The annual NFL scouting combine may be the most over-hyped event in professional football’s exciting off-season. Beginning tomorrow, over three-hundred NFL hopefuls will crowd into Lucas Oil Stadium and display their freakish athletic skills in front of representatives from all 32 teams.
Clothed in Under Armour from head to toe, these physical juggernauts will attempt to snag the attention of professional squads by participating in events such as the 40-yard-dash and bench press.
But do NFL general managers place too much emphasis on the combine? Is this glorified workout really a good indication of how a player will contribute to their franchise, on the field, in front of roaring fans on Sundays?
To me, the answer is yes. NFL front office executives put too much stock in how good or bad a guy performs at the combine. I believe it is a great outlet for late-round, under-the-radar kind of players to emerge on a team’s wish list, but an outstanding or dismal performance shouldn’t sway an organization from going with their gut feeling on a particular athlete.
The film doesn’t lie. There is no better tool to evaluate a future NFL player than by watching him live, in action, doing exactly what you will be paying him millions of dollars to do. That should be the ultimate evaluation tool, not a day or two of outstanding combine numbers.
Former Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Vernon Gholston tied the bench press reps all-time record at the 2008 combine and he was then selected 6th overall by the New York Jets. Gholston has a whopping 16 total tackles and zero sacks in his four year career.
The Oakland Raiders snagged Darius Heyward-Bey with their first round pick in the 2009 draft, leaving Michael Crabtree on the board. The former Maryland Terrapin had a dazzling 40 time, that’s an obvious choice right? Heyward-Bey has yet to emerge as a quality receiver, while Crabtree just finished playing in the Super Bowl.
I could go on and on about these combine busts. Sure, there are guys that go on to have great careers after performing well in Indianapolis, but the stories of underachievement are far more common.
A few drills and workouts cannot determine the long term success of a future NFL player.
Drew Brees didn’t throw well at his debut in Indianapolis, while Tom Brady was pegged as being the worst quarterback in combine history.
These two have four Super Bowl rings and 15 Pro Bowl appearances between them. Clearly everyone has their bad days.
The NFL combine can help a team analyze certain characteristics of a player, but it should never be the deciding factor on picking one guy over another.
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