I was hesitant to write this piece. Mainly because I know how passionate some of my readers are about the NFL Scouting Combine. But I just feel as if I have to be the voice of reason here. First off, yes I DVR'd the entire event and have watched the entire thing from bell to bell. But I didn't watch it for what you think. I think there are some parts of the combine that are completely over rated and some others that are so underrated and missed by so many fans, that the potency of the event is all but lost.
What you should ignore
The drills. I know, I know, how can I say that? We must know how a high a big fat offensive lineman can jump from a standing position or the 40 yard dash time of a quarterback. It's huge news. I literally laughed out loud (or LOL'd as the young people say) when I read my Twitter feed the last 4 days. Breaking news! Julio Jones is fast. Breaking news! Cam Newton throws the ball hard. If not for the last week how would I have ever known Patrick Peterson was a top player? Thank you Scouting Combine. And the predictions. We love the predictions. What will Jake Locker's 40 time be? Cam Newton's broad jump? If I can guess those right, I will be much better at predicting how good a pro will be. I will go buy a lottery ticket too.
Of course I am being sarcastic, but it's true. Watch the tape of the Combine. Watch when they cut to the stands and you see coaches and coordinators sitting in the stands. I never saw a single coach write down a thing when the camera was on them. A coincidence? I suppose, but the most interesting thing I saw in the seats during the combine was watching Jack Del Rio's kid digging for nose gold. I was personally hoping he was going to go all Mark Brunell on his dad's shirt.
And to all my fellow draft pundits, if you have to make drastic changes to your positional rankings and mock drafts based on what you saw at t Scouting Combine you were just doing it wrong last week. I'm not tooting my own horn here at all, but come on did you really see enough of Ryan Mallett to have him a first round pick a week ago, and now a second? You are just following the herd. I plan to watch a lot of football in the next week, as I do every week and I will make changes based on that alone.
Oh, but there is one important thing I do glean from the drills. And I have pounded my shoe on the table about this over and over again. The one thing I always make a note of is the level of preparation some players put into the event. For most of these young men, they have had the better part of 2 months to eat, sleep, and breath combine prep. They hire special coaches, move across country and live at special facilities, they live for their moment in tight pants.
I am a teacher, and when I attend conferences in the Summer, it is called professional development, and regardless of how much I learn from it, that I take to the classroom, in many cases the perception of me becomes that I am working hard to get better at my job. Same rule applies here. Show me you care enough to come prepared. A player who has 2 months to show up for one day, and they show up out of shape that makes me think you just don't love to play football and no one wants that on their team.
Oh, and one other positive from the drills (look at me being positive?). If you are a guy like Buster Skrine, a CB from lowly UT-Chattanooga, and you go out and run a low 4.3 in the 40, you will open up NFL teams eyes. They won't draft you because of it, but they will seek out some Mocs game tape, and they may find a diamond in the rough. Don't kid yourself that Skrine will get drafted because he's fast, he'll get drafted because being fast got him noticed.
What you should pay attention to
1. Commentary. Whether you love the player or hate them, you just can't beat having an all time NFL great break down a young player. When I hear Sterling Sharpe or Michael Irvin talk about lazy hands, I know they understand what they are talking about. And if Deion Sanders or Warren Sapp want to give me insight about what to look for at cornerback or defensive tackle, I am damn well going to listen. I get so tired of hearing people rip these guys. They played. They know what they are talking about. As I watch the drills, I learn and develop in what I do by watching the drills, and seeing what I see and then comparing that to what the pros see. I like to feel that even though I have done this for well over a decade I always have more to learn. Great players, and even former coaches like Brian Billick, can help me learn even more. Trust me folks, you can watch a guy run a go route and see the throw but you will get a little more if you pay attention to what you hear and not just what you see.
2. John Lott. I know people think I am the President of his fan club, but if you want entertainment there are few things more exciting than the bench press portion of the combine. I wish they would show much more of it and mic Coach Lott up 12 months of the year. Get yer stinkin' mind right!
What you should know that you don't
The real value of the combine for NFL teams is something we never get to see, and only typically hear bits and pieces about. The two facets of the combine that really matter are the extensive physicals players undergo and the interview process that teams have with players. Teams aren't going to learn more about a player's game from watching them do a 3 cone drill, but if there is a doubt about a player and his physical or mental health this is where they can really break it down. Every year you see a player or two who everyone has ranked very high tumble for no obvious reasons and in almost every case it's because there is a medical red flag that was sent up during the combine. As for the interviews, this is a chance for teams to get in players heads a little and check that football IQ that is really hard to gauge at times with these wacky college schemes.
All in all, I think the NFL Scouting Combine is an excellent exercise for NFL prospects. If I were ranking all of the "stuff" that NFL teams have to work off of when evaluating talent, I'd put game film no. 1. I'd put the interviews/physicals at the Combine 2. I'd put the week of Senior Bowl/All-Star game practice at 3, and finally wrap the rest of the offseason, combine drills/pro day results in the 4th spot. I know the combine will never go away and I am fine with that, but I'd love to see some tweaks to the process. How great would it be to see players run their 40 in shells? Or a DB covering the WRs on those go route drills? So many ways to make small adjustments to add immense value to the drills. But I understand they don't because many people want a comparison to other draft classes and if you switch things up it throws all that off. But fans go and enjoy the Scouting Combine, because it's a fun event but please don't take it too seriously. God, do I miss football.
Fat Guys in Shorts
This Guy will never amount to anything