NFL Combine not without Fool's Gold

PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence offers words of caution for Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson and his staff as they evaluate players at the annual NFL Combine this week.

Testing at the NFL combine begins Thursday, and there's a simple lesson Packers general manager Ted Thompson should keep in mind. Ahmad Carroll. Certainly, it's not time to give up on Carroll. Carroll, entering his third year in the league, may indeed become the type of cornerback Mike Sherman envisioned when he selected him with the 25th pick of the first round in 2004.

That's old news. So let's go to some older news for perspective.

For most of the NFL's history, there was no scouting combine. Teams would watch tape on players, and players they were interested in would be invited for a workout and interview. Needless to say, that's not exactly an efficient use of time, for the teams or the players. Spearheaded by former Dallas personnel guru Gil Brandt, the Cowboys joined with the 49ers, Seahawks and Bills to form a four-team combine, in which they shared medical information on 50 or so prospects.

Other teams started forming their own mini-combines. In 1983, the NFL held its first leaguewide scouting combine.

It's turned out to be blessing, and not just because it makes it convenient for the teams and the players. Instead of 50 prospects, more than 320 players will attend this year's combine, which begins today and ends Tuesday. Some diamonds in the rough will emerge who otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

All of which brings us back to Carroll. A mistake that's been repeated again and again over the years - and will be repeated again and again forever - is teams become so infatuated with numbers that they forget the, well, numbers.

Athletic numbers, such as repetitions in the bench press, shuttle-run times and 40-yard dash clockings, too often overshadow football numbers, such as rushing yards, tackles and interceptions. IQ tests overshadow football IQ. Psychological tests overshadow the character a player has exhibited for years.

In the case of Carroll, Mike Sherman - who was the Packers' general manager as well as coach at the time - fell in love with Carroll's combine numbers. He covered the 40-yard dash in an amazing 4.26 seconds. Yes, Carroll was short, Sherman acknowledged, but he had a tremendous vertical jump and long arms to make up for it. That's all well and good, but perhaps Sherman should have taken a longer look at Carroll's football resume.

In three collegiate seasons covering 36 games and 29 starts, Carroll intercepted four passes. During his two seasons as a full-time starter, Carroll broke up only 12 passes. It all adds up to a player, who, in a favorite phrase uttered often by NFL personnel people, "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane."

That's not to say the combine isn't a valuable tool.

Ron Dayne left the University of Wisconsin as the NCAA's career rushing leader. He's been an NFL bust, however, and the reason for it should have been easy to see at the combine. Yes, Dayne was productive in college, but his speed in the first 10 yards is far too slow to be an impact player in the NFL, where almost everyone is exceptionally quick in the first 10 yards.

The NFL combine should be like your beer, cheese and brat consumption: Everything in moderation.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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