The Under Armour Olympics are upon us. Every year arguments can be heard both for and against using the combine as an instrument for evaluation. Some believe that the best way to evaluate a player is by watching the tape. The tape doesn’t lie. I have to agree with this philosophy, especially if that player played at a big time college program. If I’m watching a Div. II player, that player better be absolutely unstoppable against lesser competition.
There are others who might put too much stock into the combine. These guys get flat out enthralled by the combine events -especially the 40! Now most of us know better, but I read something just this morning stating that Manti Te’o could launch himself back into top 10 consideration with a good 40 time. No, I’m not going to crack a joke about “making something up.” I refuse to do so no matter how strong the temptation may be. However, I just don’t see how a fast 40 time could help Te’o accomplish anything. It’s definitely not going to make me change my mind about him. My mind was made up after the championship game, not because Alabama is that good (even though they are) but because when his team needed him most, he didn’t deliver. It was almost like he shied away from the big moment. Unfortunately if Te’o runs a 4.5, I’m sure some team will begin changing their tune. Mel Kiper’s hair will shake feverishly as he begins to tell us how great of a pro Manti will be.
As impressive as Dontari Poe’s 40 time was last year, I just can’t put too much stock into the combine. There are other drills, better drills, that will give us a better idea of just how these players’ athletic traits will transfer onto the football field and even then you just never know.
Am I a fan of the combine? Yes, I am. I love watching these kids come out and show these scouts what they can do, even if it really isn’t “football.” There are a few players I cannot wait to see light up these events, and somehow raise their draft stock.
- Lane Johnson, LT, Oklahoma:Did I hear right? Is he running his 40 in the 4.8 range? Even though this skill is about as useless as a poop flavored lollipop as a left tackle, I want to see a 6’7″ 303 pound man run that fast. He did run down Jordan Poyer at the Senior Bowl after his interception. I don’t normally watch the OL run their 40, but this year I will for this reason alone.
- Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: Ansah’s stock is up. This guy might be as raw as they come, not having played an awful lot of football. He is a beast, however, and there are clamourings that he could crawl into the top 10. Either way, as a Jacksonville Jaguars fan, whenever a pass rusher begins to climb, I pay attention. I originally had Barkevious Mingo ahead of Ansah, but all of a sudden the Mingo-haters reared their ugly heads. You know what I’m talking about-whenever a prospect begins to climb, someone comes out of nowhere to bring them back down to earth. As far as Ansah goes, I am looking at his raw athletic skills. The combine actually plays in his favor. He may be able to “out-athlete” other pass rushers and push himself further into the 1st round. Is Ansah’s ceiling higher than Mingo’s?
- Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: QB Geno Smith is participating in ALL combine drills. If he performs well, look for a team to reach come April. If he performs poorly, look for a team to still reach come April. I’m very curious to see how he does. This is a player who was hot at the beginning of last college season, then immediately cooled off. Let’s see if he can cement himself as the “best QB in the draft” conversation.
- Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama vs. Jonathan Cooper, OG, UNC: Even though Warmack is regarded as the best offensive guard in this draft class…well apparently the best one in years, there are camps that believe Cooper would be better suited for a zone blocking scheme. I’d like to see how Warmack moves in these drills. If he is as good as advertised, then he’ll be able to play any scheme. If anything, I’m sure Warmack will be amazing at the benchpress.
It’s going to happen. Someone is going to come out of nowhere and set the NFL draft season ablaze with eye-popping numbers. It’s always exciting, but it’s only for the season. As closely as I plan on watching the combine, I have to constantly remind myself not to put too much stock into what I’m seeing. Things change once the pads come on.
-David R. Johns