Friday, February 22, 2013

NFL Combine Weekend: Must NOT see TV

Ahmad Carroll......Aaron Curry..........Darrius Heyward-Bey.........Matt Jones......Charles Rogers.........Mike Mamula........Chad Jackson

Do these names ring a bell? I thought not. But, in the past come February these names, and many more, have rang bells for the wrong reasons. The root of these reasons is THE NFL COMBINE. What is the NFL Combine? Basically, it is a hypecenter if used incorrectly, a place where NFL prospects can gain/lose draft status and money justifiably/unjustifiably. The names above fall under the unjustifiable category. Here is your backdrop on the NFL scouting combine:

The NFLSC started in 1985. There was once a time when NFL teams/scouts had to work all draft prospects out individually to test their TRUE height/weight/speed/injury status/health/athleticism/football IQ, inviting 1 prospect at a time; but in 1985 this all changed. The NFL Scouting Combine gave NFL teams a centralized location and event to assess all of the draft factors above. Since 1987, this meat market has been held in Indianapolis, and due the the recent popularity of offseason NFL activity, has become a televised event.

What are the events and tests at the combine?

The prospects are run through a gauntlet of tests and drills for a weekend. You have your physicals (tests health/injury status), private interviews (teams get 15 minutes to interview a select group of 60 draft prospects up close and personal), drug screening tests, Wonderlic tests (the most bullshit "intelligence" test known to man), the benchpress test, position specific drills, official weigh in, the 40 yard dash...etc. etc....... etc.....The Wonderlic isn't worth the paper its written upon, it is a basic IQ test for NFL athletes that has no carry over to football intelligence. I feel the interviews and physicals are justifiable tests, and the rest are a waste of time for all involved.
This sounds like it makes SOME sense, what is wrong with the scouting combine?

I have no problem with the NFL Scouting Combine being held, what I have a problem with are: the scouting "gurus"/clueless and lost NFL teams that put give ENTIRELY too much merit to this event. I have watched this event foolishly for the past 3 years on NFL Network, I have held on to every 10th of a second and measurement. However, I have come to realize the substance of this event lies clearly in the personal interviews and physicals, which by the way are not on TV.

The NCAA (and NFL) have mandated NCAA FB athletes attend school for a minimum of 3 years before entering the NFL draft; this tells us that the BARE MINIMUM years of film scouts have to watch on a prospect is 2 years (at minimum 24 games). Also take into account, NFL regional scouts visit almost every school 1-4 times throughout a season to get an up front and personal view of prospects during practice and/or at an actual game. The reality is the majority of NFL prospects play football for 4 years, that is a minimum 48 games; if you do the math a scout has seen that player in practice 4-16 times by that point. Why is speed important in football? NFL scouts want to see if you can play fast and run by the defense.....or cover, etc. Think if these prospects have given NFL scouts 48 chances to asses this, and the scouts want further proof?

We also must discuss with the increase in the importance of the combine, the increase in the demand for NFL combine training facilities. You are talking to someone who has trained at one: Velocity Performance in Denver Colorado. For 2 months I did nothing but train for drills that do not carry over to the game of football, I earned what I like to call "manufactured speed".  Manufactured speed is fake, it is learning the techniques and intricacies of a specific drill (40/cone drill) to perform well at it. I can tell you 1st hand that if Patrick Willis was chasing me the last thing I would think about would be "staying low and pumping your arms", football is a reactionary sport and trained drills with canned muscle response can only go so far IMO. Congratulations "combine stars", if Im shocked you ran well, you perfected sprint drills that have minimal carry over to what I will ask you to do when/if I sign you.

When is the combine right?

Depends on your interpretation of "right". Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers ran a 4.33 at the NFL scouting combine and is indeed one of the fastest players in the NFL. However, did his film not show that? I believe it did. The combine wasnt "right" in this instance, it re-affirmed what we already knew. If you watched a player who was the slowest player on the field every game of the 48 you saw, but ran a 4.4 at the combine, would you believe he could play fast? I didnt think so. The NFL combine drills are ran without pads or a defense. Mike Wallace/Chris Johnson play fast, so did 4.6 Jerry Rice. The combine should be right, it should affirm what you have seen on film, if not something is wrong (RED FLAG).

When is the combine wrong?

Entirely too many times to count if you put substance into the event. The combine being WRONG is hype central heaven. If the combine has earned you money, you are stealing it. It is the equivalent to reading a book on counting cards and being on fire for a weekend in Vegas on the Blackjack tables, it is short term and unsustainable success that truly holds no bearing. Physically, there is always an unmeasured element that can only be accounted for when watching film. None of the top 10 bench press reppers in combine history have been pro bowlers, weight room strength is overrated. Track speed is overrated. If a player who looked slow on film runs fast at the combine it should be discounted, but NOT vice versa. This is red flag alert central, if you have watched a prospect for 4 years and you finally discover that this prospect ran well for a day, there is no need to buy into it.

Lets look at the 1st round speed position players from 2012: WR - Justin Blackmon (didn't run at the combine), Michael Floyd (4.47), Kendall Wright (4.61), AJ Jenkins (4.39, DNP this season), DB: Morris Claiborne (4.50), Dre Kirkpatrick (4.51), Harrison Smith (4.57). Do any of these 40 times amaze you? No. Did NFL scouts care? No. Should you care? No.

Its nothing short of hilarious to see Mayock and the NFL Network crew praise a DL/QB/OL for running a great 40, in the world of real football these positions will never run 40 yards; let alone straight ahead out of a compact stance when you are looking straight at the ground. I want my DT/OL to be fat with natural strength, I dont need to see them with their shirts off or see them run 40 yards; I want them to look like an out of work coal miner I couldn't care less about their testing.  Do NFL scouts believe they can transform these manufactured track athletes into stars with coaching? Probably so, but thats wishful thinking at best and nothing you should logically invest in (see the Matt Jones bio).

The NFL combine is nothing more than a place for prospects who have shown what they can do for 4 years to re-affirm/disprove it for another 2 days. I personally will rely on a 4 year assessment much more than a 2 days. There is nothing to see here, all performances will be balanced out and justified by film. Either way, I know I won't be watching. The only substantial information received from NFL teams will be received off camera, regardless of what the NFL Network crew try and sell you.

TOM BRADY COMBINE RESULTS: 6'4, 211, 5.2 40 yard dash, 24 inch vert

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