Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Labor of Love: A Redskins Fan Guide to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine


This weekend the NFL will host more than 300 players at the annual scouting Combine in Indianapolis. More or less this is a job fair where all 32 potential employers will get to meet and determine which candidates they may want to have on their team. Instead of resumes, players are poked, prodded, take tests and perform drills to impress.

Do we really learn anything at all from The Combine?

Yes and No. You can see a players speed, how well they can take direction and some of the tangibles that coaches look for in players they want to fit their scheme. Unfortunately, we don't get to see the really important elements of the combine: the medical evaluations and the interviews.

The interviews are key. Usually a team has a player breakdown plays on a whiteboard, or ask character questions or even try to catch a player off guard to see how they respond to stress. In most cases the fans and media never learn what goes on behind closed doors. What we do find out is usually spread by a team or an agent trying to raise or lower a player's draft stock.

The Combine is one of the most anticipated events in the off-season for fans suffering from football withdrawal. For a player, it can help make or break a player's draft stock. For a team it can help set up it franchise for years to come. But do you want to know the biggest secret of The Combine, something the NFL Network doesn't want you to know?

It Is Incredibly Boring.
The is no hitting. It is incredibly repetitive (especially the 40's and the long jump) and the television coverage tends to focus more on select top prospects more than the entire group.
So with the Redskins not picking until around #51, is it even worth watching The Combine? Sure it is! It's football has something to do with the game we can't watch for a few months. Plus, it's the prologue to The Draft- the true non-football football event of the year.
So here's some tips to help you avoid sitting on your coach for ten hours straight and yet get all the coverage that you're looking for to master your mock drafts and show how you know who the Redskins will be taking from the 2nd to the 7th round.

1. DVR/Tivo/Hopper/VCR any footage you plan on watching. If you can avoid watching this live- Do It! Fast forward is your friend. NFL Network is notorious for playing the same three commercials over and over again. For your sanity's sake, skip the live coverage.

2. Focus on what Mike Mayock is focusing on in each drill. Mayock knows what to look for in every drill so pay attention on what he looks for in each drill and then make you own judgements.

3. Don't believe a single word that a Coach or GM is saying in interviews.We're in the middle of lying season in the NFL. Where information is kept under lock and key and the only leaked truths are leaked specifically to be a major smokescreen. Mike Shanahan never reveals anything anyway.

4. Don't believe the players interviews either. Players have been trained to speak in "athlete speak" (everything is great, talked to a bunch of teams, I'd go anywhere and play for any team- backup FB for the Raiders? Sure why not!) their comments are just as reliable as the Coaches and GMs.

5. You may have to work hard to scout late round talents. The NFL Network does try to show you everything, but in the end it's all about ratings. So obviously there will be a great deal of focus on the 1st round talent and less on guys who might be drafted in the 6th round.

6. Don't believe the hype. Just because a guy is quick running in a straight line with no pads on means he'll be the next superstar in the NFL. The Combine has created many a workout warrior that is drafted way to high and becomes a bust at the NFL level. So, take The Combine with a huge grain of salt. Drafting a player is a process that requires teams to look at multiple elements.

7. Follow the Need. Don't want to waste your weekend watching players that the Redskins won't draft (like quarterbacks)? My suggestion- watch the wrap up shows just to make sure you didn't miss anything and focus on the positions that you think the Redskins will address in the draft.
Days to watch:

Tuesday, Feb. 26th- Defensive Backs: If the Redskins don't draft a safety and corner at some point in the draft I'll turn in my draftnik card.

Saturday, Feb 23rd- TE's and OL: Fred Davis might not be back and the Redskins don't have a starting right tackle.

Combine coverage officially starts on Saturday on NFL Network.

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