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Does the NFL Combine Really Tell Us Anything?

February 24th, 2012 at 12:03 PM
By Chuck Chapman

The NFL Scouting Combine is underway in Indianapolis, drawing scouts, coaches and front office personnel from all over the NFL to size up (literally) this year's prospects for the NFL Draft. As usual, there is also an accompanying throng of media from all over the NFL to analyze and project where these players might fall come April. 

You can watch the whole process all weekend long on the NFL Network. The question is, after it's all over, how much do we really learn about these prospects? Is it really all that important to know how many reps a quarterback can do on the bench press? Yesterday's 40 yard dash timing of offensive linemen has to be one of the more humorous wastes of time that occurs on an annual basis. Except for New England's Dan Connelly returning a kickoff unexpectedly a few years ago, I doubt many offensive linemen will ever run 40 yards in one stretch, unless you're counting pre-game introductions when they come out of the tunnel.

The record holders in the various drills haven't really gone on to tremendous NFL success either. Sure, some of these "workout wonders" have vaulted up the draft boards based on their performances at the combine, but more often than not, their records are merely curiosities more than they are predictors of NFL success. 

Consider the great Yamon Figures, who holds the fourth best 40 time in combine history. That performance caused the Baltimore Ravens to draft Figures in the third round of the 2007 NFL draft, thinking he might be the deep threat at wide receiver they were missing. Figures NFL totals to this point: five catches for 103 yards. He does have two return touchdowns, but he's not gainfully employed in the NFL at the moment.

Mitch Petrus came out of Arkansas and holds the second best all-time bench press performance at the combine. That put him on the New York Giants radar so they spent a fifth round pick on him in 2010. Petrus will get a ring for being on the roster this season, but he didn't see much game action at guard.

The Bengals have/had their own workout wonder in Jerome Simpson, who they drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft. Simpson still holds the record for the broad jump drill at the combine. We saw those skills on display this season when Simpson went five yards in the air over an Arizona Cardinals defender to score possibly the greatest highlight reel touchdown ever. Other than that, Simpson's skill as a broad jumper didn't help him get on the field any faster or run his routes any better once he got his chance. Was there a question on the Wonderlic test about having drugs sent to your house?

Perhaps the all-time greatest workout wonder was Jeffery Maehl, a wide receiver out of Oregon who somehow went undrafted despite his dominating performance in all drills involving cones. Maehl torched the competition in the three-cone drill, holds the sixth overall spot in the 20-yard shuttle run and is fourth all-time in the 60 yard shuttle run. For all that, Maehl was signed by the Houston Texans' practice squad. Perhaps the Texans can petition the league to put cones on the field when Maehl is in the game.

Some players are going to have a great weekend working out in Indianapolis. Inevitably, there will be performances that will elevate a player's draft status and thus increase his paycheck considerably. It's not clear whether anything we learn this weekend will result in any more championships for a team. 

Maybe if they bring back the "Superstars" competition.

Tags: Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, NFL

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