So What Does The Combine Mean? Everything And Nothing

Joe Robbins

After spending four days at the 2013 NFL Combine in Indianapolis I know now that the days prospects spend in Lucas Oil Stadium mean everything and nothing at at the same time.

INDIANAPOLIS -- All the players cycling through the 2013 NFL Combine are finished with their media interviews as they'll either begin or end their on-field workouts on Monday and Tuesday. The Combine is the only event of its kind in any sport that I know of. Baseball players don't gather at Yankee Stadium in the winter to run the bases, throw fastballs and measure their bat speed. Basketball players don't do anything outside of play basketball either. The NFL is the only league that makes players answer thousands of questions, run in straight lines, lift weights, run back and forth and everything else you see them do on NFL Network.

So what does it all mean?

Everything.

Nothing.

There's no question that the Combine give NFL coaches and scouts a better idea about the guy that they're going to spend millions of dollars on in a couple months. Players answer thousands of questions on their past, what kind of person they are and what kind of locker room presence they can be. However, the answers to these questions are so incredibly canned and pre-scripted.

Even the players with some skeletons that are either in, or recently escaped from, their closet. like Monti Te'o or Alec Ogletree and especially Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu, the answers to questions about their past are pre-planned. All they have to say is that part of me is in the past, I learned from my mistakes, I want teams to see who I really am or that's in the past, I'm here to talk about football. That's it.

Of course, behind closed doors with coaches, the questions are likely a little more personal and the setting is maybe a little more intense, but just like any other job interview, it's all about saying what you want somewhat to hear.

How about the on-field drills? The 40-yard dash is, of course, important for certain positions, like running back, wide receiver and defensive back, but does it really show exactly what kind player you'll be.

This year Ontario McCalebb ran an amazing time of 4.34, but that's not indication of what he'll do on an NFL field agains an NFL defense. If you recall from last year's combine, former Florida Atlantic's Alfred Morris ran a somewhat slow time of 4.67. Playing for the Washington Redskins as a sixth-round pick, Morris finished the 2012 season as the league's second-leading rusher behind Adrian Peterson with 1,613 yards on the ground.

Some ragged on Montee Ball for running an unofficial 40 time of 4.62, saying he's not really exceptional at anything, but 77 touchdowns and over 5,000 rushing yards don't lie. Either did Morris' results on the field in 2012.

The combine is certainly important. Many players have drastically improved their draft stock by outperforming all others in Indianapolis, and many have hurt their draft stock by being nothing short of terrible. However, several coaches said during their press conferences on Thursday and Friday that game tape and seeing what a player does on the field is more important.

That being said, while 40-times, arm measurements, verticals and shuttle drills are important, don't put too much stock in them. What you can put stock in is results on the field and good, old-fashioned intuition.

So who do you really think is going to be good in the NFL?

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