The Combine: How I started to hate it, and began to enjoy it for what it was
By: Justin Partlow
Growing up and the throughout the years of watching the scouting combine, the main line always used was “The combine is overrated and shouldn’t be used.” The reality is that the scouting combine is a tool that should be used as a factor in evaluations. Below I’ll discuss the different factors of the combine and how they should actually be used in the evaluation of prospects moving into the NFL Draft.
Of all of the parts of the combine, in my opinion this is the most critical and most important when factoring in the rankings of players. The combine allows for teams to get the medical reports of players and learn about how their genetic makeup is. The combine has led to some alarming reports already this year as we’ve seen teams have rumored concerns about some prospects and their medical evaluation results. Just the other day Dee Ford had to not participate in the combine with a back issue that came up in his medicals. A lot of the times this does lead to teams sitting down and digesting the medical reports and be able to see the risks that could be associated with the player moving forward. A famous example that is directly related to the Redskins was Malcolm Kelly, the WR out of Oklahoma. Kelly had a medical evaluation that brought up major concerns, and ended up scaring off many teams. The Washington Redskins though took the chance on Kelly in round 2, and felt that they could get the best out of him, even though the concerns were legitimate. After a career to forget, Kelly was cut by the Redskins and then ended up not playing another down in the NFL.
The key to see with medical evaluations is that they turn up the faults with players, but also can be critical in helping to determine if the risk with the player is worth the investment that will be made.
While the medical reports are important, the 40-yard dash could be seen as the least important part of the combine. The critical thing though is that the 40-yard dash has a purpose, even if some don’t see it in the correct way. When watching the combine, and specifically the 40-yard dash, I look to see what the player does, and if it matches up to the game film that I’ve watched of him. The 40 times are helpful because it helps me evaluate with the game film if that player is showing up with the same speed. Sometimes we see guys who run 40 times that aren’t that good, but end up being very good NFL players because they play faster when the games start. A great example was Anquan Boldin who ran a poor 40 time, but has now become one of the most consistent players in the NFL for a long time, and was a key cog in the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl. While not the best tool, and one that is very overrated in respects, the 40 times does help confirm or deny the feelings of how that player is on the actual grid iron.
Another important part in some respects is the position drills. When watching all the players, the most important to me is when you see the possible DE to OLB converts in the 3-4 scheme. Position drills as well are important because they can help confirm, or even reconsider the possible flaws you notice on film. For example, if I were to note that a player had stiff hips, then if were to display more fluidity during drills, then I would want to go back to film and see if I was missing anything in regards to that. The position drills allow for scouts, and draftniks like myself to get a more up close view of a player in a capsule. They are helpful, but also shouldn’t be used as a final answer. They do have a big impact on if players can make that transition from the DE position to the 3-4 OLB position and we’ve seen if here in Washington with Ryan Kerrigan who in LB drills looked like someone who could make the transition.