Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Underwear Olympics

First off, I love the NFL Combine. Check that, I'm obsessed with the NFL Combine. So expect a few more thoughts in the next coming days regarding what is going on with workouts as they happen. If you follow on a religious basis as I do, it has recently coined it the Underwear Olympics poking fun at Under Armour's recent takeover of combine apparel. Friday kicked off the event with weigh-in's and other measurables, giving teams the opportunity to see how the athlete's sized up as compared to their size listed on team rosters. (which is wrong 100% of the time by the way)

To start, I don't share the view popularly expressed by many in the media downplaying the combine's effectiveness at identifying talent. While I do agree that 40 yd dash times are a tad overrated, I believe the individual drills do in fact serve a purpose by giving teams an opportunity to see up close how players match up directly against others at their position. It's one thing to simply watch game film on each player, but it is another to be able to watch these athletes go through the same drills, and the same motions right next to the best of the best from around the country. This gives scouts the opportunity to weed out the "small school" or "product of a system" bias that is so often brought up when evaluating talent.

For example, I am against all of the top tier QB's refusing to throw at the combine. Many of these prospects claim they would rather throw at their pro-days because they would be more "comfortable". Bullshit. In reality, if I'm a scout, I would rather see these guys throw when they are out of their comfort zone. This is the NFL, you are only allowed to be in your comfort zone for half of the season, playing 8 home games. The other half of the season you are in hostile territory with a crowd that is consciously trying to throw you off by screaming at the top of their lungs for the entire game. Plus, if you feel as though you are the best at your position, wouldnt you want every possible opportunity to show it? I feel like these guys are so deathly afraid of having an off-day they are actually hurting themselves rather then helping. If you throw bad at the combine, then worst case scenario you have an opportunity to redeem yourself at your pro-day. Joe Flacco's combine 2 years ago is a picture perfect example of how a player can shed his label as a small school prospect and shoot up draft boards through a strong combine showing being taken 18th overall. I think that worked out pretty well for Flacco and Baltimore as well, all he did in his rookie season was take the Ravens to an AFC Championship game.

I only caught some of the Tight End pass catching drills and Offensive Line drills today, but two players made an immediate impression on me. The first being premier OL prospect Bruce Campbell out of Maryland. This 6'6 315 lb monster ran a 4.78 unofficial 40 yd dash and benched 225 lbs 34 times. In a tackle heavy field, Campbell is the 5th ranked prospect who looks to be only improving his stock so far. The next prospect to keep an eye on is Jimmy Graham, a TE out of University of Miami. Graham has received a lot of attention because he was a four year basketball player at the U before switching to football this past season. He is extremely raw but has the size, 6'6 260 lbs, and skill-set to be an asset to any team. Graham looked extremely impressive in the TE drills and could be a steal.
***UPDATE*** (Graham ran a 4.56 official time in the 40 yd dash)

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