NFL Draft Combine: beware the workout warrior



Every year there is a Combine at Indy. Every year some team GM forgets what he saw on game film and falls in love with a player based on his “measurable.” Almost without exception that love turns to hate faster than a three card Monte player scrambles his cards.

That does not mean that the combine is worthless. It just means that a guy may look like Tarzan in shorts and a t-shirt but on the field he will often play like Jane. There are literally hundreds of examples of players that shoot up the draft boards of some teams only to win the “bust of the draft” award three years or less later.

This is not a new development. In 1995 the Eagles fell in love with a DE from Boston College at the combine. He was athletic, quick and fast. His name was Mike Mamula. The problem was he had very short arms. If they had considered what they saw on film they would have realized he couldn’t get off of blocks because his arms were not long enough to push the OT off of him. He was the 7th pick overall and was a huge bust.

So what should the average fan look for in measurables from the guys in a position of need for their team?

For all DB, LB, DL, OL, WR, TE and RB prospects look at the results of the 3 cone drill. Yes, I know there are more than 3 cones but it is how it is known around the league. In all of those positions the speed through the change direction is critical. It is one drill that measures the player’s ability to “flip his hips.” Those that can change direction without hurting their speed will be more successful. This is also a prediction of their ability to get open or stay close to the receiver as a defender.

For DB, LB, WR, TE and RB prospects combine the 40 and 3 cone times to get an overall view of their speed. For DL and OL prospects the 3 cone times alone will give you a measure of their quickness and hips.

For RBs and WRs watch the gauntlet drill where the receiver has to catch balls from each side thrown at a fast pace. That shows their ability to concentrate on the ball and is a fair prediction of their ability to catch in a crowd.

The other two key aspects of the combine are the interviews and the medical examinations. We are never told about those aspects nor should we be.

That is what I think. Tell us what you think.

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Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits He has also published several novels on and a non-fiction work at Merriam-Press.


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