Double Standard?

Many people value the NFL Combine very highly and many others will tell you that it's really not that big of a deal. Most teams have their draft boards finished for the most part before the combine even rolls around. If that's the case, why is so much made of a player running a poor 40-yard dash or not even running at the combine? Is there a double standard?

"I don't like to change my opinion on a player based on workouts. It's all about the tape. The eye in the sky doesn't lie. Live by that, and you'll be fine." is what NFL writer Pete Prisco, who has attended the NFL Combine many times told me when I asked him about the importance of it.

Many analysts will criticize players for not participating in certain events at the NFL Combine, instead electing to wait until their pro-days to do things like throw the ball or run the 40-yard dash. When players choose to do this, many people will begin to throw up red flags about the player. For instance, many teams were looking to see what Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain was going to run in his 40-yard dash, but he opted at the last minute not to run and instead wait for his pro-day. A clear reason why was never really given, but it began to make some people question his "competitiveness".

Really? You want to tell me Rolando McClain now has questions about his competitiveness because he decided not to run at the Combine?

So when a player decides to wait until ideal conditions to perform in front of people who are essentially evaluating him for a job... it means he's not competitive? Ask Florida cornerback Joe Haden how he feels now that he decided to be "competitive" at the NFL Combine. Haden ran very disappointing times in the 40 yard dash of 4.57 and 4.60 respectively. In essence, Joe Haden may have cost himself top 10 pick status and the millions that accompany it by deciding to be "competitive". So in a case like this, who hurt their stock more? McClain for opting to wait to run under ideal conditions or Haden for choosing to run and putting up very disappointing times? Either way, both are likely still going to be top 15 picks in April's draft, but if the combine really isn't a big deal like many analysts want fans of teams to believe, where is there such an importance put on it when it's all over?

Exactly how much credence do you put in Joe Haden's slow time? You'll have many draft analysts tell you to ignore poor 40 times from someone like Joe Haden because on the film they "play fast". I will agree that Joe Haden's poor 40-yard dash time didn't raise any flags for me, as I've watched him enough to know in full pads he's fast enough to play corner at the NFL level and be worthy of a top 10 selection. However, it's interesting when a projected top 10 pick like Joe Haden runs a slow 40 you're told to ignore it, but when someone like such as Florida State safety Myron Rolle, who is a projected mid to late round selection, runs a 4.68 40-yard dash it's used more as a "see, he's too slow". Well, if Rolle is too slow to play safety in the NFL at a clip of 0.08 seconds slower than Joe Haden, why should I ignore Joe Haden's time and not Myron Rolle's? What's the difference? It's either important or it isn't, right? Now, I'm not saying Myron Rolle is on the same level talent wise as Joe Haden, but it does put how work outs are viewed differently into perspective.

This isn't limited to 40 yard dash times, either.

Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour opted not to throw at the NFL Combine, because he wanted to wait until his Pro Day when he could throw with wide receivers he was familiar with. I'll agree it's a pretty trivial excuse as most NFL scouts are not going to knock points for not being in rhythm for the 5-8 throws your going to have with random wide receivers. That said, you can you blame LeFevour for wanting scouts to see him in the best possible form? It will have a bearing on his paycheck, after all. With LeFevour opting to pass on throwing the football, it again led many to question if he was hiding something or lacked some competitiveness. This is all after Dan LeFevour played in the Senior Bowl a few weeks prior, where scouts were able to see him practice all week with receivers he was unfamiliar with and making NFL throws. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow also opted not to throw at the Combine, citing that he is reconstructing his elongated throwing motion and wanted to wait until his pro-day to unleash Tim Tebow version 2.0 to the NFL scouting world. Does someone want to tell me they're going to question Tebow's "competitiveness" by opting to wait until his pro-day, under ideal conditions?

Then on the flip side you have Cincinnati's's Tony Pike, who undoubtedly hurt himself over the weekend at the combine by throwing the ball and failing to impress scouts. His passes often fluttered and it raised questions about his arm strength. With Pike's poor performance at the combine, it could knock him from being one of the top five at his position entering the draft and potentially out of the second round where he is currently projected. I wonder which Tony Pike would prefer, the questions about his perceived lack of "competitiveness" or an unimpressive performance in front of scouts and general managers from all 32 NFL teams? Sure, a good pro-day from Tony Pike could potentially bump him back up the list but he'll still have the poor combine performance looming over his head. He'll constantly have to remove that combine performance from the heads of scouts and GM's at his pro-day and individual team work outs.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock weighed in on this issue--

"We've had close to 100% participation for getting injuries now with most of the non-quarterback players. And from my perspective the whole quarterback thing is kind of interesting. And I think it's mostly an insecurity from the quarterback side. And I think some of the agents push the fact that you want to throw the football at home, on your Pro day, to wide receivers that you know so that when you hit your fifth step on a five-step you know where they're going to be. You're not going to overthrow or underthrow. It doesn't look bad.

There's a comfort level waking up in your own bed, not being in a strange place. I get all that. But from my perspective -- and I don't say this because I'm an NFL Network guy, I'm just a football guy here. It's all about the competition. You mentioned a controlled environment for the quarterback. You're indoors in a dome. It's never going to get any better as far as type of condition you're throwing under.

And the scouts don't really care if the ball hits the ground. What they want to see is your footwork. They want to see the ball come out of your hand. They want to see what kind of velocity you have on the same field standing next to your competition."

I'm not going to sit here and tell you the Combine isn't important, because it is, but it's not the end all be all many analysts want to make it out to be. From Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, "It's important because it allows GM's and head coaches to be exposed to all of the top players at one time. It's very efficient with their busy schedules". The Combine is an important tool that teams use to confirm what they've seen on film and to separate clumps of similarly graded players on their boards, but choosing not to run or running a disappointing time isn't going to destroy years of film that the scouts have been studying for months on end.

So, don't get too caught up with what happens at the NFL combine.


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