The NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up with the defensive backs a day ago and the NFL masses left Indianapolis with more data, medical reports and personal takes than you can usually get in one place. The biggest job fair in sports came to a close and now we've got about two months of rumors, posturing and guessing games.
For draftniks the combine is great. NFL fans look at their possible targets and get giddy during the event. Fans of individual college teams all root for their guys.
Now, for a guy like me, who has been watching all of these kids work for their collegiate teams on Saturdays; the combine is a real treat because it means watching them go out and try to ball hard on the biggest individual stage they're going to get.
Whether you're a first-round-caliber guy, or a mid- to late-round pick, the combine is a chance to help increase the likelihood of an NFL GM, coach, scout and the like, falling in love with what you bring to the table. It's a chance to confirm what they have seen on film, prove that you belong on their board and, hopefully, make a couple extra bucks by showing what you can do.
The combine is not, by any means, the end all be all when it comes to draft stock. Granted, "draft stock" is not a thing that I truly deal in because the NFL is 32 individual teams with a myriad of opinions within their own draft rooms. But, that doesn't mean the combine is, as so many under-educated fans try to tell us, meaningless.
Hard numbers on drills are great to have. They give you a baseline. But what is more important, at least to a guy like myself, is actually watching the drills themselves. It's a chance to see how these kids move. Are they smooth, fluid athletes that get into and out of breaks with no wasted motion and relative ease? Or, are they straining in the face, off-balance and flailing arms, instead?
It's about watching guys play on the balls of their feet and maintaining a good body lean. Sinking their hips and not bending at the waist. Yes, in the 40 and jumps you're looking for explosive power. However, once the position groups hit the field, you want to see those raw numbers translated to movement.
If you're a college guy, like myself, you've been watching these kids play ball every week. You've seen them over the last few years and you have a good idea of what they are. Seeing them tested is merely an opportunity to watch how the film matches up with their numbers.
When you invest as much time and gain as much enjoyment out of football at the collegiate level as I do, it's hard not to root for the kids. And I don't just mean a specific team. Rather, I'm talking about all the players. They get after it and bust their behinds on a daily basis to make college football work. This combine is sort of a coming-out party, a chance for them to build on their college performances and earn a solid payday.
Some guys will get drafted high, others will be selected in the back half of the draft. Still, other players will not be drafted at all. Some guys will flourish, others will take time to succeed. Some will, for lack of a better term, fail at the NFL level. It's a hard business and while player performance matters tremendously, so too does getting selected by a team that fits what you do best.
Regardless of it all, as a college football guy, I love the combine because I'm rooting for these guys too succeed. Getting to watch them succeed makes it that much better.