The NFL Combine is where mostly all of the potential draft picks will go this week for testing. The tests will be medical, physical both in the weight room and on field in drills, and mental with team interviews. All of this testing is to see if these prospects are fit to play in the NFL and to see who stands out. What happens in Indianapolis is for you to confirm what you have seen on tape from the prospects. People talk about the Combine elevating prospects who post insanely athletic numbers but instead the opposite is true more often than not, it is a battle of attrition with executives looking to cross off or downgrade prospects with medical or character issues.
The offensive players have concluded the process as of Sunday night and the defenders will take over for the final two days. Who made the talent evaluators rethink their evaluations? From a wide receiver perspective Mike Evans ran 4.47 in the 40 yard dash where he was expected to run 4.6 or worse, this allays the knock on him which was his top speed good enough to get separation at the pro level. Jared Abbrederis, an underrated wide receiver who had a knack for getting open in big situations at Wisconsin, ran a very unexpected 4.44 40 yard dash which should remove the label of possession receiver from his evaluations. Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandin Cooks all confirmed their speed and ability from their game tape as did Eric Ebron.
There were some prospects whose testing made the scouts look back and see if the negative traits they showed at the Combine were evident in their game film. After a junior season where his weight was up and he was asked to block a lot more, Austin Seferian-Jenkins shed 20 pounds and was looking to prove that he is one of the elite athletic tight ends in the draft. Unfortunately during his medical exam the doctors found a small fracture in his foot which prevented him from working out here at the Combine and could compromise his Pro Day as well. With character concerns as well, his best game tape being two years old, Seferian-Jenkins could drop in the draft a round or more depending on how his interviews went. Offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio was found to have an arthritic knee that may never be 100% again which will certainly drop him on most boards. On the other hand, while Jace Amaro dropped some balls and didn’t have as muscular a build as some would have liked to see, his tape says he is a 1st round tight end and that is where he will probably end up.
The Combine has some value, especially for prospects that need to answer certain questions about their game, their injury history or their character but it is clear it isn’t the be all end all that some make it out to be. The most important evaluation tool will always be game tape because in the end that is your resume as a prospect. The pundits will have their list of Combine winners and losers, but Eric Allen of the Jets noted on Jets Talk Live last Tuesday that the rankings change very little after the Combine. They are just one piece to a much larger puzzle.