Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
Today is the start of the arguably the most overrated part of the NFL offseason, the scouting combine. Every year the sports world is bombarded with the hype of top players’ before the draft and whether or not their combine performance will affect their draft position. The real answer is “not really.” The combine is more about confirming what teams already expect to see from a player. The most important parts of the combine are the interviews and medical evaluations (which are the reasons the combine was created in the first place). If you’ve ever watched highlights then you know that neither of those events appears in the coverage. We hear so much about the 40 yard dash times and the high jump, but footwork in drills is far more important. I’m not saying the combine isn’t important and for truly diehard fans an entertaining experience; I’m saying don’t assume a combine performance translates to the field.
TV coverage on the NFL Network begins on day one; but if you want to see more than commentary, full drills will be televised beginning Friday March 3. If you have a favorite player from a college you like or one you want your team to draft you can tune in to see them. I will not be watching. I don’t understand the excitement of watching dudes run around in their underwear when it has little to no bearing on NFL potential. My interest will be any leaks that come out about how a player interviews or any surprise medical issues.
Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will be filled with hundreds of scouts and team executives ready to evaluate college players on their medical reports and interview skills. Players will have to put their best foot forward and prepare to perform well. A bad showing can receive intense scrutiny that no player wants; and no team wants to hear the fans screaming when they draft a player who is perceived as a bad performer. The problem is that none of that really matters. A player’s draft stock is pretty much decided before the combine begins.
Before you start listening to the talking heads rate the players in their drills, keep this in mind: a team’s draft evaluation is probably already completed. The combine should only affirm that evaluation. It is a rare occasion that a player has a surprise medical concern or just blows the interview completely. That’s why it’s not a big shock to teams if a player chooses not to do the drills. They don’t really care about that. Sure, they would like to see a pre-draft workout but that doesn’t have to happen in Indy. Running drills against air is not the same as the pressure of a game. Remember that over the years there have been some great performers at the combine and pro day who just couldn’t get it done on Sunday. Teams that take workouts too seriously are the ones who overdraft and look foolish for doing so when a player doesn’t last through his first contract.
On the plus side, the new league year is just around the corner. The free agency period will begin and we will forget all about the combine until the week before the draft. Some folks will read this and still take time to watch the Underwear Olympics this week but I hope they will calm their zealousness about something that doesn’t really matter. The only thing that will be fun to cheer is the guy who runs a 4.23 second 40 yard dash and wins an island from Adidas. You heard me, an island. Adidas is offering that to anyone who breaks Chris Johnson’s record time. There are stipulations of course, but I don’t know why anyone who thinks they have a chance wouldn’t check the boxes. Enjoy the event for what it is and be on the lookout for my basic guide to the salary cap coming your way before March 9.