This past weekend the National Football League world embarked upon Indianapolis, Indiana for the annual “Underwear Olympics,” err NFL Combine. Although drills are still going on, the entire media contingent (which included a record number of over 800 credentials) has dissipated and returned to their respective markets.
With more media than ever in attendance we had bigger crowds, and unfortunately, more manufactured stories. With that said here are five truths from this years NFL Combine.
1. The Manti Te’o Story Is Deceased (More So Than Even Lennay Kekua)
Manti Te’o has said all he’s going to say about the “hoax” which ultimately harmed no one but the reputations of a few young men and the family that tried to protect one of them. A record media gathering to Te’o’s press conference unveiled virtually nothing and many members were there for no other purpose but to be there. Te’o has been drilled by teams in the 15-minute interview sessions and he’ll either have answered their barrage of questions satisfactorily or not. Ultimately, his play on the field will determine where he gets selected in the first round or two of the draft.
2. Believe No One
This is what’s known as “lying season” for NFL teams. If the wax poetically about a prospect they have no intentions of drafting him whatsoever. Good reporters have to read between the proverbial lines and still you can get fooled. Some of this year’s smokescreens seem to be the Arizona Cardinals love affair with USC quarterback Matt Barkley and the San Francisco 49ers alleged deal for Alex Smith (we’re still waiting for the other team to claim interest). Both stories appear to be complete smokescreens.
3. 40 Times Mean Very Little
It’s rare that any player on the football field will fun 40 yards in a straight line on a specific play. As rare as that is, we do know that they won’t be running it in their underwear or at least without pads. There’s a major difference between timed track speed and game speed (with pads). If you don’t believe me I cite the example of 2005 first-round draft pick Matt Jones. Generally speaking, the fastest man at the Combine will get drafted (likely earlier than he should), but as fast as his 40 time is his career is over nearly as quick. Teams don’t focus quite as much on the actual number that players run but more on the comparison between two players they have rated similarly, as both are running under the same conditions.
4. The NFL Combine is Just One Evaluation Tool, Not the Be-All End-All
Since all of the NFL team executives are in Indianapolis this week, we assume this is where decisions are made on players they will draft. It’s simply not so. The NFL Combine is just one more piece of information in a proverbial book about a player. It normally means less than college all-star games and considerably less than actual game tape.
5. Teams Get Very Little From the Interview Process
How many women have you dated that you believe you had a good idea of who they were in the first 15 minutes of meeting, only to find out she was completely different? The Combine interviews are just 15 minutes long and it’s a football player version of real life speed-dating. These players are coached up for months on how to answer any and every question that they’re hit with, just as they’re coached to run 40’s, do positional drills and bench press. Smart guys will be smart and dumb guys will be dumb. Teams mostly know that going in to this often meaningless process.
Charlie Bernstein is the host of The Charlie Bernstein Show which can be heard Monday through Friday from 3-7 pm EST on Sportstalk 1040 The Team. You can listen online by clicking here.