Thoughts on the Combine

The NFL Scouting Combine starts in Indy tommorow, more specifically the on-field drills do, the players have been in town since yesterday doing measuring and testing, and I have to admit: I like the combine. Started in 1982 when the league combined the three prominent scouting and testing services into one event, adding another word to the NFL lexicon that we pronounce slightly differently than in non-football usage along with “defense.” Since then it’s exploded into a national TV event (about 6 million people will watch it this weekend) and a major evaluation tool for crappy wannabe draftniks to use to make fearlessly wrong predictions about players. Or Al Davis, but he’s dead now.

Serious draftniks and actual talent evaluators know that the Combine is just another tool in the toolbox of player evaluations. It’s nothing more than that, but in today’s 24 hour news world too many people want it to be extremely valuable. Tape is the #1 evaluating tool a team has, but it doesn’t tell you quite everything. The Combine offers some answers to questions a team has about a player’s physical abilities. The Combine puts all participants on an equal playing field where their raw physical abilities can be displayed and graded. That’s it. Questions about a corner’s ability to turn his hips, a linebacker’s ability to move laterally or a guard’s footwork can be and are answered. Everyone knows that it doesn’t tell you anything about a player’s actual ability to play football, but that won’t stop people at Bleacher Report from saying it will.

The biggest thing the Combine is used for is actually the medical evaluations. Every participant is given a barrage of tests that are then given to all the teams. True experts like Andrew Brant and Michael Lombardi will be the first to tell you that, guys like Todd McShay won’t because they can’t make opinions on medical tests, and they get paid to make opinions that stick out.

Teams that move a guy up on their draft board because of their Combine performance are only asking to be disappointed. If anything you use it to move a guy down. As Michael Lombardi said on NFL Network yesterday: “the Combine is about elimination not evaluation.” Which brings me to why I like the Combine: I really enjoy watching the pros talk shop. With Mike Mayock, Michael Lombardi, Charley Casserly and Brian Billick on hand, there’s a lot of shop to be talked. That’s my Combine mini-rant. Take the Combine with more than a grain of salt, but don’t make a meal out of it.

Lombardi also had another great quote yesterday: “Never begin with the end in mind.” That’s good advice for life.

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