It’s February, which means that the ‘unwatchable’ period of football has begun. It starts with the NFL combine and then we get to the NFL draft–two of the most sleep-inducing events in sports–before the onslaught of (mostly meaningless) spring ball sessions arrive. Then there’s the summer camp period and events like the Elite 11 camp, which are overhyped and primarily serve the industry of self-appointed experts who make money off the hopes and dreams of aspiring recruits.
But back to the combine. Why anyone would want to sit around and watch players do drills is beyond me. The coverage of the event has this weird suspension of disbelief surrounding it. First off, the talking heads sit around and act like they aren’t sure how fast certain players are.
Take C.J. Spiller. He’s run 10.22 in the 100 meters. There’s really no need for him to run a 40-yard dash, as you can’t physically run 10.22 without being able to run 4.3 in the 40. Nevertheless, they line him up anyway.
Now, the thing with the 40 at the combine is that the guys are supposed to be electronically timed. However, every coach and scout is still there with a stopwatch. Why, praytell, if there is an electronic timer, is there a need for a hand time? The NFL network will dutifully report the ‘unofficial’ times from the stopwatches. But why report potentially faulty data at all?
The other factor is that these 40 times are run under ideal conditions. Most of these players have been training for the last two months–eating perfectly, getting enough sleep, drinking water, lifting the perfect amount of weight, working on every facet of their starts with a sprint coach and so on and so forth. The situation in which they run these 40s will never again be replicated. Once they are on a team, they will go back to their regular routine and will revert back to their normal speed. Yet, the NFL acts like these guys really run this fast all the time. These 40s give scouts and general managers plausible deniability if the player doesn’t pan out. “Well, he ran a 4.3…it wasn’t our fault he failed. We did our due diligence.”
That said, I think this draft class will go down as one of the best ever. The running back group alone is filled with so many quality players. I’m looking forward to seeing all these guys play at the next level. And I don’t need the combine to tell me how good they are.