The NFL Scouting Combine is this weekend, and I know it's a big deal, because NFL.com has a countdown clock letting us know it's two days away and counting. I'm so excited, my palms are starting to sweat with anticipation.
OK, I lied, but you believed me, didn't you?
While out on a date, I'm sometimes used to saying stuff like, "Heck yeah, I love the opera!", and I guess when it comes to the Combine, as an NFL writer of sorts, I suppose it's wise to at least educate myself on how tall someone is, how sound his knees are and whether or not his knees are connected to legs that can run really fast.
However, I can find all that stuff out in March or April, when I'm researching draft profiles for whatever article I happen to be writing at that moment, and even then, I won't be so sure what it means when a player has a high-motor but tends to take plays off (is his engine burning a lot of fuel)?
The Combine is important, I'm told (I believe the word "combine" is supposed to be capitalized, but I'm not sure), or at least it's been trumped up to be important (it must be, there's a countdown clock).
In this USA Today article, the writer does a nice job of letting you know why the Combine really is important and why it does matter. And, according to Jeff Foster, the president of this event that's officially called the National Invitational Camp (maybe "combine" shouldn't be capitalized, after all), there are four assets that matter the most:
"We always say there are four assets to camp, and in order of priority, medical is No. 1. A distant second are the interviews and the psychological testing and then the on-field workouts."
I mean, I'll begrudge Mr. Foster the sentiment that medical exams are first on the list. Obviously, if you have bad knees or come to the event with Frito stomach, your draft stock is probably going to fall. However, the on-field workouts are fourth? Tell that to the next person who will write a mock draft and use someone's 40-yard dash time as a basis for a rising or falling stock.
Last year, Dri Archer was drafted by the Steelers with their compensatory third round pick, and, while his production at Kent State was good, Archer's draft profile would suggest a mixed bag coming out of college. Yet, despite a listed draft weakness that included being "Very short and rail thin with no strength or running power," Archer was projected to go in the third or fourth round. Why? Probably because of a draft strength of being able to run really, really fast (4.26, 40-yard dash).
Based on Archer's mostly unproductive rookie season, where his rail thin body rarely enabled him to break away from defenders long enough to make it to his 4.26 speed, I wonder where he would be projected today in a draft profile re-do. (Can you say, undrafted free agent?)
Obviously, the interviews are important, too (this is where draft prospects say, "Heck yeah, I love the opera!"), but if NFL schemes are so darn difficult to master, I sure hope rookies aren't punished THAT much for maybe stumbling over certain questions about a 3-4 defense or a no-huddle formation.
Job interviews are nerve-wracking, and I'm sure that's especially the case when you have to walk around in your underwear and talk to coaches you probably spent your childhood watching on TV.
But, whatever happens in this weekend's Combine, draft stocks, needs and projections will shift, and some coach or draftnik will take four years of college production and throw it in the bin in-favor of body fat percentage.
I'll try to pay attention this weekend as much as possible.
Heck yeah, I love the Combine!