Tues. Question - The Combines Are Missing ...
Maryland LB Erin Henderson
Maryland LB Erin Henderson
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 27, 2008


What tests and drills are missing from the NFL Scouting Combines?

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Pete Fiutak     

Q:
From the college analyst side of things, what are the pros not paying enough attention to when analyzing prospects? In other words, what are the Combines missing, and what would you change about the process?

A: 1) Hold an NFL-sanctioned Combine for returning college players in July. Run them through the drills, measure them, and allow the NFL types to interview a few players to get an overall starting point and a database to build on. Then the players would know what they have to work on, and it would give some a realistic wake-up call about their talent. Now, the NFL underclassmen evaluation process is a joke. Basically, a kid is basing his entire life on a few guesses. If a player, say a receiver, goes to a Combine as a sophomore thinking he's an elite prospect and then runs a 4.79, he'll know he needs to plan his future around staying in school for all four years. If he tears off a 4.29, then he knows he probably has a legitimate shot.

2) Reading comprehension. A player can have all the talent in the world, but if he can't handle a phonebook sized playbook, he's not going to be nearly as productive. Along with the Wonderlic, I'd have the prospects take a standardized SAT/ACT like test, only relate it all to a football playbook, and see how they do.

3) I'd also add more prospects to the overall mix. A lot more. With well over 200 draft picks and the free agent market to deal with for those not selected, it would make the entire process easier if it was a week-long event with more players getting a chance to show off their raw athletic skills. While the Combine might not be indicative of a player's talent, and it might ignore what the prospect did during his college career, it's important to separate the B.S. from the real numbers the colleges like to provide. It also shows who wants to compete. Yes, it does matter when a Chris Long comes out when he doesn't have to and proves he's a super-stud.

Richard Cirminiello      

Q: From the college analyst side of things, what are the pros not paying enough attention to when analyzing prospects? In other words, what are the Combines missing, and what would you change about the process?

A
:
Are you serious?  There’s absolutely nothing that NFL scouts don’t pay attention to these days.  Nothing.  They evaluate every imaginable aspect of a prospect, from the physical to the intellectual and emotional.  They poke, prod and psychoanalyze from the moment a kid becomes eligible for the draft in an effort to mine hidden gems and reduce the likelihood of selecting busts.  If anything, you can argue that the process has become too complicated, a lesson in paralysis through analysis.  Yes, 40 times matter in a profound way, as does a kid’s medical history and character make-up.  However, too many NFL GMs and coaches get infatuated with a player’s straight-line speed, believing they can mold him into a complete football player.  See former South Carolina and current Minnesota Viking WR Troy Williamson.  And too many NFL GMs and coaches get cold feet on productive college players that don’t tear it up in Indianapolis.  See former South Carolina and current Minnesota Viking WR Sidney Rice.

The Combine is an irreplaceable tool for NFL teams and the prospects they’re evaluating, but it’s only one part of a process that includes a heavy amount of film work and four or five years of NCAA experience.  What often separates the great pro player from the washout is work-ethic, a passion to succeed, and perseverance.  And there isn’t a Combine in existence that’s been able to accurately measure any of those intangibles.
     

John Harris

Q: From the college analyst side of things, what are the pros not paying enough attention to when analyzing prospects? In other words, what are the Combines missing, and what would you change about the process?


A
:
Here’s the thing to me, I think that the Pro scouts pay attention to way too much.  Paralysis by analysis for scouts – does he flip his hips, what’s his 20 yard shuttle, what’s his 10 yard sprint, how long are his arms?  From a college analyst side of things, it’s simple, yet the most complex thing imaginable – can he play?

When you watch a linebacker, is he always around the ball?  Do receivers run away from DBs on deep routes?  Do running backs make defenders miss?  Quite honestly, can a guy play, yes or no?  One time after the draft, I’d like to see a general manager go up to the podium and defend his pick by saying “you know what, the kid can play, end of story”.

In a perfect world, the Combine would take place at the Senior Bowl – send them there for two weeks.  Do all of the testing on the spot then head out to the field for practice.  It’ll be that much obvious that a 4.5 forty for linebacker Joe Smith means squat when he can’t read a zone play and his speed is all for naught.  You wouldn’t even need a game at the end of the week (most scouts don’t even stay for the game) – just bring these guys there, have four separate practice sessions after going through all of the testing – putting more of a focus on the football aspects of things as opposed to the shorts and T-Shirt dog and pony show that’s there now.

Matthew Zemek  

Q: From the college analyst side of things, what are the pros not paying enough attention to when analyzing prospects? In other words, what are the Combines missing, and what would you change about the process?

A: A Combine can simply never gauge a player's dependability or reliability. Players like Wes Welker or Kevin Faulk make the New England Patriots succeed; ditto for Dallas Clark of the Indianapolis Colts, Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys, and Lofa Tatupu of the Seattle Seahawks, among others. These were not the kinds of players the Combine elevated to the highest plateau, the men who elicited the most fawning forms of praise. Yet, they're the ones who, in many ways, form the backbone of their teams. The Combines will rarely if ever zero in on these difference makers as the biggest studs in the stable. That is the eternal limitation of the Combine process.