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A Letter From the Editor: Beware the “Combine Winner”

The NFL Scouting Combine is coming to a close, and it is time to warn fans of how they view the annual event.

NFL Combine Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Last night, prior to writing this article, I was scrolling through Twitter and saw some incredible video of some incredible athletes during the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. This isn’t anything new, it happens every year during the combine. Every time you get a chance to see these freakish athletes display their tremendous potential is amazing.

Then there was a video which caught my eye, and it was of Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson. Richardson’s vertical leap was the highest ever recorded for a quarterback since the combine became an annual event. If that wasn’t enough, his broad jump also broke a combine record. Follow all that up with a 4.4 second 40-yard dash and Richardson certainly put his best foot forward.

Just look at these numbers...

As I continued to scroll, I saw this video of Richardson doing a backflip after his workout was complete, and it hit me...

What hit me was how I felt as if I’ve seen this before. No, not the insane performance numbers, but the overall reaction to the workout.

It happened last year with Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.

Who doesn’t remember Willis celebrating his workout, and everyone discussing how he will be a Top 10 pick and could be the first quarterback taken off the board.

In case you forgot, Willis wasn’t the first quarterback off the board. That was Kenny Pickett. And no quarterback was a Top 10 pick, Pickett went to the Pittsburgh Steelers at pick No. 20. Willis was a 3rd Round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

This isn’t to criticize Richardson for his celebration/ was legit. And this isn’t to criticize Willis for not being the player many thought would be a top tier quarterback in the NFL. Both players will have plenty of time to prove themselves as a professional in years to come.

What this is about is the fan reaction to the combine results. There are a lot of people who become mesmerized by these fantastic results and immediately believe a player is a can’t-miss prospect based on their ability to throw to receives who aren’t covered, run with no defenders trying to bring them down and move through cones without having to worry about assignments or responsibilities.

The moral of this story is simple, if you care enough about the NFL Draft to watch the combine this closely, be willing to go the extra mile and watch game film. Watch the good film, and the bad film, to get what type of player you are watching could become if the Steelers, or any NFL team, drafts him. Use the combine for what it was designed to be, a way to get measurements and to shine a light on the potential of these players — not for the be-all-end-all of the pre-draft process.

So, while watching these athletes run blazing speeds can be tantalizing, don’t fall into the path so many fell into a year ago. One workout doesn’t make a player. Instead, use the combine as a way to dig deeper on these prospects.

Or, be like me and just take it for face value and nothing more!

(Note: The A Letter From the Editor article runs every Sunday during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)