We’ll get to some Friday fun in a minute, but first please bear with me and indulge a quick-ish Combine PSA. If you watch the Combine this weekend and early next week, I want you to do something. No, I plead with you to do something: ignore the numbers.
Alright, that may be a slight exaggeration, and it also sounds completely insane. When you’re watching, say, the 40-yard dash — and if you’re subjecting yourself to the Combine, that’s the only event you’ll care about — the times on either extreme usually matter, especially at the positions where speed is a required part of the job description. You’re welcome to have your eyebrows askew if a wide receiver’s straight line speed is far below that of his peers, for example.
But largely the numbers matter little, or at least they don’t matter nearly as much as the hardcore Dratnik will have you believe. Valuations and grades don’t fluctuate dramatically after the tiny sample size of two runs, a handful of jumps vertically and horizontally, and whatever happens with those three cones.
While making an app comparison between the draft and SATs, Grantland’s Bill Barnwell soundly described the gap between how the viewer approaches the Combine, and how teams see it:
In reality, most of us are thinking about the combine the wrong way. It’s less a test of athleticism and more a test of preparation. A team might move a guy up its draft board if he blows them away athletically or drop him if he loafs through drills, but more so, teams want to see players show up in shape and perform to something resembling expectations. If you show up to the combine and somehow manage to fail a drug test your agent has told you is coming, chances are you’re probably not going to impress at the next level. Just about every player who is expected to go in the first few rounds of the draft goes through a training regimen designed to prepare them for the various combine drills, too.
For teams the much more important part of the Combine happens far removed from cameras, when coaches and front office brass get one-on-one time with prospects and potential picks. It’s an opportunity to test them mentality, and offer a far more authentic test than the Wonderlic (which means absolutely nothing). However, the combine is but one tool available in their evaluation process, and one that’s far behind tape study, when the quality of a prospect is measured by actually watching them play football.
For the fan, the Combine serves as an educational forum. While each prospect runs or jumps or whatever, you’ll be exposed to the endless fountain of knowledge from leading gurus like Mike Mayock. Listening to him this weekend will make you both more knowledgeable about this year’s draft class, and you’ll be a better person in general. Consider that your mission: to learn something about players you largely know nothing about, instead of viewing the Combine as a place where draft grades can spike instantly in either direction.
End PSA/rant. Now let’s get to some recent Combine highlights, and some funnies.
Shamarko Thomas left it all out on the field, including his body and face
As television has taught us, watching people fall is great fun once you know they’re not seriously injured. Watching objects hit the groin area is also a special and shameless delight (“Man Getting Hit By Football” is still a cult classic).
But please note Shamarko Thomas’ time. Despite stumbling for his last few steps and eventually inserting his face into the Lucas Oil Field turf, Thomas still ran a 4.38. This is your daily reminder that football humans are not normal humans
Elsewhere in not human: Dontari Poe
Remember when I said that thing about Combine numbers mattering mostly when they’re on either extreme? Yeah, this is one of those times.
Dontari Poe arrived at the 2012 Combine weighing 346 pounds, making him the fourth largest prospect in Indianapolis since 2000. Logic tells us someone with that girth should be less than efficient at moving between points A and B. But Poe is an alien being and posted a 4.87.
For the best perspective on how much Poe made scouts slobber over themselves, I give you this…
Fun with Numbers: RGIII’s 4.41 40 is proportionate to a 346-lb man running it in 6.84 secs. And Poe (at 346 lbs) just did it in 4.87 secs.
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) February 27, 2012
But wait, Terron Armstead is also large and stupid fast
Usually watching offensive linemen run the 40 is equal parts comedy and the worst waste of your life. But last year Terron Armstead stepped up at 306 pounds and ran those 40 yards in 4.65 seconds. At the same combine Tyrann Mathieu was only narrowly ahead of Armstead with a time of 4.50, and he’s 120 pounds lighter.
The tumble here receives a four out of 10, as Vick Ballard has nothing on Thomas above. But like that rapid descent to earth, Mayock’s reaction is very Mayock (OOOH ooooh owww owww owww).
Out of context, this may seem meh. But when you’ve made the decision to put yourself through hours of Combine coverage and do it on purpose, this is the height of the calamity in your life.
How large men really run
This isn’t at the Combine, because Andre Smith abruptly left the Combine without participating since he was wildly unprepared and out of shape. So I’m making an exception, because one of the greatest moments in 40-yard dash history is this iconic image…
Despite tanking his workouts with his extra flab and finishing with only 19 reps in the bench press, Smith was still selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with their sixth overall pick. At first that looked so Bengals, but after dropping some weight Smith has turned into a fine left tackle, and last spring he was signed to a three-year contract extension worth $18 million.
Pancakes for all.
Chris Johnson is not slow
Back in the before time when whizzbang technology wasn’t used, Bo Jackson reportedly ran a 4.19. That’s some serious blaze, but in our modern age we need something official, because official numbers mean truth and goodness.
Every 40-yard dash is electronically timed now, and since that started Chris Johnson still holds the record for the fastest sprint with a 4.24, though last year Marquies Goodwin gave him a scare with a 4.27.