Is the NFL Combine Overrated?

Workout Warrior Tony Mandarich was one of the biggest busts of all-time

Lucas Oil Stadium — The Mecca for NFL prospects. The NFL Combine takes place each year in Indianapolis and has become one of the biggest NFL events of the year for football fans. In 2010, the Combine garnered 5.2 million viewers and as Fox Sports writer John Czarnecki points out, that number is more than double the amount of viewer’s to ESPN’s baseball telecasts on an ordinary week. Oh yeah, the NFL Network is shown in 43 million fewer homes than ESPN.

With all the hype that the Combine gets and the amount of value that is placed on 40 yard dashes, verticals and bench pressing, you have to wonder why.

Everyone, from your average fan to top scouts seem to place so much value on these tangible aspects of the game of football. The Combine displays physical skills that are obviously translatable to the NFL game, but the fact of the matter is that everything that is accomplished at the Combine is accomplished in non-game situations.

The Combine is kind of like that old golf adage, “drive for show, putt for dough.”

It looks really nice when you drive a ball 350 yards right down the middle of the fairway, but when you get up and down in 4 shots that 350 yard drive is forgotten.

It is no different in football. You are very impressive when you do 40 reps on the bench press or run a sub 4.4 in the 40. Good on you.

At least at the combine you can also drive for dough, if you know what I mean. Darrius Heyward-Bey knows all about that.

The draft stock of players is too dependent on their performance at the Combine, despite the NFL front offices and scouts knowing all about the folly this event. To this day, the tendency is still there to shy away from Combine failures and be drawn to the workout warriors.

It’s silly.

The intangible elements that are only seen during game play are not on display at the NFL combine (obviously). You aren’t going to be able to find out if a receiver can find the soft spot of a zone defence or if a linebacker can read the quarterbacks eyes. Some guys can flat out play the game and are denied an opportunity to show what they can do because they don’t possess those god given physical gifts that scouts drool over.

You’re probably thinking it, but I still have to say it. Jerry Rice ran a 4.6 in his 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine in 1985. Jerry Rice was the 3rd receiver taken in the draft at 16th overall. Best receiver in NFL history isn’t too bad now is it?

Vince Young might have scored a 6 on his first attempt at the dreaded Wonderlic exam, otherwise known as the IQ test for dummies, but no matter what that test says the dude can play ball. He might have had some trouble throughout his NFL but you don’t win an offensive rookie of the year award for doing nothing. Young may not have the best throwing style or put in the effort to make himself the best player he possibly could be, but he makes things happen on the football field.

The intangibles of players that you don’t see at the NFL Combine need to be taking into account more. College success may not always translate to success at the NFL level, but if you have a player who has proven he can make things happen it might be best to overlook some of those supposed physical “deficiencies.” Not to say that a guy’s draft stock should improve simply because he was a good college player, rather I mean that, for example, a player projected as a first round talent prior to the combine should not necessarily lose that status because of a weaker than anticipated performance.

This isn’t to say that the combine means absolutely nothing either. Chris Johnson was projected as a mid-round pick until his ridiculous 4.24 time that launched him to 24th overall in the 2008 draft. Take your Combine with a grain of salt.

So watch the Combine, have a ball, but beware of the foolishness.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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