Monday, February 16, 2009

Advice For Those Who Plan on Watching the Combine

This week (technically the 18th-24th) starts the NFL Combine. The annual job fair for college players looking to be drafted by any of the 32 teams. Instead of resumes, players participate in a bunch of drills, interviews, IQ tests and are measured, poked and prodded so teams can determine who's the best of the best and who are potential busts. Do you really learn a lot at the combine? Some people think so. Having a good or bad combine performance can radically elevate or drop your draft status (along with Senior Bowl performance, Pro Day workouts and of course actual game footage). However, the combine also has made really good "workout warriors" go high in the draft and become complete busts when they actually go on the field and have to take hits from 300 pounders. Remember, drafting NFL talent is an art and not a science. There is no master formula that says if Player A can run the 40 in X seconds, is this tall and this heavy he'll be the next Walter Payton or Joe Montana.
But this week is great for the football fan (especially those fans who's teams didn't make the playoffs) since something NFL related is actually happening and usually other things (like FA discussions and player re-signings) take place as well. But I would like to warn you if this is your first time watching the combine.......

It Is Incredibly Boring.

This will be my third year actively watching the combine and while I'll probably watch a large portion of it live when I'm home (to provide you 10-12 readers of IIWII with breaking news and commentary), normally after I watch a few hours I start to wonder why I'm wasting my time. The Combine lacks the drama that you get from the draft (which I find at times more interesting than where the players wind up) and obviously you don't get any football action. So, it's slightly less entertaining than watching the Pro Bowl or a pre-season game not featuring your team (I'd say it's really about as entertaining as watching a baseball game in mid-May or watching NBA basketball now).

Plus, it's hard to watch the player(s) that you really hope your team will draft in the first round. The last two years I tried to focus on Branden Albert and Amobi Okoye and the way the combine is run you only see that player for a few seconds and then a bunch of guys you aren't focusing on. So unless you know what every college player looks like without the helmet while they're's hard to tell who's who.

But if you still plan on watching, here's some tips on maximizing your combine experience without being bored to tears and spending 10 hours on the couch:

1. DVR, TiVO, or set your VCR and record the combine- Unless you feel like you have to watch it live. DON'T. By doing this you cut out commercials (You'll thank me for this. NFL Network only shows about 2-3 commercials a day and after awhile they will drive you crazy. One year it was Snickers' Happy Peanut Song:

I like this commercial, but after seeing it 1,000 times in a day you'll be begging for a quick death.) and stuff you really could care less about ( I will probably skip the QB interviews and such because I could care less about where Stafford and Sanchez wind up- they won't be in Dallas, NY or Philly and the Redskins better not draft either WE NEED O and D LINEMEN!!!!).

2. Listen to Mike Mayock and ignore the other commentators (for the most part). I like Mayock because when it comes to player analysis he's thorough and he shows both positives and negatives on the player. He doesn't just show highlight reels.

3. Don't believe anything that GMs/Coaches/Owners say when interviewed. Nothing they say about prospects or players on the roster about to become free agents should be taken as truth. They all have their top, super-duper, triple dog dare, classified, ultra, secret plans in place and don't plan on sharing with the fans, media or any other teams. Remember, from now until UDFA rookies are signed (post-draft), everything is a bargaining chip.

4. Also, take everything the players say with a huge grain of salt. If the player has a good agent, they will speak in nothing but "Athlete Speak" (you know, being graceful praising everybody and talking about working hard) which is just as useless information as what the GMs/coaches are telling us. Again, they are trying to do everything to be drafted as high as possible (higher draft= bigger contract).

5. Don't expect much focus on day two draftees. Matter of fact don't expect a lot of focus on players that won't be first rounders. I'd expect to see a lot of coverage on Crabtree, Maclin, the four top OTs, Beanie Wells, Moreno, the top QB prospects and some of the top D prospects. Unless somebody really wows at the combine.

6. Watch the wrap-up shows or Total Access. You may be able to skip the combine coverage completely by watching the wrap-ups. But you might miss something that's important to you as well.

7. Don't believe the hype. I don't care how a draftee does at the combine if he doesn't look good on game tape or fits your team's scheme. Go and find some highlights. Figure if this player fits what your team needs. Don't base your mock off of how draftees perform at the combine.

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