Don't Get Fooled by Combine Stats

The official numbers from February's NFL Scouting Combine have finally been released, and this year's players put up some very impressive performances. But that doesn't mean they can play football.

Despite the fact that the Monsters of the Midway won't be on the clock in the 2010 NFL Draft until Round 3, they benefit from a class of prospects considered awfully deep at many of their need positions.

According to Frank Cooney, the publisher of, here are some of the feats achieved last month at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis:

64 players – all offensive or defensive linemen – weighed at least 300 pounds, led by Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody's 354 pounds. ...

45 of the 46 offensive linemen who stepped on the scale weighed at least 300 pounds, and three of those 300-pounders ran faster than five seconds in the 40, with the best by 314-pound Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell at 4.75, which was better than many linebackers, tight ends and running backs. ...

Offensive linemen as a group had their best combine averages this century in the 20-yard run (2.98 seconds), 40-yard run (5.24) and bench press (27 reps). ...

Defensive tackles had their best averages this century in 10 yards (1.71), 20 yards (2.86), 40 yards (5.05) and the bench press (30 reps). ...

18 players soared at least 40 inches in the vertical jump, topped by Fresno State cornerback A.J. Jefferson's 44-inch leap. ...

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller tied the Indianapolis combine record in the 20 yards of 2.41 seconds, set by East Carolina running back Chris Johnson – now of the Tennessee Titans – in 2008.

Since the Bears could use another weapon for Jay Cutler, maybe they should jump on Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford, whose 40-yard dash time of 4.22 seconds was the second fastest of any prospect in the 2000s. He could be another Jerome Mathis.

You know, Jerome Mathis. He was a fourth-round pick of the Texans out of Hampton in the 2005 draft, helped tremendously by the fact that he ran a 4.26 at the combine. In 17 career games, he recorded six receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown – he hasn't caught an NFL pass since 2007 and was last with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. To be fair, he was an All-Pro as a kick returner his rookie season, averaging 28.6 yards per return and scoring a pair of TDs. But at 5-11 and 193 pounds, about the same size as Devin Hester, Mathis flamed out as a wideout.

OT Bruce Campbell
Getty Images: Scott Boehm

Because Chicago should add another blocker to protect Cutler, perhaps they can take a look at Arkansas guard Mitch Petrus, whose 45 reps on the bench press tied for the most of any prospect this decade. He might be another Scott Young.

You know, Scott Young. He was a fifth-round pick of the Eagles out of BYU in the 2005 draft, assisted no doubt by the fact that he did 43 reps on the bench press at the combine. Never once starting a regular season game, he is best remembered for being called for a false start in the 2007 divisional playoff game against New Orleans, negating a fourth-quarter, fourth-down completion from Jeff Garcia to Hank Baskett. Philadelphia was forced to punt and never got the ball back, losing 27-24. Young retired in 2009 just a few weeks after signing with the Broncos as a free agent.

As ESPN's annoying anchor Kenny Mayne might say, "Football games aren't played on paper. They're played inside television sets."

Sometimes, paying attention to the numbers can work. Take receiver Johnny Knox, for instance, whose 4.29 in the 40 last February tied for the ninth fastest of the decade. Despite coming from a small school in Abilene Christian that didn't face any top-quality competition, Knox was fantastic as a rookie in the Windy City. Not only did he catch 45 passes for 527 yards and five touchdowns, but he averaged 29.0 yards on 32 kickoff returns – scoring on a 102-yarder – and ended up being invited to the Pro Bowl. Had Knox run a 4.49 instead, chances are the Bears never draft him and chances are he doesn't have the same kind of immediate success on Sunday.

But being a great athlete doesn't make you a great player, as fans have discovered watching Danieal Manning play in Chicago the last four years. Also from Abilene Christian, and considered the best combination of power and speed on the entire roster, Manning has bounced around from safety to corner to nickel and back again so many times, it's hard to keep track of where he's going to be next – strong safety, by the way. Having all that speed has helped him catch up to enemy wideouts faster, but only after they've already burned him. Super Bowl XLI was the most glaring example. With 10 Bears playing one defense but Manning playing another, Reggie Wayne hauled in a 53-yard scoring strike that robbed Chicago of its early momentum.

The Scouting Combine is important, no question about it, but using 40-yard dash times or bench-press reps as the sole reason to select players is not the way to build a winner in this league.

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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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