The NFL Scouting Combine: All Hype and Zero Substance

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The NFL Scouting Combine: All Hype and Zero Substance
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

The human meat market known as the NFL Scouting Combine will kick off its 28th year Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Over 300 players will be poked, prodded, interviewed, and tested as NFL coaches and general managers start to solidify their draft boards for April.

Wonderlic tests will be given, forty times established, and bench press reps totaled.

This will go on for six days.

Six days of meaningless information spewed out to the masses by so-called draft experts and football gurus.

Why meaningless?

Because the NFL Scouting Combine is all hype and zero substance.

It was the mass media that created this frenzy and made the Combine more important than it actually is.

The NFL Combine started back in 1982 for one purpose only—to check out medical information of the draft-eligible players. A secondary element was to ascertain any character issues a player might have.

For those two reasons, the Combine is a good thing.

But when the NFL deviated from its original goals to placate the rise of cable TV, the minutiae of meaninglessness began.

Seriously, does anybody really believe a player who gets high reps on the bench press is a better football player than someone who doesn't?

Let's look at the top three players for most 225-pound reps since 1999:

1. Justin Earnest, Eastern Kentucky, 51
2. Mike Kudla, Ohio State, 45
3. Leif Larsen, UTEP, 45

Anybody hear of these guys lately?

How about the good old 40-yard dash? Is that an indicator of a great player?

Not really.

With the exception of Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson—who ran a 4.24 in 2008—the rest of the top three since '99 featured Roland Melendez (4.24) and Jerome Mathis (4.28).

Larry Fitzgerald ran a 4.54 and shiny new Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was in the 4.5, 4.6 range. Both were considered to be too slow by some scouts and draft experts.

Look how wrong they were.

Bench press reps and 40-yard dash times mean nothing—what's between the ears does. Is the guy a football player on the field, in pads, facing competition? That's what matters.

Here's some more proof the Combine isn't the be-all, end-all it's made out to be.

Below is a list of players who weren't drafted or not invited to the Combine since its inception:

John Randle (Hall of Fame)
Rod Smith
Warren Moon (Hall of Fame)
Tim Krumrie
Karl Mecklenburg
Wes Welker
Jay Ratliff
Tony Romo
Osi Umenyiora
Pierre Garcon
Wayne Chrebet
Kurt Warner

Not bad, is it? A list that features two Hall of Famers, with Smith and Warner certain to go in as well.

The next list is players who were invited to the Combine but didn't impress and fell in the draft:

Terrell Davis, sixth round
Shannon Sharpe, seventh round
Curtis Martin, third round
Matt Birk, sixth round
Jamal Anderson, seventh round
Jay Novacek, sixth round
Adam Timmerman, seventh round
Jason Taylor, third round
Brad Johnson, ninth round
Tom Brady, sixth round

Brady is the poster child for how the Combine is overhyped. Remember his workouts? They were terrible. The guy could barely run.

All he's done is win three Super Bowls and become one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, along with Drew Brees, who was considered too short to be an everyday starter, and Peyton Manning.

Let's wrap this up by looking at some of the Combine's workout warriors. These guys were supposed to be sure things:

Tony Mandarich
Akili Smith
Tim Couch
Cade McNown
Ryan Leaf
Brian Bosworth
Andre Wadsworth
Charles Rogers
Lawrence Phillips
Keith McCants
Heath Shuler
Andre Ware

That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure there's plenty more.

These can't-misses...missed.

Can you believe people were even debating who should be taken first in 1998—Manning or Leaf?

To sum it all up, watch the Combine if you want to, but don't take the numbers the pundits shout out so seriously.

Attitude, desire, and heart make an NFL player—not his time in the three-cone drill or 40-yard dash.

Remember this before falling into the hype that is the NFL Scouting Combine.

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