What it means to be a top performer at the combine
The combine is a place where athletes can showcase how they perform in certain activities. Sometimes it is a glimpse of the type of player they will be in the NFL.
I went back and looked at notes from some NFl sites about the 2011 NFl combine. I really wanted to see who performed well and who didn't. Then I wanted to compare that to the career's in the NFL. Some of the findings were interesting.
Cam Newton was labeled as a 2011 NFL combine loser. He was accused of having attitude problems and underwhelmed when throwing the football. In the same notes, Christian Ponder was labled as a winner and it was mentioned he would generate first round buzz. He was chosen number 12 overall and I would guess the Vikings would call for a do over on that one.
We have talked about it several times, but Vontaze Burfict was labeled as a loser of the 2012 NFL combine. I think the Bengals are just fine with the decision to sign him after the draft. Winners of the class included RG III, Kirk Cousins, Stephen Hill and Devon Wylie. I have no problem taking the loser from that list of players when he turns into a pro-bowler like Burfict.
In 2009 Rey Maualuga was labeled as a combine winner while Matthew Stafford carried the badge as a loser. In 2008 Brian Brohm was said to have outdone Matt Ryan.
The combine can do wonders for an athletes draft position. If there is a marginally ranked player that enters the combine and destroys the workouts, there is great potential that he can improve his draft stock and be selected (aka Devon Wylie). On the other hand, draft stock can be affected by a poor showing in a workout in the same manner.
When I look back at the notes on some of the current Bengals high profile players I see similar hits and misses. Andy Dalton's notes were pretty spot on:
STRENGTHS Dalton is a well prepared player that scans the whole field and makes solid decisions. Has a quick release, a strong arm and is an accurate passer, especially on the run. Has great mobility in the pocket and shows very good instincts as a runner. Extremely productive collegiate career.
WEAKNESSES On the shorter side and has a three-quarter delivery which will likely result in a lot of batted passes. Deeper throws will float at times when he does not set his feet. Played in a spread offense and will have to learn a pro style system. Does not always feel pressure in the pocket which nullifies his good mobility.
A.J. Green had similar accuracy:
STRENGTHS Green possesses prototypical height, a wide catch-radius, and very good speed. A true vertical, big play threat. Explodes off the line. Eats up cushions immediately. Doesn't idle down in-and-out of his breaks. Displays the ability to uncover against zone. Can haul in the poorly thrown pass and wins most jump balls. Productive over the middle. Very competitive.
WEAKNESSES Only possesses adequate bulk. Can be harassed at the line by physical press-man corners with good size. Bigger defensive backs will compete with him for 50-50's. Would like to see more sustained effort and physicality while run blocking. Suspended by NCAA for selling a jersey.
A miss would have been on the Bengals Geno Atkins:
STRENGTHS Atkins has been a productive SEC defensive tackle. He plays with great intelligence and instincts and was a good student at Georgia as well. Plays with good motor and doesn't stop till the whistle. Displays impressive quickness off the ball and good lateral agility in pursuit. Has impressive pass rushing ability for a defensive tackle.
WEAKNESSES He's undersized as a defensive tackle lacking adequate height and bulk. Doesn't have the power to consistently hold up at the point of attack against the run and is overpowered by bigger blockers. Must become more consistent with his hand use.
Sometimes the immeasurables are what is missed in a skills competition. The Bengals have the premiere defensive tackle in the league and his size has not seemed to hinder him in the slightest so far in his career.
We will continue to scour the reports and then dig them up again at draft time to get any hint into what kind of player the future draft picks of the Bengals are going to turn into. Just remember, it is not a science and as the saying goes, "Sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose some.".