As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level.
How helpful or harmful is a prospect’s showing at the combine on his draft stock?
The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium will be the epicenter of the NFL world over the weekend as hundreds of NFL scouts and executives will gather to watch up to 335 NFL hopefuls measure in and showcase their athletic abilities in a myriad of on-field and weight room tests.
The combine can give the draft stock of many of these prospects a much needed or unexpected boost with a good showing or cause it to plummet with a poor outing. While the physical tests that these players spend so much time preparing for are not all football specific and are more suited for track stars and powerlifters, they can serve as a mile marker that teams will use to gauge their level of commitment to building up and improving their bodies.
The best testers at the combine every year don’t necessarily pan out at the next level like their workout results would suggest and the guys that don’t test among the best at their position groups can often go on to have better careers than their cohorts that outperformed them in tights and spandex.
Last year Oklahoma offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. had perhaps the worst combine showing in the history of the sport and caused the initially projected first-round pick to tumble all the way to the third round when the Baltimore Ravens selected him with the 83rd overall pick. He would go on to start 10 games for the Ravens last season and has solidified the right side of the line with his dominating performance down the stretch of their division-winning playoff push.
Two years ago, John Ross, the speedster from the University of Washington broke a 12-year-old combine record for the fastest time in the 40-yard dash, the most anticipated and scrutinized test of all the ones that prospects prepare for and participate in.
With a time of 4.22 seconds, Ross beat out the previous record that was held by former 2,000 rusher Chris Johnson who set the record with his time of 4.24 seconds at the 2008 combine. While the old cliché states that “speed kills”, straight line speed isn’t everything in at the NFL level and Ross’ production since he’s been in the league is proof of that.
After appearing in just three games as a rookie in 2017, registering one carry for 12 yards and not a single catch, he followed that up with a dismal sophomore campaign where he showed some glimmers of the playmaking ability he exhibited in college but finished the year with just 21 catches for 210 yards. However, he was somewhat effective in the red zone in year two scoring seven touchdowns but that is still not a good enough return on a first round pick.
His blazing 40 time was enough to convince the Cincinnati Bengals that he worth a top 10 selection after being previously mocked to go in the mid to late part of the first round that year. He was drafted ninth overall and now the Bengals will be reportedly fielding trade offers and actively shopping him around at this year’s combine just two years after he dazzled them with his record-setting performance.
The moral of these two stories is that a prospect’s performance at the combine should not be the nail in his coffin nor the fuel that rockets him higher than he should go. The best scouts and executive don’t get too caught up in those tests and measurables, but instead, let the tale of the tape do the talking so that they make good FOOTBALL not TRACK and FIELD decisions.