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Posted by Feb - 28 - 2014 0 Comment

Every year, a group of the best athletes in college football get together to compete in a number of physical and mental tests. Indianapolis, Indiana is where the NFL combine is held every year. This is a way for the NFL teams to poke and prod at the incoming talent that will make up the future of the league. On the other hand, it is also where players are overvalued because of the numbers they put up when they aren’t playing an actual game on a football field. For whatever reason, when evaluating draft prospects, we associate these numbers to the players all the way up to the draft. I say it that way because, for the most part, we never hear about these numbers again when these players actually play in the NFL. I am writing this blog post because when I rattle off these numbers associated with a draft prospect, I sometimes hear arguments from people that this drill or that drill really doesn’t matter. Sometimes I actually hear people say, “Oh the combine means nothing”. So…Does it?

Well, kind of. Not every time or number matters. There are, however, certain expectations that a player has that need to be proven by certain tests at the combine. Maybe it’s a players’ 40 yard dash time. Maybe it’s a players’  height or weight. Maybe a player has a medical issue and needs to be checked out by the doctors. Or maybe a team just thinks a certain player is a knucklehead and wants to interview him to find out if that’s the case.

You can’t say the combine doesn’t matter at all. If anything, it is a great way for teams to get to know players during their interviews. Also, teams get to have their doctors look at players. This is really big because a team can literally red flag a player because he doesn’t check out medically. The drills are a big part of the process. Not because of the time they put up in the drill, but because you get to see a player move. Hip fluidity is constantly watched at the combine and is very important. You absolutely do not want a cornerback with stiff hips. I could go on and on about each trait I look for in each position during drills, but the list would be long and boring.

The problem that NFL teams encounter is when a players’ tape, doesn’t match his production on the field. So when a guy puts up monster numbers at the combine, but has poor production on the field, it is up to the NFL executives to figure out why that is. The combine gets a bad rap when a guy like Vernon Gholston goes and crushes the combine, but busts in the NFL. This wouldn’t be an issue had he been drafted accordingly. He was picked in the top ten of the draft because of his combine numbers, never produced on the field, and was labeled a bust. Had he been drafted  in the late 2nd round or early 3rd round, his name wouldn’t be mentioned here. He is the classic example of a player getting drafted because of his combine numbers. He was a solid college DE, but should’ve never been a first round pick.

There were some players that were working out in this combine that I was specifically looking for certain things from. Just to give you an idea, here is a few examples:

1. Mike Evans’ 40 yard dash time. The reason I wanted to see this is because I think it really will give us an idea of where he goes as long as every other aspect of the combine went well for him. His 40 was a big deal though. The way I saw it, was that he isn’t a burner. He doesn’t beat coverage because of his speed. He beats it because he’s physical and can go up and get the ball and runs adequate routes. Not to mention, his catch radius is incredible. I figured if he ran something like a mid 4.6 40, he’s a 1st rounder that could go anywhere between pick 15 to 25. The number I wanted to see from him was about a 4.55, If he were to run that, I could see him inside the top 15. He ended up running a 4.53. Fantastic for such a big WR. When you combine that time with him excelling in all the drills, I see no reason why he isn’t a lock inside the top 13 picks. So if he doesn’t use speed to beat coverage, why did the 40 time matter at all? Well there are a few reasons. It shows how dynamic he is for being such a big WR. It puts him in the mold of the elite WRs in the NFL. Also, it shows that he has the burst to get by corners if needed and not easily tracked down.

2. Greg Robinsons’ positional drills. I really wanted to see if Greg Robinson was as athletic as he appeared to be on tape. I wanted to see his measurable’s and if they matched up with what I  expect out of my franchise Left Tackle. The fact that he ran a sub 5 second 40 at 322 pounds is amazing. The only knock on him is that he was predominantly a run blocker in college. I wanted to see his drills and how he would move in drills. It really showed how athletic he is and how well he can move. After watching the drills, I am absolutely convinced that if he works on his technique, he will be able to pass block in the NFL at a very high level.

3. A clear leader at Corner. I have to admit. I assumed this would be Justin Gilbert. I was more so wondering if any other CB would just put up crazy numbers and challenge him for the top spot. I figured that Bradley Roby would be fast, but wasn’t  sure if he would do enough in the drills or measurable’s department to be a threat. He didn’t. I was also looking at Darqueze Dennard as another possibility. Had he ran a better 40 time, and had loose hips, I legitimately think you could’ve made a case for him to be the top corner taken in the 2014 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, he looked stiff in his drill and ran a decent 40 time. He basically proved that he is what he is. A press Corner. Nothing wrong with that. So Gilbert gets the nod. He is by far, the top Corner in this draft.

If you watched the combine at all, you heard a lot of guys talking about checkboxes. That is the best way of describing what the combine shows us. A guy looks fast on tape, he runs a fast 40 time, you check the checkbox. It’s a simple as that. If a guy looks like he has fluid hips on tape, and goes and shows it in the drills, he gets a check. The combine is a tool and a guide for prospects. Not a way of life. It’s basically used to get assurance of what you see on tape. 1 drill or measurable shouldn’t be the reason you draft or don’t draft a player. It is a huge and important part of the draft process though.

– Adam Wilson

Categories: Cleveland Browns

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