The NFL Combine: A Complete Waste of My Time

NFL owners will gather at the Combine and fawn over future busts this week.

The television ratings for the NFL Network's broadcast of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine were up 60 percent compared to 2010.

 

In fact, the 2015 rendition will start a day earlier — Friday through Monday — in an effort to continue ratings growth.

 

People love the underwear Olympics, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why. 

 

Maybe it's football withdrawal, maybe it's fantasy uber-nerds trying to get a leg up on drafts that are six months away or maybe it's simply being able to see a favorite player's face sans gladiator helmet.

 

But I still can't comprehend what value is gleaned this made-for-TV event. In particular, for NFL decision-makers.

 

Unless Amari Cooper runs a six-second 40-yard dash or Leonard Williams benches 225 pounds three times or Marcus Mariota can't complete a single pass against air, there won't be any redeeming value to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.

 

Not on the field, at least. In fact, more times than not, the on-field evaluations at Lucas Oil Stadium actually muddy the scouting waters rather than clarify them. Scouts too often value what a prospect does in spandex running in a straight line over three or four seasons' worth of actual football games.

 

There is tremendous value for head coaches, general managers and scouts who get to sit down and get to know future employees face-to-face. These job interviews are the only aspect of the NFL Combine with any substantial meaning, and, of course, this is the only part of the circus that isn't televised.

 

Every year the draft is littered with guys who weren't good players in college but impressed at the Combine only to go on to fail miserably in the NFL.

 

J.J. Watt is a huge dude who is really strong and can run fast, jump high and works really hard. Julio Jones has a massive wing span, tremendous ball skills and elite explosiveness. Aaron Donald has superhuman strength, hands and quickness for a guy of his size.

 

It doesn't take an expert of NFL scouting to know those guys were elite players and belonged at the top of the draft. No, all you need is two eyeballs and a TV set on Saturdays.

 

The funny thing about great football players is that they are, well, great. But that doesn't stop NFL franchises — ones that spend a considerable amount of money scouting and drafting players — from making bone-headed decisions in the draft based on how guys perform in their skivvies.

 

Someone is going to draft Oregon's Arik Armstead in the first round this year.

 

The former five-star recruit is a 6-foot-7, 290-pound defensive end who projects as a high first-round pick because he's going to look really pretty in shorts and a t-shirt in Indianapolis. Otherwise, there is no reason he should be considered a first-rounder.

The Ducks D-lineman played in 39 games in his three-year career in Eugene and never finished higher than sixth on the team in sacks or 10th in tackles. His career production for one of the best teams in college football: 87 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, 4.0 sacks, two passes broken up and one forced fumble. 

Watt posted 61 tackles, 20.5 for a loss, 7.0 sacks, seven passes broken up, three forced fumbles and three blocked kicks in his final season alone at Wisconsin. Armstead is projected to be a top-10 pick — which is higher than Watt was taken in 2011 when Houston made him the 11th overall selection. That's insane.

 

Armstead is just the next in a long line of combine-induced, head-scratching first-round draft selections.

 

USC's R. Jay Soward was a first-round pick of the Jaguars in 2000 after glistening with potential at the Combine despite a mediocre college career. He lasted 13 games and caught 14 career passes in the NFL. The Jags also drafted quarterback-turned-wide receiver Matt Jones a few years later only to have that blow up in their face as well. How about John McCargo of the Bills in 2006? He was the third-best member of his own defensive line at NC State and Buffalo traded up to draft a player who would go on to start one NFL game. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Troy Williamson were top-10 picks in 2009 and '05 after speedy 40 times only to prove unworthy of their lofty draft status.

 

Quickly, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2003 draft that the Saints traded two first-round picks to acquire? Yup, Johnathan Sullivan. He had 1.5 sacks in three NFL seasons.

 

LSU has featured more than a few first-round Combine busts. JaMarcus Russell is a poster child for why Combine or Pro Day workouts should be taken with a grain of salt. He's literally the biggest bust in NFL history after only one quality season at LSU. That same year, Craig Davis landed in the first round because of his overall speed and quickness. Yet, Davis didn't even start at LSU until his senior year and caught seven career touchdowns in college. He hauled in two career NFL touchdowns in two career NFL starts. Tyson Jackson and Barkevious Mingo largely underachieved in college, dominated the Combine and haven't even proven they can be NFL starters.

 

Despite not being a first-round pick, my favorite Combine workout warrior is Chris Henry. The Arizona Wildcats running back started three games in college, rushing for 892 yards in four years at a clip of just 3.3 yards per carry. Yet, his freakish combine led the Tennessee Titans to draft Henry 50th overall early in the second round in 2007. 

 

He rushed for 122 yards on 32 career carries in his four-year NFL career.

 

Related: Worst 18 NFL combine busts of the modern era

 

The lesson should be don't overvalue what takes place this week in Indianapolis. How a player looks in tight shorts or how fast he runs in a straight line or how high/far he can jump standing still in a t-shirt should not supersede how a prospect plays the game.

 

Again, the funny thing about great players is they are great. You know, on the field, between the lines when the ball is snapped.

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