Bet at least a few of you wondered where I was during the Combine weekend. I would tell you I was indeed watching and thinking about what was going on in Indy. I have all too often made a comment on Twitter about what is happening only to have something happen to totally contradict what I have opined within minutes, if not hours. So with Colin sitting up in Ottawa watching snow flakes float past his window, I watch and watch, and think and think, go to bed and wake up to do it all over again. Rest assured I did take pages of notes, in addition to my mental memory bank.
Even though I am, on the one hand, disappointed when one of these top QB prospects says he won’t throw at the Combine, or even worse says he’ll do everything else but throw, I do get their point. To a large extent the Combine is not a great measuring device for them. In their throwing work with the wideouts they often find themselves getting a few throws and then stepping out for the other QB to throw a couple. Clearly these guys can get a lot more out of putting on an extended throwing session, as scripted with their QB “coach”, at their college team’s Pro Day. They also get to throw to receivers they have worked with in game conditions.
I also get peeved with other position players who bulk up for strength testing at the Combine, but then pass on many of the on-field drills like 3-Cone, 40-time and more. They go back to performance camps, trim off 10 lbs. and then run there at their Pro Day. There is no perfect way to test all of these athletes, but I would propose one change for the League to think about. Since the Combine started out as a medical hub to conduct extensive medical examinations at one central location, with the same staff of medical techs and doctors examining every player, let the League invite players, divided in two categories: Medical Only or Medical & Field participation. For those waiting to save something for their Pro Day, make them leave right after their Indy medical component is complete. Give them one day for team interviews after the medicals if desired, but don’t let them tae up space and be a distraction while others are working to prove themselves.
Then for on-field workouts I would suggest the NFL establish about a dozen workout components by position group and select say 6 from that dozen for actual performance at random, every year. Performance Camps have rendered much of what the NFL teams are trying to test for almost useless as players train for specific workouts every year. Almost every player has become a modern-day MIKE MAMULA. And as I have heard hundreds of times, ask an NFL player the last time he ran a 40-yard dash, and almost all will tell you at a Pro Day or the Combine.
Having wasted my breath to spit that all out let’s move on.
To my eyes there were 3 player performances that just stood out from the over 300 that took place in Indianapolis: two good, or maybe I should say great, and one just pitiful.
SAQUON BARKLEY/RB/PENN STATE was clearly the most dominant performer at this year’s Combine. His first big win was coming in as a fill sized 233 lb. RB. Then he quietly went thru just about everything he was asked to do. Hopefully, there were no issues at all with his medical results. He was the fastest full-time RB in the building with a 4.40/40 time, which ranked second only to track athlete NYHEIM HINES and his 4.38. His 29 reps in the Bench Press, not only topped the RB group, but pretty much blew away everybody but NICK CHUBB, who matched him. He rocketed up to 41″ on his vertical jump, which also led the group. He almost looked nonchalant in receiving drills, taking a hands-catch only approach. I think his work in Indy was akin to putting the cherry on the top of the sundae. And by the way, he was even more impressive during team interviews, from what I have heard. This is a generational prospect.
SHAQEM GRIFFIN/LB/UCF was a feel-good personal story coming into the Combine. Just his presence at the event was a milestone, for a young man who is inspirational to millions with his accomplishments on the football field, with only one hand. If you haven’t heard his story then shame on you, but I’ll not duplicate that info here. But what NFL Personnel people found out over the long weekend is that there is much more in the locker room and out on the field that Mr. Griffin represents. He was not among the initial Combine invitees. But after a strong week of work at the Senior Bowl in Mobile he got an invite to Indy. And he blew things up with a Bench Press count of 20, using a prosthetic device on his left arm to grip the bar. Unfathomable people! Most folks were still celebrating his lifting feat, when he went out and crushed his 40-yard run with a time of 4.38. Word is that throughout the process, both with NFL team reps and his workout teammates, he was a energy giver with his positive mental attitude. Now it remains for NFL teams to determine where he belongs on Draft Weekend in April.
Now let us spend just a few sentences on the most disappointing performance I have seen in as long as I can remember at the Combine; the performance of ORLANDO BROWN/OT/OKLAHOMA. This behemoth appears to be the opposite of Mr. Griffin. He is a massive human being, and is blessed with the genes of an NFL star/father of the same name, who was known as Zeus during a distinguished playing career. Orlando was the starting LT for the Oklahoma football program. The highlight of his Combine was early on when measurements were collected. He was 6’077 and weighed 345 lbs. His hands were 9 3/4″ and his arms were 35″ long. These are the numbers of a man-mountain prototype NFL OT. And then he went out on the testing field and his world crumbled. He lumbered to a 5.85/40-time. He managed only 14 reps on the Bench Press platform. I will not bore you with all of his “bad” numbers, but they were bad. I had watched him in 4 games during the Sooners 2017 schedule. I felt he looked OK, but some of that was simply his size to dominate smaller opponents. I did not have him as a First Rounder on my lists, but now I don’t even have him in my Top 100. One well known, and respected, Draft Analyst (who had a previous life as an NFL scout) tweeted out; ‘BROWN does not have a competitive bone in his body’. That’s a pretty strong condemnation folks! His performance was so poor that my distaste almost turned into pity.
In my next Combine Chapter I will comment on some of the players who surprised me the most, in a positive way, with their work at the Combine.