NFL Veteran Combine. Such a simple concept that for years has never been tried. Starting in 2015, teams will be able to take a look at veteran players and how they shape up by running drills (similar to pro days and the NFL Scouting Combine) for NFL personnel executives to get a better look at players who may be on the cusp of making a team.
With 2015 NFL Free Agency well underway, many players have no need for a veteran combine. Instead, they are able to let their work on the field speak for itself. Evaluators are able to look at the tape to see how well they match up against premiere talent.
Many of the names heading to the NFL Veteran Combine don’t have that luxury. Names like Michael Sam, Felix Jones, and Michael Bush highlight a group of generally young, often overlooked player who still want to make it in the NFL. Curiously, Tim Tebow – still striving to be an NFL quarterback – has opted not to pursue the option. A lot of these players were given a shot, many weren’t and then discarded by the 32 NFL teams.
Matt Birk, NFL Director of Football Development, 14 year NFL center, Super Bowl champion, doesn’t want to see players so easily discarded. The NFL Veteran Combine is chance for players who would otherwise only get one or two looks from a couple teams to showcase their talents again. Over 2,000 applicants wanted to be a part of the combine, but the list had to be trimmed down. It’s still quite extensive.
The key with the NFL Veteran Combine is whether or not it is actually useful.
It’s great for players who are already on the cusp. Players like Michael Bush are going to get a chance for teams to get eyes on him again. Felix Jones gets to show why he was so successful a few seasons ago and why his sudden disappearance was an anomaly. For teams looking to add players like that, it’s an excellent venue to gauge how they shape up still.
Those players may just end up being benchmarks for some of the other lesser known names. Names like tight end Dallas Walker, safety Joe Young, or defensive end Nate Collins.
This even can be great for a few players and it could yield positive results for a few teams hoping to round out their rosters. A team may even end up with a player who can step in and start a few games. Maybe a player just needs a second chance to show how he could have been a super star. The NFL Veteran Combine could be that venue.
While Matt Birk and his staff will be evaluating the success from the organizational perspective, what matters most to teams and players is whether this creates a positive benefit to the team. It isn’t just employment or filling holes, but making sure that the teams are getting better as a result of the NFL Veteran Combine. That may be tough to measure.
I love the idea of a veteran combine and I hope it works out well. I hope that some guys catch on with teams that would otherwise not have noticed them. It’s excellent to see the NFL reaching out to those who still hunger to play the game.
The NFL Veteran Combine has a real shot at being an important evaluation tools annually.
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