Two very big things to know in life are simply this: know who you are, and maybe more importantly know who you’re not. And as the underwear Olympics get under way this week, more commonly known as the NFL scouting combine those same two principles apply. For the uninitiated the combine is where most of the top prospects for next month’s NFL draft gather in Indianapolis to essentially be poked, prodded, tested and talked to. Occasionally they’ll actually do things related to the game of football. At its core the scouting combine is a tool used by all NFL teams to gage just how good certain players are in drills pertaining to the position they’ll play in the NFL. For the teams in the league it’s another metric, another data input in the long slow process of evaluating who you should and should NOT draft with every pick available to you. That’s what the combine is for the teams. For the players going thru the pre draft industrial complex the combine is a test, nothing more and nothing less.
Tests need to be studied for, and that’s why so many players go thru extensive pre combine workouts with trainers, strength and agility coaches and whomever else they can think of to help them prepare for the test. It’s not so much about are you a good football player, but can you show off certain skill sets that will help your draft stock rise. 40 yard dash times are great for WRs, RBs, corners and LBs but not really useful for OL, DL or even some QBs. I believe Tom Brady has yet to finish his 40 time from the 2000 combine and it didn’t appear to hurt his career.
A few years back Joe Burrow’s hand size was apparently less than ideal. It doesn't appear to have hurt his QB maturation and the good folks in Cincinnati think Joe’s hands are just fine thank you very much.
Sometimes you can ace this test, but that still doesn’t mean you’re going to be a star in the NFL. In the 2017 combine WR John Ross set the record for the fastest 40 tine in history at 4.22. As previously stated a fast 40 time is a very GOOD thing for a WR. Ross parlayed that flash at the combine into being the 9th overall pick that year by Cincinnati If you’re thinking “man i don’t remember seeing Ross in this year’s Super Bowl”, that because he wasn’t. After 4 disappointing seasons with the Bengals Ross played with the Giants in 2021and has a grand total of 62 receptions and 11 TD catches in his 5 year career. Not exactly what either he or the Bengals were expecting when he went top ten.
Plenty other players have aced this test and gone on to do very well. D.K. Metcalf blazed at his combine a few years back and is averaging 70 catches and 10 TD grabs a season. The point being the combine is not the know all end all, it’s just another piece of information that goes into the most unscientific of all processes, the NFL draft. So if you choose to watch former college football players running around in gymnastic uniforms this week take it for what it’s worth: players are trying ace a final to get a higher draft grade which translates into more money. It’s a test that they’ve studied for and could change their financial future. Teams on the other hand are trying to get more information so they don’t draft the next “ man did we screw up that pick” guy. Now go have fun watching guys in shorts.