How much stock goes into the NFL Combine?

As a former scout and scouting director for the last 27 years, I get a kick out of all the hype the media gives about prospects’ stock going up and down because of their performance at the combine. In reality, there really isn’t that much movement. First of all, players are expected to have great workouts at the combine. These kids have spent the last 6 to 8 weeks training for their workout. It has cost their agents in the neighborhood of $1,500-$2,000 per week to prepare them. They have spent hours each day practicing the 40-yard dash, the 20-yard shuttle, the 3-cone drill, the vertical jump, the standing long jump and the position drills that they do for the coaches. These have all become learned drills and habit. They should be able to do them well in their sleep! It surprises no one when a player does real well. To me the red flag is when he doesn’t do well. The combine is a 4-day job interview; if a prospect does not knock it out of the park with all the time he has had to prepare then that’s the problem and a red flag on the player.

Lucas Oil StadiumThe eyes of the NFL world are on Lucas Oil Stadium.

With that being said, the only “surprises” should come from players with little or no notoriety and underclassmen. For example, when I was a director and a small-school player that my scouts and I liked got invited to the combine I cringed because we would hope that 31 other teams wouldn’t find out what we already knew….that the kid was a “player!” Reality is there are few, if any, “secrets” and so if we liked a player, I’m sure many other clubs did also. The media on the other hand does not know about these kids and so when they perform as expected at the combine they think their “stock” has gone up.

When underclassmen declare for the draft, clubs don’t know quite as much about them. Yes, they have been scouted, but clubs have no verified measurable to work with. Most of the senior prospects have been weighed, measured and timed at junior “pro days” at their schools. Scouts don’t have that information on underclassmen so all they have to work with is estimates based on looking at the players and guessing their play speed. Their work at the combine is the first time a club gets actual height, weight and speed. Because of that, an underclassman’s stock can and does go up and down depending on what the “real” numbers are.

The other thing that always amused me was after the combine, the analysts would say that so and so jumped in front of another player because he ran a little bit faster or jumped a little higher. That can be far from the truth. It all depends on what grade a team had on a player. If he performed as expected then his grade should stay about the same. On top of that, clubs seldom have similar evaluations on players. I have always said that you could put five scouts in a room and ask them to evaluate the same player on four different tapes and the result would be five different opinions. It is a very subjective business. Also remember, no one is playing football at the combine, they are running around in shorts….it’s just a workout! Don’t let the “underwear Olympics” confuse you.

Wonderlic Scores

Greg McElroyICONFormer Alabama QB Greg McElroy was said to have scored a 48 on the Wonderlic.

I don’t know if Greg McElroy scored a 48 on the Wonderlic or not. I highly doubt it. Not because he isn’t capable of doing it, but because there is almost no way the score could have gotten out this soon. Years ago, before the Vince Young fiasco, the Wonderlic tests were scored by the group scouts and then given to combine officials. It was easy for a scout to “leak” a score if he so desired. That is not the case anymore. The group scouts no longer grade the tests. After the players take the test, the tests are placed in a sealed envelope and given to combine officials. The tests are graded off site and kept secure. The 32 teams are not given the results of the tests until days after the combine is over. On top of that the results are sent to ONLY one person per club with orders from the National Football League not to distribute the results to multiple people within the organization. This is to keep the scores secure.

If someone told McElroy he scored a 48 they were lying to him. I can almost guarantee that no one connected with the combine has any clue TODAY what McElroy scored. If someone gave him the score a week from today then that would be a different story.

Jones vs. Green

In January after the underclassmen declared for the draft, I wrote a post comparing A.J. Green to Julio Jones. I felt that they were similar prospects but that without knowing verified measurables it would be hard to choose between the two. I felt on tape that Jones was the better prospect because he was a more physical player. I also felt that the player who had the better workout would be the first receiver drafted. I was hoping that they both would work out at the combine because they would be working out in the same group on the same day in the same building under the same conditions and circumstances. You couldn’t ask for a better comparison of the two players than competing against each other. Well, the results are in and Jones had a superior workout, with a reported broken foot no less! He ran faster and jumped higher and looked a little more fluid. If I had to make the choice between the two I would still take Jones, but with that being said it wouldn’t surprise me if Green was the first receiver drafted. The difference in the workouts wasn’t so great that it’s an automatic. Chances are those clubs/scouts that preferred Green still do…..that’s the beauty of scouting.

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