If you have one day to devote to the NFL Scouting Combine, then Sunday is it. I’m not urging you intently watch all of the drills and repetitive analysis, but at least pay some attention to what comes about.
It might help some of your on-the-fence assessment of these potential draft picks.
Sunday is the big day for fantasy folks as the money players will be on display, well those who choose to showcase their skills. Quarterbacks, running back and wide receivers step on stage to run the 40-yard dash, go through skill drills, verticle leap, broad jump, three-cone and shuttle drills.
Here’s how I attack the combine and handle its aftermath:
- This is as much a hype machine as it is an actual player assessment event. Most, if not all, NFL teams already have 90 percent of their draft boards in place. Most first-round prospects don’t participate in all of the drills, if any, as most use the combine as a chance to interview with potential NFL suitors. Top players, i.e. Sam Bradford, prefer to work out at “Pro Days” on their campuses with teammates they’re most comfortable with.
- Don’t get too excited about 40-yard times. This is the one drill you’ll see most prospects, even a few top first-round talents, participate in. Usually it’s for bragging rights, not an opportunity to jockey their draft status. A few will generate headlines and move up the draft board, (i.e. what Chris Johnson did two years ago). Remember, Johnson is an exception. For every Johnson who blazes down the tape and into the Pro Bowl, there are far more Darrius Heyward-Beys and Troy Williamsons who end up running away from success. Trindin Holliday (LSU) is going to run a ridiculous 40 time, something in the 4.2-range and will be immediately targeted. In reality, he is actually a track star and was once targeted to the Olympics, so speed is his game. Physicality is not.
- Forget the big names, pay attention to “John Doe.” Mock drafts, pre-draft magazines, ESPN, the NFL Network will all discuss players who are projected for the first round ad nausea. Plus, many of them are stars we’ve enjoyed watching on Saturdays. I don’t care if Jermaine Gresham (TE, Oklahoma) runs a slow 40-yard dash. I’ve seen him numerous times outrun LBs and safeties on the field. What I’d like to know is a little more information about David Gettis (WR, Baylor) and James Starks (RB, Buffalo). The combine coverage includes great insight on players like these, such as how long they’ve played the position, who else recruited them, any injury history and most importantly what makes them a real NFL prospect. Remember Brandon Marshall (Central Florida) was a 4th round pick in 2006, rated as the 11th best WR prospect. Brandon Jacobs (Southern Illinois) was initially an Auburn Tiger sharing backfield duties with Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams.
- Health screenings are most important. This, along with team interviews, is the real impact of the combine. Of course Oklahoma physicians are going to say Sam Bradford is fully recovered. It’s much easier to recruit a 5-star QB when your school just had an NFL first-round pick under center. If Bradford makes it through the NFL physician gauntlet, then it’s a sure bet any failure won’t be due to his lingering shoulder injury. This is a multi-million dollar investment, so the NFL folks are not going to fudge the medical report. A perfect example is from last year with Cornelius Ingram (TE, Florida), who entered the draft with a lingering ACL injury. Gators’ docs said, yep our guy is 100 percent and remains a first-round talent. NFL docs warned teams Ingram’s knee was not fully healed, so he slips to the 5th round to Philadelphia. Ask any Iggle fan how that worked out?
In hindsight, don’t get too worked up about what’s said about player A or player B, good or bad. Focus on the points listed above as an added piece of evidence in your decision to pick player A over player B. This shouldn’t be a selling point in whether to draft a player, just another round of ammunition to help you along your fantasy playoff journey.