NFL Draft 2011: Is the NFL Combine Really a Good Evaluator for Draft Talent?

Austin SchindelAnalyst IIFebruary 23, 2011

With the NFL Scouting Combine right around the corner, the names "workout warrior" and "combine beast" will start to ring in everyone's ears. 40-yard dashes and vertical leaps will be all the rage, and guys will rise up the draft boards and plummet into the fifth round.

With all the hype surrounding this weekend, what should we really take from it? For every player who awes at combine, there is a Vernon Gholston. For every Sam Bradford (36 on the Wonderlic test), there is a Vince Young (scored a 16).

So again I wonder, how much stock should we put in this evaluation of the players?

At this year's combine, Da'Quan Bowers, the Clemson defensive end perceived as one of the top picks in this year’s draft, will only do the weightlifting portion of the weekend. Are we supposed to give him a pass and solely evaluate the performance we saw on the field this season?

It is easy to look at the combine and either give it the utmost respect or the smallest of interest, and you would not be wrong on either account. 

The modern NFL combine only began in 1982 and did not blossom into what it is today until 1987. There is not a significant amount of data to prove across the board if this is the best way to evaluate players, but there are several concerns many people feel need to be addressed.


Running without Pads/Game Speed

Because it is uniform, and everyone has the same chances of doing well on the 40-yard dash, it may be flawed to say it does not accurately determine game speed. But, it can be argued that running on artificial turf with only shorts and a t-shirt on is not the best way to evaluate speed. How often does a center need to run 40 yards as fast as he can?

With pads on and being chased by someone who wants to rip your head off might change how you run, just saying.


Wonderlic Test

Ahhhhh, the Wonderlic test.

Many know it as one of the best-hyped and well-known facets of the scouting week. Ben Roethlisberger scored a 25, and Craig Krenzel (former Ohio State QB) scored a 38. The scores should not be thrown out, but they should be put in some serious perspective. 

It is easy to get bent out of shape over people who do not pay attention to detail. But, you cannot statistically evaluate a player's motivation and how much he studies.



Another category that gets too much play.

I bet you can go on the street and find hundreds guys who can lift more weight than the players at the combine.

I remember when Kevin Durant was ostracized for not being able to lift a lot of weight during the NBA combine. Now, DO NOT THINK I'M CONFUSING THE TWO SPORTS; obviously, strength means a lot more in the NFL. My point is simply that skill sets and quickness are far more important. 

Of course scouts know more about this than any of us, but even the smartest, most experienced talent evaluators get caught up in the workout warrior mess.

Overall, the combine is still an important part of the draft process. Game film, interviews and personal workouts are all part of the equation as well. 

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay make their living off of this speculation and evaluation, so let's just let them keep drawing on chalkboard and writing mock drafts while we all just wait and see what actually happens.


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