Game Film is More Important Than the Combine

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Game Film is More Important Than the Combine

"With the 26th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select Ray Lewis, Linebacker, Miami University"

Some people may think back to that draft class, and wonder why Ray Lewis was the fourth linebacker in that class selected in the first round. Here are some names—John Mobley, Reggie Brown, Duane Clemons...any one of those ring a bell? 

NFL.com stats reports Brown has exactly 0 career tackles and 2.5 sacks in two seasons. Clemons has 186 tackles and 49.5 sacks.  Mobley has 213 and 10.5 respectively. Ray Lewis has 794 tackles and 30 sacks in what is sure to be a Hall of Fame career when it is over. Why was Ray Lewis selected behind the three linebackers mentioned above?

Because he was an inch or two and a few pounds below the linebacker prototype.  Apparently scouts did not watch enough game tape. Not enough game tape to realize that Lewis dominated almost every college game in which he played. 

This brings us to this years draft. Looking at the positions that are most dictated by numbers—wide receiver and running back.

Malcolm Kelly has the ideal body type for an NFL receiver. He's 6'4'', 219lbs, and plays a very physical style at receiver. However, that probably will not stop him from being selected after Cal's DeSean Jackson, who is 6'0'' and 178lbs. What Jackson has that Kelly does not is a 4.35 40-time. Kelly has run between 4.6 and 4.8.

What scouts should note is Jackson's one-dimensional receiving style.  He is a receiver who will strictly stretch the field. However, Kelly is more of the possesion receiver, one who will go across the middle for tough yards and third-down pickups.

Who will be the better pro? It depends on what a team is looking for. Look at the difference between Joey Galloway and Plaxico Burress, for example. In retrospect, which one should have gone higher than the other if they were drafted in the same year? Which one has a recent Super Bowl ring?

In this year's running-back class, I'll compare Felix Jones from Arkansas and Ray Rice from Rutgers. Felix Jones was obviously in the shadow of superstar Darren McFadden, but still runs a respectable 4.47 40, whereas Ray Rice, a standout at Rutgers, runs a time in the 4.5s. However, for that less than .5 seconds, Rice will probably be an early-to-mid second-round pick, and Jones will be a mid-to-late first-round pick.

Rice reminds some of a poor-man's Adrian Peterson (this year's NFL Rookie of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, and NFL record holder for most rushing yards in a single game with 296). He runs with a ferocity and passion that was found in Peterson when he came out of school. He will grind out those three to four tough yards up the middle of the field, as opposed to bouncing the run to the outside.  

Conversely, Jones is known for his big-play ability that he showed scouts this past year at college. However, many defenses may have been taking a break knowing that Darren McFadden was off the field. Rice single-handedly carried Rutgers to national prominence two years ago, while Felix Jones has always been a backup in McFadden's shadow. 

The lesson to be learned by the example of Ray Lewis is that numbers at the scouting combine cannot replace passion and intangibles. Ray Lewis dominated in college, and that translated more than the two inches and 20 pounds that he didn't have coming into the league.

 

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