The NFL Combine: Is It Really Necessary?

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The NFL Combine: Is It Really Necessary?
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Today, special teamers, place kickers, offensive lineman, and tight ends arrived in Indianapolis for the biggest job interview they’ve ever been to.

In all, 330 potential NFL players will lift, run and Wonderlic test their way into what hopefully turns out to be a spot with one of thirty-two NFL teams come April 22-24 in New York City.

To add to this, the NFL Network (don’t get me started on that channel) plans to televise the Combine in its entirety.

I have but one word to describe this nonsense: Seriously?

I understand the need for the combine: Brett Favre’s season is over, and ESPN needs a way to divert attention from their next sexual harassment lawsuit on the horizon (kidding). Since the AFL is out of a TV deal, the only way for fans to continually live and breathe football is by watching college-age men run through a variety of drills that stimulates both their mental and physical capabilities.

Before I get started on the mundane physical drills, I feel like it necessary to rant about the Wonderlic Test. As many scouts have figured out, it is an absolutely worthless test to judge a potential NFL player’s relative intelligence. When one of the questions asks a combine participant to use algebraic knowledge, you know the test is a joke.

Seriously, most of these guys were part-time students in college, with a wide range of tutoring available to them, so that they could make just above the 1.8 GPA necessitated by the NCAA. Vince Young scored a six back in 2006. He is doing just fine now. Ryan Fitzpatrick scored a 48. The Bills are still terrible.

After the standardized test, participants are put through a rigorous set of drills designed to measure speed, agility and awareness. After a recent article I read about people training for the combine, I find these drills less and less relevant. If I was John Skelton (QB-Fordham) yes, I would love to bench 225 a reputable amount of times, and yes, I might want to have a mediocre 40 yard dash time.

However, I would be more worried about working out for these teams who are keen to pick me in the fourth, fifth, or sixth rounds and question the level of competition I played against, the offense I ran at Fordham or my overall football makeup.

Yes, the Combine produces some stars. Chris Johnson ran a 4.24 in the 40 a couple of years ago, and Joe Flacco made teams salivate with his relative arm strength. Granted, Tony Romo and Pierre Garcon were also discovered by scouts, but it has become increasingly irrelevant. Guys like Wes Welker and Osi Umenyiora were not invited, and they have had relatively productive NFL careers.

The real question is: how does a player perform after he gets drafted? When the millions start pouring in, athletes can become different people. Some do not quite understand the consequences that go with stardom and the 24-hour news media and fall off the face of the NFL after a couple of years.

For others, their work ethic, or lack thereof, shows up after the Combine. The prevailing attitude is “ok, done with this, now time to party,” and they never recover. With all the combine-focused training done by private athletic firms, scouts are finding it tougher to unearth flaws in a combine participant during the actual event.

All this being said, I say do away with the Combine. It is an absolute waste of time and money. Figure out a way to improve the Pro Days, or fly prospects in. Conduct interviews on a whim; maybe use Skype, or a cellular device. Do away with a standardized test—us college students have found out how useless the SATs are in predicting a prospective college student’s actual GPA in college. Heck, some colleges even did away with them.

I guess if you are really that desperate, the NFL combine might make for some riveting TV. But hey, it could be worse. You could be watching LOST. 

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