The last few years one of the league’s worst kept secrets has been how combine climbers don’t always equate to NFL success. Despite this players often charge up draft boards based solely on a good combine that weighs athleticism over in-game talent.
With the first pick in the draft, making the right decision could be critical for the 1-15 St. Louis Rams. General Manager Billy Devaney knows this. He also knows not to fall too far into the combine hype before the draft.
When discussing key players absent from combine drills, such as top rated quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Tim Tebow, he made note that missing the combine was not a big deal in the grand scheme of evaluating talent.
“It’s not worth getting frustrated over,” Devaney said during a Saturday news conference. “Some of these guys, it's legit. Physically, they can’t work out so you’ve just got to roll with it.
“You’d love to see them work out. But for a quarterback here, it’s not the greatest environment for them to show what they’ve got. There’s no sense freaking out about it. It is what it is. We’ll get to see them throw eventually.”
Now whether this lack of hysteria bears more to the team’s other focal points (such as either of the two key defensive tackle prospects) or is simply a tempered mind taking a measured approach, it has to instill confidence in the long-term chances of the rebuilding Rams.
It makes sense that given the option teams would rather a player participates in the combine—the more data available the better—it also gives them a much easier time scouting when over 300 players are working out in one location.
The difficulty with the combine however is finding which players will be able to translate great results onto the football field.
Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden both turned in blazing 40 times to bolster their draft stock in 2008. McFadden was taken off the board fourth overall by a general manager notorious for giving tremendous weight to pure athleticism in Al Davis.
Johnson, was farther down on the radar, a second round player before the combine he bolstered his stock up to first round status in going 24th overall to the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans were rewarded for raising Johnson’s stock in the guise of 3,234 yards in just two years. As a sophomore he led the entire league with 2006 yards rushing behind a tremendous 5.6 yards per carry.
McFadden did not yield the same for Oakland. In 2009 he was given the fewest carries (104) of the team’s three-headed backfield. He also had the least yards-per carry at only 3.4 per attempt.
Linebacker Vernon Gholston put up a monster combine that raised eyebrows all around and landed him the sixth overall pick in that same 2008 draft. Playing for the league’s top rated defense last season he delivered a tremendously disappointing campaign.
Playing in all but two games, Gholston recorded 12 tackles with no sacks, interceptions, or forced fumbles on the year. Some players have churned out better results in single games.
At St. Louis’ position as the top drafting team, combine buzz from freakish athletes with a few in-game questions like Bruce Campbell or Taylor Mays should not be a concern.
Regardless, it is refreshing to see a team downplay to the combine to such an extent, a possible harbinger of the future where running a pads-free 40 yard dash weighs very little in where a player will be picked when draft day rolls around.