March 02, 2011 by
How much weight should we really put on the numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine?
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
By Rafael Garcia-Sr. Contributing Writer-Southeast Region-Football Reporters Online
March 2nd, 2011
The combine has become more than just a way to gauge the potential and future of college football players hoping to hit it big at the next level. In the old days it was known as the NIC (National Invitational Camp). It all started in 1982 as a way to get the medical information needed on the top college football prospects. The first camp had a total of 163 players in all. By 1985 every team in the NFL participated and shared the medical expenses of any player invited that was draft eligible. It was held in places like New Orleans (1984 and 1986) and Arizona in 1985. In 1987 it was moved to Indianapolis where it is still held to this day.
Even though the medical part of the event is still important, the skills test have taken over as the showcase of the combine. Players now participate in various test of their football mind and skills as well as interviews to see where a players’ head is at as far as handling the NFL is concerned. The numbers that these players get are being used as a measuring stick that will help determine their draft stock. Some elite college players will not even attend the event for one reason or another. The numbers have proven some players were deserving of the attention. For others, it was a place they may not re-visit if they had another chance. Their numbers showed they did not measure up, but their NFL careers told a different story.
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
These days it is so important to know what a player does in the 40-yard dash. It is the main event of the combine. It shows the speed and explosion a player has. My problem is the number of players that did not measure up that turned out to be some of the best that have played the game. Many have shown, that even though they did not posses the so-called speed, they excelled by becoming masters of their craft. They excelled at route running and getting to the ball better than their defender. They used smarts and homework to get the advantage when they did not have the speed.
The bench press is used to see how many reps a player can do at a certain weight. It shows that the player has been in the gym for his collegiate career. One of the problems I have with that is when I see a small guy pop another player when they could not lift as much weight, or could not do it as many times. Again, some of these players made themselves great on using the strength they had at the most opportune times. You may be able to press weight, but what good is it if you cannot properly knock down the player in front of you.
The vertical jump is one that has always perplexed me. Sure, I want to know if a payer has lower body power and can explode off the jump. It is good to know that my linebacker can get up high enough to pick off that critical pass that was thrown too high. When it comes to linemen I have a hard time getting excited because the team needs a lineman that can cover ground on the ground. A vertical leap means nothing to me during live play when the defender is not taking the customary flat-footed stance. He must be ready to move at the snap of the ball.
The broad jump is one I can relate to a little more. It test the balance of a player and that is very important. A player must have great balance to be successful in the league. This is a great test of a players explosion off the ball as well.
The 3 cone drill is one that tests the players ability to change directions at a high rate of speed. It shows how good a receiver can run a route and then change it on a dime. This is very important in the development of a defensive back and a linebacker for me. The passing offenses of today demand that you have great cover guys at both positions. It will test the ability of the defender or the receiver to come back on the ball when necessary. It also helps to show where the player is at as far as his footwork in the open field is concerned.
Lastly, we have the shuttle run, also known as the 5-10-5. This will test the athlete’s ability to run short routes in short spaces. It is where a player learns the art of the pivot to its perfection. I like the basics of this drill because it has made a way for many players that would not excel in the long game. Think of Wes Welker as shuttle runner.
Then we have the question and answer test where questions of no meaning are asked. It is a showcase where a players stock can be hurt by a bad showing. Then some time later that player makes all the plays in the NFL and his combine numbers are all but forgotten. On top of that, a player then has a pro day where he can make up for all of his shortcoming at the combine. For me that makes the time at the combine a waste of time. Just because a player is fast doesn’t mean he is NFL ready. Maybe he can lifts all kinds of weight, but that does not mean he will be an impact on the field.
The NFL combine used to be attended by a handful of reporters and scouts depending on the talent. These days the combine is another tool the NFL uses to make more money with all the hype they give it. In this day and time it is full of reporters from all walks of life. Media is a frenzy at this event and a player is under a microscope at all times. I do like the fact that the combine does give one the opportunity to see and talk to the player up close. It gives scouts and coaches the chance to see how the player adapts to an NFL type of atmosphere.
All in all the combine has become more like a showcase of stars that have not earned a penny yet. It has gotten a bit too big for itself but never too big for the NFL. We will watch again this year to see what the Cam Newton‘s and Nick Fairley‘s will do. In the end, each player will make his own mark on the field of play. There you will find no cones or media. You will not be dressed in shorts with nobody coming at you. On the field of play is where you make your name. You may not have been invited to the combine or maybe you had a bad showing. When it is all said and done, just do your homework and master your trade. At the end of your career you will have made your mark and it won’t ever matter about no “stinkin” combine.
(Editor’s Note: While we agree with much of what “Don Rafael” says here, the system isn’t going to change unless those on the Inside-NFL coaches and Execs. change it. We’d love to see a few more drills that test “real world” football skills, besides the “w” and the receivers’ “Hands” drills…And the “40″ means nothing for Linemen….)