The NFL scouting combine took place this weekend. The event is the only time that NFL scouts can take a look at the very best of the college football ranks in one building before the draft in May. The combine has the ingredients of a Miss America pageant where every competitor’s special skill is the 40-yard dash.
The event itself is important for scouts to obtain the necessary measurable in height, weight and how quick the players can move but is it really important at all?
These players have already played between three and five years of college football, which would have been televised locally and sometimes even nationally. The NFL teams have every meaningful snap of play available on tape and an army of experienced scouts to break down every part of the player’s performance.
There are only two meaningful things that happen at the combine and neither of them are available to those watching the coverage on television. Medicals are conducted on all draft prospects, and the results of these medicals could potentially affect the amount of risk teams are taking by selecting a player. In addition to these medicals, interviews are also conducted on prospects when teams attempt to unearth every single detail about their potential employees.
It is basically the closest thing that an NFL player gets to a job interview and is probably the thing that general managers care about the most. However, these interviews and medicals are all background to the biggest distraction of the whole weekend: The on field drills. Aside from the 40-yard dash and vertical leap which can be a good gauge of a player’s athletic ability, the participants will also take part in a number of drills where they run through cones doing a number of bizarre things which NFL coaches believe will result in some sort of analysis.
The discussions that some of these teams must have after the combine must be bizarre. Are these GM’s really going to pass on a guy who broke SEC receiving yards just because he ran through a cone the wrong way?
Picking another player because of a pre-existing heart condition or a troublesome violent history I can understand, that's due diligence, but not choosing a defensive lineman off a 20-sack season because he forgot which pad he was supposed to hit is a little ridiculous.
Inevitably, some players decide not to risk bad performances in the combine and only participate in certain drills. This just brings the level at the event down a little bit more.
Yesterday, Johnny Manziel ran a 4.68 40-yard dash and then watched Blake Bortles and A.J McCarron throw a few passes that nobody really cared about. Jadeveon Clowney turned up this morning, ran a ridiculous 4.47 sprint time and then milled about on the sidelines whilst the other drills took place.
The best players in the draft prefer to go through their other drills at pro days held at their own universities. This way they get to perform under their own conditions with their own teammates. NFL coaches and analysts attend these days too, so why bother with the combine?
Really, it’s a bit of fun. The NFL teams get to do their due diligence all in one convenient location and they get official measurements to aid their decisions. League analysts will publish daily mock drafts and debate for hours, a decision, which still won’t be made for another three months.
So sit back enjoy the combine, watch some big guys run really fast- just don’t take it seriously.