by Matt Bowen
February 23, 02010
With the NFL Scouting Combine set to kick off this week in Indianapolis, we will all again start discussing whether this annual event is worth the weight that’s put into it by the league.
The issues is — and always has been — directed at judging players, football players, out of pads in stale, dry testing environments. Can we really judge an offensive tackle, a safety, a corner or even a quarterback by what he does standing in a controlled environment — an inside controlled environment — in front of scouts, coaches, GMs and owners, most of them equipped with stopwatches and notepads?
I still say yes, but not for the reasons that seem to drive these discussions. I’ll agree that the combine has too much fluff, and that too much stock is put into a 40 time or a short-shuttle result, but that isn’t going to change.
Yes, game tape will always win out, but fast times will add to that tape.
And we all know that there are certain players — guys who will be labeled “workout warriors” at week’s end — who will not only improve their draft stock but also guarantee themselves huge sums of cash by running fast.
Does Darrius Heyward-Bey sound familiar? A strong 40 time and he was in the top 10 last year. It can happen, and it’s crazy to think that the test results of these prospects don’t matter — because they most certainty do.
But beyond that, there’s a purpose and benefit to both the league and the players when it comes to Indianapolis.
For starters, the stress put on these prospects in key. The NFL’s elite personnel want to see quarterbacks throw in awkward environments. They want to see a DB put on the stage, turn his hips and go catch the football. And more important, they want to see how they respond with limited repetitions. These players will be tired by the time they do their on-field drills. Their minds will be exhausted and their bodies will hurt just from the stress of this environment. What better way to test someone? Get them when they’re down and see who shows up to work.
Think about. The drills are short, and a false step or a slip will cost a prospect in front of the scouts. Two 40-yard dash runs, one short shuttle and one 3-Cone drill.
That’s all you get, and the pressure is on to perform — in front of everyone.
The bench press? Sure, it’s overrated, but not when you’re in a small room with hundreds of scouts staring at you.
What about the written tests? A waste of time in my opinion, but again, another chance to impress the league in an awkward and open experience. In the past, the New York Giants had a written test that was over 300 words. Necessary? Of course not, but another test to see what a prospect does or doesn’t do when given an opportunity in this week’s long interview.
And let’s not forget the face-to-face interviews with the teams. This is a chance for these prospects to open up and let down their guards. They’ll be asked everything and anything from football to off-the-field lifestyles to whether they have a girlfriend — and how long they’ve been dating her.
The league wants to know.
Can we all agree that most of the testing is just crap? Of course, but the NFL wants to see who can run and who can perform under unusual circumstances. I’m totally against guys who bail out completely or bail out of certain aspects since it tells the league that they have something to hide — and that they can’t produce. If I’m a scout, I start asking myself what this guy will do on Sundays when it’s really intense. When the pressure on a rookie player takes over and he can’t perform.
But the combine goes much deeper than numbers posted on a stopwatch. The NFL is not only testing your body but your will to perform and succeed.
It’s the ultimate test for a rookie — and because of that, it serves a major purpose in the journey that ends when your name is called on draft day.
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Want more Draft coverage? Click HERE to check out the NFP's 2010 Draft Central.
For a breakdown of the Combine's main drills and components, check out this article from Bleacher Report.