There is something about the NFL combine that captivates football fans. From the outside, people may see it as a little homoerotic. We just love watching big, strong dudes in athletic attire lifting weights, running track and performing various football drills. I think it is bigger than that. If you love football, you just love seeing young players performing at a big stage that may determine where they get drafted. You want to see that offensive or defensive lineman score 35 or 40 repetitions on the bench while his peers are cheering him on to get that last rep and improve his grade. Do you know his name? Heck no. Nor do you care that he went to Savannah State or Florida Internation University, but it brings us in awe that guys who are younger than us, are such athletic marvels.
If you look at the 40 yard dash, the crown jewel of the combine, fans know this can have such little merit on a player being good or not. But we still love it, like we love the 100-meter run at the Olympics because it is short and demonstrates great athleticism in a very short time. It is your classic case where we see guys who are extremely athletic doing feats that we could never dream of doing. Even worse is seeing that 350 pound 3-technique run a sub 5 second 40 time (Dontarie Poe at last years combine ran a 4.98) and realize that a lot of us common folk, could not even get under 5.5 (although I did get under 4.8 in my hay-day). What makes the combine so captivating and why no one cares about the other major sports’ versions of it is that these drills can propel guys into 1st round grades. Remember Darrius Heyward-Bey? He ran a sub 4.40 40-yard dash and it turned him into a 1st rounder. Same with Vernon Gholston who had staller bench press numbers, ran the 40 like a wide receiver but he has never hit stride in his NFL career. The combine allows you in some ways, to forget about following the College Football season with regards to following players and their draft potential. You get all of that spice and substance watching the combine. You can key in on certain players and follow their path towards the draft and witness if that 40 time or that off tackle reaction drill propelled them into a high pick.
If you every played football, you may have performed a few of these drills. As basic as they may seem, sometimes it is just great to see superior athletes performing them. The combine gives us a tastes of what NFL training camps are like (Without the pads and 40 degree weather); what does a two-a-day in the summer consists of with regards to drills and workouts which the general public is not always privy to. If you are a football but like I am, it gives a great introduction of the game being broken down from a raw skills and fundamentals standpoint.
Finally, there are always great storylines during the combine. The interview session and wonderlic test are great measures that quantify the mental aspect. Are Darren McFadden or Janoris Jenkins bad character guys if, prior to the draft, they fathered multiple children with many women? Do their draft grades get lowered or should their athletic prowess be the only measure of where they go? There have been correlations to a bad wonderlic test resulting in a player being a bust, such as Vince Young. Conversely Frank Gore and Hakeem Nicks both scored 6 and 10 respectively and have had very solid careers to date. This year the big interview will be Manti Te’o and how he addresses the hoax regarding his fake dead girlfriend. In addition, the quarterbacks are always getting the spotlight at the combine. Many of the higher round picks will opt to not throw at the combine in fear of being thoroughly outshined. Andrew Luck and RGIII did not throw last year, nor will Matt Barkley and Geno Smith, who are considered the two best pivots in the draft. The belief is that throwing to players who are not used to catching your passes and not having a gameplan would be detrimental to you as a QB. They are now throwing at their respective university pro-days in which their alma-maters host a beavy of scouts and media people and have a mini combine featuring players from various positions.
Regardless of what aspects of the combine you prefer, it is always one of the best bridges between the offseason and the draft. If you do not have NFL Network and want to take a peak at the combine, shoot me a line to get some streaming feeds.