Reviewing the Detroit Lions' 7 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways

Dean Holden@@Dean_HoldenAnalyst IFebruary 28, 2012

Reviewing the Detroit Lions' 7 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways

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    So that's it. No more NFL combine for another year.

    That's disappointing, right? We're going to miss it, right?

    Maybe not, but it's at least a little better than no football at all. This is just one step in an NFL offseason that never truly comes to a stop, with the next to-do being the advent of free agency.

    But let's be fair here, the combine is a useful event. It doesn't take the place of looking at guys on game film, but it's the only place for every team to get a standardized look at all the top draft prospects, at the same time, in the same place.

    The combine gets a bad rap because it's boring to watch for the layman, and some teams end up with draft busts because they give too much weight to combine performances. But ultimately, the majority of teams use the combine as it's intended to be: as a complement to the film study they're already doing, and an opportunity to find some talented raw athletes (or spot some bad ones).

    So what will the Lions have learned from this year's combine? Many things, no doubt. Most of them likely happened in interviews we'll never know about. But given the parts of the combine that are visible to us, these seven things should stick.

Cordy Glenn Might Be the Guy

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    Well, so much for concerns that Cordy Glenn doesn't carry his 6'5", 346-pound frame well enough to be an effective guard. Now it looks like he could actually be an effective tackle, as well.

    Glenn exploded the combine with a stunning display of both speed and power. Not only did the monstrous guard put up 31 bench press reps, just one rep away from third among all offensive linemen, he ran a shocking 5.15 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the fourth-fastest time among all offensive linemen. Put differently, a 346-pound man ran a faster time in the 40 than all but three other linemen, some of them 50 pounds lighter than him.

    Say what you want about the combine and its legitimacy as a player evaluation tool, and I'll admit that it's more than a bit silly too, but this is the type of performance that makes it valuable.

    Glenn looks like a really good player on film, but there are concerns about his weight and athleticism. So what does he do? He goes to the combine and shows off his athleticism. He shows good feet in the shuffle drills, too.

    This means two big things to the Lions. One is that they could draft him and reasonably have him play any of three positions (both guards and right tackle) effectively.

    The other is that there's no way they get him in the second round.

Doug Martin Is Average, but Without Weakness

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    There has been a decent amount of talk linking the Detroit Lions and Boise State running back Doug Martin.

    For starters, the Lions talked to Martin at the Senior Bowl, and concerns about both the running game and their health of their existing backs would seem to indicate that the Lions will be looking for yet another running back this offseason.

    But Martin ran a middle-of-the-road 4.55 40, and though he impressed with his upper-body strength (28 bench press reps), he doesn't appear to be particularly explosive in any one way. 

    More to the point, he seems like a solid rusher but he seems like a grinding every-down back, not particularly different from Mikel Leshoure or Kevin Smith. So if the Lions do end up drafting Martin, that probably means implicit bad news for one of those guys.

    Considering that the price tag on Martin seems like it will fall around the second round, I don't know if Martin has shown enough to warrant the Lions spending yet another early-round pick on a running back, especially when the trend in the NFL is to do the opposite.

Luke Kuechly Won't Last to 23

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    Well, so much for that.

    Luke Kuechly is undeniably this year's best pure middle linebacker prospect. He's not much of a pass-rusher, but his instincts, his ability to shed blocks, his solid coverage ability and solid tackling technique make him one of those "plug in and forget" prospects.

    One of his only knocks coming in to the combine was a lack of elite athleticism. Kuechly was incredibly productive at Boston College, but there was a perception that his polished instincts and technique covered up for the fact that Kuechly is an average athlete.

    Clearly, Kuechly heard the call and answered appropriately. All he did is come to the combine and place in the top five in every measurable drill except one (tied for sixth in the bench press).

    And I'm sure I don't need to a point out that football instincts don't have anything to do with a 4.58 40 time, lateral quickness or leaping ability.

    Now, this is a guy who was considered a consensus top-15 pick with athleticism concerns. But for a guy with Kuechly's polish and game understanding, sprinkled with better-than-expected athleticism? Don't count on the guy sliding to the Lions at No. 23.

    And if he does, don't count on the Lions taking anyone else.

There Is an Embarrassment of Riches at Offensive Line

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    The Detroit Lions may never have a better opportunity to rebuild their embattled offensive line.

    With the 23rd pick in this year's draft, the Lions could theoretically obtain a star player at any line position.

    Will they take Mike Adams to shore up the left tackle position for several more years? Peter Konz to replace Dominic Raiola at center for the long term? Or perhaps massive Cordy Glenn to give the Lions a road-grading guard to improve the run game?

