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The Two "Faces" of the Combine - Another thought piece...

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  • The Two "Faces" of the Combine - Another thought piece...

    To get us all 'stoked' for the weekend. I posted "Why Combine 40 speed is Over-rated both on this site and over on that other site that Scott knows and loves.
    Where the first was from my own thoughts and research, this one is from the responses to my post and are the thoughts of three posters "Wildman, Twitch, and Jurb". over on the other site (AKA 'the dark side"). I don't think anyone will be offended that I patched their thoughts together to create "The Two Faces of the Combine" to get our blood and mental juices flowing before 'the main event.' Some of you will know "Wildman" as one of Scott's respected contemporaries who was one of 3 finalists for the 2008 Best Football Article in Print FSWA award. Feel free to desagree or comment on these ideas with your own.

    The Two Faces of The Combine

    The “Evaluation” Face

    “Wildman” commented: The purpose of the combine is to test physical skills, interview, document physical measurements (height/weight/waist size/etc.), and on a limited basis test football skills.

    It's human nature to take one component from a series of tests and reduce the value of the whole process to one thing. Most of the time it is foolish, but we do it year after year.

    There are definitely players where the 40 makes or breaks their draft status, but it generally doesn't alter it that much. Larry Fitzgerald and Reggie Williams were by no means fast in the 40 and they still were picked high. I don't think we can conclude that lack of speed has hurt their production. In Williams' case, it seems to be other faculties he lacks.

    There is not a cookie cutter process that accurately measures the success or failure of a player. There is no magic bullet.

    Even with what I do [in player evaluation], there's several different ways a player can arrive at a high or low score because no single skill is really the most important. We may hear coaches, GMs, and draft analysts emphasize certain things but they are often asked questions that try to require a person to give answers in this context.

    What the 40 does (as do the other measurements) is give player evaluators an ability to take one player and see how many areas in which he is below average, average, above average, or exceptional compared to his peers in this class and other classes. Then they combine it with the skills they see these players demonstrate on film and workouts and his personality/approach to life and see if he's a worthwhile investment and if so, how much of an investment with what they know about the history of the league.

    I believe the 40 can sometimes elevate or decrease a player's stock if used in conjunction with the game film.

    Hypothetically, let's use a WR as an example. He's 6-3, 210 lbs, muscular, and plays at a lesser regarded college program. Right away, we can probably assume two things:

    1) He has the prototypical NFL body for a primary WR.
    2) There's likely a reason he's at a smaller school that might impact an NFL team's regard for him:academics, new to football, disciplinary problems, he wasn't this big when he came out of school, etc.

    Let's say we learn that this receiver played football and basketball in high school, had poor grades, and basketball was far and away his first sport. When he didn't get a D-I basketball scholarship, the sport he focused on the most, he decided to take the football offer at a smaller school or he had to go to community college, get his grades up and then try out for football somewhere.

    Along the way he develops into very good football player at that level and has good production against higher regarded college programs whenever his team gets the chance to compete.

    NFL evaluators could review the tape and see a player who runs away from defenders in the open field when the ball is in is hands, but always looks covered when he's running an intermediate or deep route. When they look closer, they discover he doesn't understand how to get a clean release off the line or establish the right position in a route to maximize his speed.

    They interview the kid and the coaches and discover the WR coach at the program really isn't experienced at teaching sound techniques at the position and not a lot of time is devoted to it. What they do hear from coaches and see on tape is that the things the coaches did teach him, he really has a solid grasp of and demonstrates them with proficiency. That's a big sign this kid is focused and receives coaching well. That could be something as simple as the coaching staff showing him how to cut block or use his hands to catch balls over his head.

    The evaluators also see on film that this WR hustles on the field. He gives his full effort blocking down field and doesn't shy away from hitting or getting hit. When he spots an opportunity to help a player, he'll come across the field to make it happen. In fact, he always seems to be at the right place at the right time because he expects that if hustles to the spot where the action is happening, that he has a chance to make an impact on a block, tackle, fumble recovery, forced fumble, etc.

    At some point they interview the kid. He's immature in some respects, but he's never been in any more trouble than a fight off campus where the charges were dropped and since that time he's learned to stay away from environments where this type of thing could happen. What you also learn is he has grown to love the game and asks you questions about the game that indicate he wants to learn and has a strong desire to get better.

    He goes to the combine and runs a 4.47, 40-yard dash; has a 42-inch vertical, benches better than all but four receivers in the class; has above average scores in agility; and after he drops a few passes in a work out, a coach shows him a slightly different technique to catch certain balls and his drops decrease dramatically in subsequent throws. When they reviewed the film, they see that he's always making big plays as a receiver but his technique needs work and this jibes with what they did in the work out.

    All that information from above makes this guy a highly regarded prospect.

    You could do the same with a 6-0, 188 lb receiver whose strength is below average, speed is slightly above average, and agility is significantly above average. Say he plays at a highly regarded program and has so-so productivity. The program is a run-oriented offense, but the film shows he's regularly getting open against CBs who test very well physically at the combine and are considered high end prospects. The film shows he has very strong techniques to defeat press coverage, set up a defender with his footwork in a way that forces the CB to turn in a direction too early, and catch the ball anywhere on the field. In fact, he gets open down field and beats these CBs by a step or two most of the time when the ball is thrown his way.

    Let's say he runs a 4.55-40, but he's routinely getting open against CBs who ran 4.4 and 4.3. Is his ceiling of talent higher than the 6-3, 210 lb guy? Probably not, but he's certainly a quality NFL prospect if he shows the work ethic, coachability, and character a team wants from a guy.

    There's no single road to success - you could take the route of a guy like Terrell Owens or Marvin Harrison (not saying these examples were these two players, but there are some similarities) and you'll find quality talent.

    The Marketing Face

    ….the marketing arm of the NFL has some distinct differences from the operations aspect of the league when it comes to personnel and players. Marketers try to know what fans want to see and competitions with speed have long held public appeal. That's why the 100m dash in the summer Olympics is the money event.

    “Twitch” commented: We just can’t discount the fact that the combine is a made for TV event in its current form. And it will be run on the NFL network over and over and over again. And some of the greater 'features' at the combine that the fans are generally interested in will be, in no specific order, the 40yd dash, the 225 bench, and the weigh-in and height measurements where those guys are walking around in their briefs.

    “Jurb” said: I think the largest problem with the 40 yd dash is not what the NFL and NFL teams/scouts use it for. It is what people like us and the media use it for
    “Twitch“: When a guy like Mike Crabtree passes on the 40 at the combine, its somewhat of a big deal because it means by and large, no one will get to see him run. And that's part of his intention. He doesn’t want everyone to see him run 'slow', relative to many other WRs at the combine. Perception often becomes reality. And fans of certain teams will start barking about how 'slow' the guy is, and it blows up and out of proportion.
    Last edited by Twinkle Toes; 02-17-2009, 10:53 PM.

  • #2
    It's weird when he was describing the WRs I though of TO first and Marvin Harrison second, only to be revealed later, haha.

    I agree with the opinions of these guys. NFL teams and scouts know how to use the combine to properly evaluate prospects. The value of the combine and some of the workouts/exercises is really blown out of porportion by the media and the draftnicks who watch it. Anyone who says the combine is the end all/be all is wrong, just as anyone who says it is useless is wrong. It is just one more piece to (hopefully) complete the puzzle of the prospect. Teams and scouts value the combine appropriately (for the most part), it is some draftnicks and media sources that confuse the worth of the combine.
    Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir is a goddess

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