The Annual Underwear Olympics Are Underway
Every year NFL GM's and scouts get together to watch a bunch of grown men run around in tights at the combine, and we love every minute of it.
Football fans all across the country tune into around-the-clock coverage from the NFL Combine, hoping they will find the next player to fuel their favorite franchise. Some fans watch it to follow their college teams. Who ran the fastest 40-yard dash? Was there a star player that shocked the world with an amazing vertical or beastly bench press? It's ridiculous, but we can't resist the tantalizing draw of anything remotely close to football.
In reality, the combine matters very little in terms of team's evaluations. The tape of their in-game performance, along with their interviews and medical evaluations, make up 99 percent of the grading process. Unfortunately for fans, they don't see any of that.
For fans, the combine is their chance to play general manager. It's actually pretty easy to play pretend with the annual Underwear Olympics.
Want to feel like a NFL Draft expert? All you have to do is go to their website, and you can sort all types of measurables like 40 times, bench reps, broad and vertical jumps, cone drills...you name it, you got it.
If you want to go with the Oakland Raiders' old draft strategy, just find the fastest 40-yard dash time and shoot that player all the way to the top of your board. Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey sure worked out just fine. If you want to go with the Cleveland Browns' technique, take extensive notes on all the players then set them on fire and ask a hobo who you should pick. Any way you look at it, there are plenty of ways to fall in or out of love with a certain player.
Wondering who will make the better NFL running back: Ezekiel Elliot, Derrick Henry or somebody else? Don't watch their tape (why would you do that?), just read the numbers and proceed to overreact.
Elliot's 40 time of 4.47 was slightly faster than Henry's (4.54), but how much of a difference does that really make? If you want to go by 40-yard dash times, technically Georgia RB Keith Marshall (4.31) is going to be the best back of the bunch. Shouldn't we make them both run with pads on anyway?
If you're not particularly looking for a speed back, maybe the bench reps matter more to you. If so, Andy Janovich from Nebraska is your guy. The beefy fullback ran for over 250 yards his senior season, so there's your workhorse right there. Sarcasm aside, a guy like Keith Marshall can shoot up draft boards with 25 bench reps to go along with his speedy 40 time.
These numbers are used to answer question marks, but they shouldn't be the determining factor in a player's selection. That being said, players take the combine way more seriously than they should be forced to. For guys on the edge, this seemingly absurd event can make or break them.
Let's start with a good example of how the combine works out for border players. Terron Armstead ran the fasted 40 time ever recorded by a lineman, and it got him some attention from the Saints. New Orleans probably would have drafted him anyway, but his solid performance at the combine surely helped solidify their decision. It was a decision that worked out for them, but we could easily go the other way with this. Stanley Jean-Baptiste fooled the entire Saints' staff into selecting him with a second round pick, but he never measured up to his numbers.
In the end, the NFL Combine is just another way for Roger Goodell to keep his brand in the public eye. It might be a massive waste of time for the players and teams in the grand picture, but it's never going anywhere.
Players train for months at specialized facilities for their pro days and combines. The NFL Network televises these workouts now, so you can feed into your football addiction in the middle of the offseason. Unless you're a player like the Ragin' Cajuns Jamal Robinson, pro days and combine workouts only matter so much. Diamonds in the rough typically emerge through other avenues, not through a bunch of men running around in tights.
Enjoy the combine, but keep this in mind: how many Hall of Famers had 40-yard dash times under 4.50? In a game played with helmets and pads, try not to put too much worth in the biggest ballet in sports.