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Frank Barone

The NFL Combine-How Important is it?

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By Frank Barone

Just like many fans I am an avid follower of college football, the New York Jets and professional football. The NFL combine is an opportunity to get a more detailed look at certain college players that we have watched or heard about and see how they grade out in the physical and intelligence tests they will be put through. For the players it will be like cramming for an exam in school, which we are all familiar with, only these tests could make or break their careers.

The players selected are determined by a Selection Committee, which is comprised of seven members. The Directors of both National and Blesto scouting services, which combined represent twenty-six NFL teams, are joined by five members of various NFL player personnel departments to form the committee. How do you tell how good a college football player is? The ideal way is to watch him play in actual games. Some variables to consider in this evaluation are technique, desire, athletic ability, and football intelligence. You have to factor in the talent level of the player’s team and of his opponents.

Every year in February, the NFL invites hundreds of draft eligible players to its Combine in Indianapolis, where teams get to check out these players up close. The teams get to see players in the same position and compare them doing the same measurable tests. The players get checked and looked over like a pound of sirloin at a meat market. At the combine the measurables consist of physical tests, like the 40-yard dash, bench reps and short shuttle, the Wonderlic and size measurements. Are these physical tests important? Certainly they are an indicator of a player’s athletic ability. But this does not necessarily reflect a player’s football ability.

The combine can validate the skills and athletic ability in a player. It can also expose the flaws and weaknesses in certain players, like having sub par agility and quickness tests in a running back and a lack of bench reps in an offensive lineman. I would rather have a great football player and a good athlete than an average football player and a great athlete. Did someone say Vince Young? You cannot coach athletic ability in a player but it could be far more important that the players you draft can be taught football skills and have the intelligence to utilize them. So take the NFL combine results as not the end all to how good a player will actually be in the NFL. Let’s check out the productivity of the player on the field where it actually counts instead of putting too much emphasis on a player’s performance on a training field or room under stimulated conditions.

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