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What is the true meaning behind prospect visits? Good question

Tyler Eifert is widely considered the top tight end in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Notre Dame product is a big target at 6-foot-5 1/2 and 250 pounds. He can catch, he can block, he comes from strong bloodlines and he won the Mackey Award as the nation's top player at the position.

Eifert is a player who -- one would think -- should generate as much draft buzz as anyone. After all, thanks to the success of teams like the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons, everyone in this copycat league is searching for a dynamic tight end.

And yet, how many team visits has he made? How often has he been called into an NFL facility to participate in a lengthy question-and-answer session?

Not once.

And so, no draft buzz -- except among those compiling mock drafts.

Meanwhile, Florida International safety John Cyprien generated a ton of discussion when the public learned he'd been asked to participate in 14 workouts or visits leading up to the draft. Similarly, West Virginia speedster Tavon Austin sets the Internet afire with each reported visit. (The New York Jets are on tap Monday.)

What does it all mean? Unfortunately, not as much as you would think. And sometimes, it means absolutely nothing.

"There's no rhyme or reason," Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland told reporters on Thursday. "Some guys I have a lot of interest in, and some guys I have no interest in at all, but there is really no rhyme or reason."

Um, OK. That sums it up. Visits either mean something, nothing or anything in between. Got it?

Even when it makes sense, you have to wonder. In addition to his private workouts, Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan had eight pre-draft visits, mostly to teams drafting in the top 10. Obviously. But not the Oakland Raiders. Why? Maybe they had nothing more to ask. Maybe they're hiding their interest.

When it comes to Eifert, there simply aren't a lot of questions. Teams that like him -- and probably some that don't -- met with him at the NFL Scouting Combine. They had their boxes checked off. He has no nagging injuries, no off-the-field concerns. What's left to ask about?

The same logic applies to the Kansas City Chiefs' decision to bring West Virginia QB Geno Smith -- but not Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel -- in for a private meeting. The Chiefs wanted a face-to-face discussion with Smith, and they wanted to put him on the blackboard. Regarding Joeckel, after his private workout, they were good. Same with Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher.

What about Cyprien, a relative unknown before the 2012 season? He attended a small school, where he played under the radar, and teams simply want to get to know him.

For perspective, listen to Jacksonville Jaguars GM David Caldwell explain why he brings prospects in for visits.

"We really wanted to focus on some guys we had some questions on," Caldwell said a week ago, "and the guys that we wanted to spend some time with that'd be important picks for us."

As in, not necessarily the players they like the most.

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The Chiefs worked out several of their top possibilities for No. 1, then hosted Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner and Smith. From there, they settled on four finalists, with plans to make a decision four days before the draft.

The Jags are taking a similar approach with the No. 2 pick; they've hosted many of the top players, including Smith, Jordan and Sharrif Floyd. But not BYU's Ziggy Ansah, a pass rusher who would appear to be in play for them. So what does that mean? Anything?

How about the Philadelphia Eagles, who pick fourth? They had a visit scheduled with Milliner -- who was set to meet with 10 of the teams picking in the top 13 -- then canceled. Bad news? Well, two years ago, the Patriots canceled a last-minute visit with Colorado left tackle Nate Solder ... then drafted him in the first round.

Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib has his suitors; he's having his tires kicked by or being hosted for a workout with nearly all of the quarterback-needy teams. As well as the Carolina Panthers. Yup, they worked him out a week after his pro day. Perhaps Cam Newton is as confused as we are. On Monday, Nassib has a visit set with the Arizona Cardinals. That makes more sense. We think.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has had plenty of visits, with reportedly at least seven on his docket. Of course, teams have questions. Yet I'm told the questions have veered away from the catfishing scandal and toward the gridiron. Teams still think the girlfriend hoax is a little odd, but they've turned their attention to football -- not that it's kept him from being in high demand.

The problem is, many pre-draft actions don't mean what you think they do. When New York Jets coach Rex Ryan spent extra time with SMU defensive end Margus Hunt -- in full view of everyone -- during a pro day, did that indicate an infatuation with Hunt? Or does Ryan just want us to think it did?

The same is true of visits. Do they indicate interest, or do teams just want us to think they do? Are there medical questions, or is a team merely trying to gain a little more intelligence about a player they didn't spend enough time with in Mobile or Indianapolis?

Everybody thinks of it differently, Ireland said, adding, "I'm one of those everybody."

"Sometimes I've got a guy that I need a little bit more medical information on," he continued. "Some of the guys, I didn't get a chance to visit with them at the combine, or I did visit with them at the combine and didn't get the information I wanted."

For teams getting ready to draft, it's all of the above and none of the above.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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