Having prospects flash blazing speed in track gear defeats the purpose of the NFL Scouting Combine.
The whole idea of the event is to give franchises the best platform to gauge the athletic merits of a prospect on the NFL field. Now, while the NFL has made great strides to increase the safety of their violent game, I think it would still be a good idea for players to wear pads.
So why would you ever measure a player's speed, quickness or jumping ability when they are sans pads?
While the usefulness of the combine is up for debate, that doesn't change the fact that the NFL should strive to give scouts the best platform to gather information, and that won't be achieved until these guys are in pads.
Let's focus on the 40. This is the marquee event at the combine, and a great example for the need of adding gear to the prospects.
This year, Marquise Goodwin, the 2012 Olympian and wide receiver out of Texas, stole the show by posting the fastest 40 time with an official time of 4.27.
This kind of speed is definitely going to help the youngster's draft stock. This is despite the fact that he only had 26 catches for 340 yards last season.
Speed is just that valuable of an asset in the NFL. It creates the threat of a big play and alters the way a defense can attack an offense, or vice versa if the speed lands on the defensive side of the ball.
Speed and range on defense change the coverages teams can run, and ultimately allow them to be more aggressive.
These factors no doubt were running through John Harbaugh's mind when he watched Manti Te'o lumber out of the gate for this 40:
Ultimately, it is that lack of speed and explosion that will hold Te'o's draft stock back more than any Catfishing saga.
While these 40 times are a great indication of pure quickness and speed, that doesn't mean it is going to be a true indication of football speed.
Everyone's body is going to act differently when loaded down. Some guys will lose a step, while it will be nearly unnoticeable on others.
The most classic example of this is Jerry Rice. The greatest receiver the game has ever seen turned in a 40 in the mid-4.6 range at the combine.
Granted, there are many other factors that go into football speed—reaction, instincts and football intelligence all go into play in determining how much ground a player can cover in a game. Jerry Rice obviously excelled in all of these areas.
However, at points on the football field, it is just one player trying to outrun another, and Rice undoubtedly ran past plenty a defender who posted a faster time at the combine.
So while the 40-yard dash, cone and leaping drills still will have their deficiencies, wearing pads creates an environment that is closer to the football field.
This is an easy and obvious fix.
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