkett pointed out that the Lions didn't report Jimmy Smith's visit on their website. That shows that they are being at least somewhat selective with which names are publicized as having visited Allen Park. Also, it's worth pointing out that, as Schwartz said, the Lions didn't even host Jahvid Best for a visit last year. Despite that, they traded up to draft him in the first round.
The disclaimer I have presented when tracking these visits is that you shouldn't try to read into them too much. Like Schwartz said, it is fun for us fans to track, but it's not like they are a great indicator of who might be picked in the draft. That is why I don't see this email thing as being a huge "blunder" at all. Hell, with the way Martin Mayhew and company are so secretive with some information, perhaps they meant to send it to the rest of the league. You never can be too sure, but even if this was a mistake I don't see it as being a very big one. It's not like the Vikings or some other team picking ahead of the Lions is going to alter their draft strategy over some names in an email about pre-draft visits. That would be almost as ridiculous as how PFT framed this story in the first place.