2013 NFL Combine

Why You Shouldn't Put Too Much Stock in the NFL Scouting Combine

SHREVEPORT, LA - DECEMBER 31:  Quarterback Matt Jones #9 of the Arkansas Razorbacks throws the football during the Independence Bowl game against the Missouri Tigers in Independence Stadium on December 31, 2003 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Arkansas defeated Missouri 27-14. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Chris TrapassoAnalyst IFebruary 13, 2013

I could list the names of NFL Combine studs who significantly flopped as professionals.

But it'd take too long. 

From Tony Mandarich to Mike Mamula to Matt Jones to Vernon Gholston, there have been a staggering amount of workout warriors whose performances at the Combine failed to correlate with NFL success. 

With the Under Armor Olympics set to take place later this month, it's time to, once again, hammer home the point that we all must not put too much stock into the NFL Combine, regardless of how much hype it receives. 

 

40-yard dash

 No event gets as much publicity as the 40-yard dash in Indy. 

It's a drill that determines the "fastest" player at each position and ultimately the "fastest" guy in the entire draft class. 

Technically, being fast is a valuable physical asset in a game like football, but 40 times in tight, aerodynamic shorts and T-shirts do not relate to achievement at the pro level. 

Player Year 40-yard dash time
Josh Robinson 2012 4.33
DeMarcus Van Dyke 2011 4.28
Jacoby Ford 2010 4.28
Darrius Heyward-Bey 2009 4.30
Chris Johnson 2008 4.24
Yamon Figurs 2007 4.30
Tye Hill 2006 4.30

 

Undeniably, the above players have elite speed. 

All clocked the fastest 40 times in their respective years at the combine.

But, of those seven, Johnson is the only player to have been named to a Pro Bowl. 

That's telling enough. 

Remember, Jerry Rice wasn't the fastest player in the 1984 draft (Google says he ran a 4.71), and Baltimore Ravens' playoff hero Anquan Boldin reportedly ran a 4.72 at the 2003 Combine.

At the same time, though, we must keep in mind that guys who do time exceptionally well can become fine NFL players. 

Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, Darrell Green, Randy Moss and Champ Bailey all ran blistering 40's, and all experienced illustrious NFL careers. 

With such drastically different career arcs for players who ran similarly fast 40-yard dashes, it proves there's no definitive relation between running fast in a straight line for 40 yards in a controlled environment and professional triumph with pads on. 

After all, how often to NFL players run 40 yards in a straight line?

 

Other events

While the vertical jump, broad jump, bench press and three-cone drill can give scouts, general managers and head coaches a live look at a player's explosiveness and inherent strength, none of those individual events or combination of events hold the secret to discovering future NFL accomplishment. 

In 2012, 6'4'', 346-pound Memphis defensive lineman Dontari Poe ran a 4.98 in the 40-yard dash, benched 225 pounds 44 times and had a vertical leap of nearly 30 inches.

Subsequently, his stock skyrocketed, and a guy with five sacks in three years in college went No. 11 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. 

When the 2012 regular season came to a close, ProFootballFocus (subscription required) rated Poe as the 72nd-best defensive tackle in football. 

This isn't meant to knock Poe—a countless number of prospects flourished at the Combine before flaming out in the NFL. 

Take two top performers from the 2008 draft class—Vernon Gholston and Jake Long—for example. 

The Ohio State pass-rusher had one of the fastest times in the three-cone drill at his position and tied Long for the most bench press reps with 37. 

Gholston, who has not played a snap since 2010, never recorded a sack as a professional. 

Long has made four Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Pro team in 2010 at his left tackle position. 

 

Conclusion

If a player looks good on tape, a solid performance at the combine can reassure positive thoughts about his chances to flourish in the NFL. 

But a slower, weaker or less explosive outing in Indy doesn't necessarily mean the guy who pops out on tape will be a flop.

The same goes for the raw player who appeared relatively lost on the field in college. If he blows up the combine in drills against air, it doesn't always mean he'll be an All-Pro staple in the NFL.

But it could mean that and has indeed proven to be the case in many instances.

Take Jason Pierre-Paul for example. 

We just know don't either way.

With truly no connection between Combine success and NFL success, we must not put too much stock into the athletic exhibition inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

I wish we had access to the team-by-team interviews.

Something tells me those are more important. 

 

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