    The only thing the Lions won't be able to get with their current draft position is an elite left tackle. But Adams is very good, and the falloff to his level from the top tier where Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff reside isn't that steep.

    After the Senior Bowl, there was talk that Adams could have been cracking that elite tier. Putting up only 19 reps at the bench press might quell that talk, but all that means is the Lions have a better shot at him at No. 23.

    And because the talent drop from the top tier to the second tier isn't that steep at any line position, the Lions could likely wait until the second or even third round and still get a very strong fixture at a line position of their choosing.

    If the Lions make out like bandits at offensive line this year, it will make them look like geniuses for all but ignoring the position in the last three drafts.

Janoris Jenkins Isn't Worth It in Round 1...

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    Janoris Jenkins is a good football player. Of that, there's no doubt.

    But the man is 23 years old and already has three arrests and four children. Sure, he seems like he has been humbled since being kicked off the Florida football team, but what do you expect the man to say while he's on the doorstep of a multimillion dollar contract?

    And does anyone expect him to maintain that humility when he becomes a millionaire?

    I'm not buying it, and the Lions shouldn't either.

    Besides, Jenkins has done relatively little to distance himself from his peers at the combine. His performance in drills has been good, not great, and his measurables fall roughly in the middle of the pack.

    Now, I'm not one to knock a guy for a 4.44 time in the 40, because that's right about how fast a cornerback should run the 40, and Jenkins has already done plenty to prove his ability on the football field.

    But everybody knows Jenkins is a high-risk prospect. Jenkins could have given a strong counterpoint to concerns about his character by running and jumping out of the building, and he didn't do that. By his combine performance, he's just good, not once-in-a-lifetime good.

    Considering that, in addition to everything else we know about him, it's hard to justify spending a first-round pick on a guy whose attitude might be a better fit with the Bengals or Cowboys, especially considering his reward may not be as high as his risk factor.

...but That's OK, There Are Plenty of Replacements

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    There was a time that the 4.4 40 was the gold standard for speed position players.

    Once, if anybody even approached 4.4 in the 40, they were among the fastest players at the combine.

    Now, Janoris Jenkins and Stephon Gilmore, a couple of cornerbacks who should be off the board by the end of the second day of the draft, run a 4.44 and barely crack the top 10 at their own position.

    Now, let's get one thing out of the way. Judging a cornerback based on his 40 time is like judging a boxer based on his ability to hit a heavy bag. It's a good skill to have, but if that's all they can do, they're not even worth talking about.

    Regardless, the point is that athleticism is spend far and wide in this year's combine, and there is a logjam of cornerbacks who fall in the second- to third-round area. Unless there is a major run on corners in that time frame (which is possible), the Lions should have a good shot at a solid corner prospect in the second or third round.

    Will the Lions get an "all-time" prospect drafting corners in the third round? Probably not. But with this year's crop of DBs, they could wait until the third round and still get a player of starting quality. Even if nobody at this year's combine seemed to be able to catch a football.

Pay Attention to the Combine, Except When You Should Ignore It

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    The NFL Scouting Combine is the biggest hype machine the NFL produces all year. It's like the Pro Bowl, except that it is occasionally meaningful.

    But ultimately, the combine is about gauging football players who have already proven themselves effective on the field for several years based on a series of drills, most of which they will never actually have to do in any context ever again.

    Seriously, how much sense does it make for draft prospects to take a month out of their football work so that they can perform effectively as a track star or weightlifter?

    Still, as crazy as it is, the combine is a valuable tool to quell some concerns. I've already talked about Cordy Glenn in this regard, but the same is true of any player whose athleticism or character comes into question.

    The combine is their stage to quell (or not) any concerns about the things that don't show up on the game tape. We typically pay attention to the numbers, and those are important. Straight-line sprinting speed may not be the most useful ability for a football player, but running the 40-yard dash still tells scouts something useful about athletic conditioning.

    Still, the most important aspect of the combine is the part we don't see. Teams get to call these players into private rooms and talk with them about everything from football knowledge to family to injuries to disciplinary or drug-related issues.

    We will never know the kinds of decisions that get made as a result of this process, but it's a fair assumption to assume that it's a good place for some players to lower some of their red flags and others to get dropped off of draft boards completely.

    So pay some attention to the combine. Athleticism is important, and these drills are put in place for a reason. But if your draft big board looks eerily similar to the results of the 40-yard dash, you might be putting a little too much faith in it.

    Or you're the Oakland Raiders.