Perhaps the most important single event leading up to the NFL Draft is the NFL Scouting Combine. In Indianapolis, where it is held, the top draft prospects are given a stage to demonstrate their individual athleticism and skill. Some people may only think that the Scouting Combine is just a workout, but it is much more than that. Each potential draft pick is run through medical exams, psych tests, the Wonderlic test, and interviews. It is the results of these events which can help or hurt a player come Draft day.
I record and watch the coverage of the Combine on NFL Network. I’m not going to lie by saying that it is never boring. There are certainly parts that I enjoy more than others. So here are my thoughts on this year’s Combine.
The first part of the Combine I want to talk about are the drills. When people think Scouting Combine they are picturing the drills. The crown jewel of the drills is by far the 40-yard dash. That’s why Rich Eisen runs the 40-yard dash in his suit every year instead of the 3-cone drill. Everybody likes speed. Police chases are far more interesting when they are high-speed. When people want statistics on cars they don’t ask, “Well, how slow can it go?” No, they want to know how fast. NFL teams are the same, they like speed.
This year, the Kansas City Chiefs should be looking for a wide receiver that can stretch the field. To stretch the field a wide receiver should have speed. So keep an eye on the dash results for the receivers this year, because the Chiefs are most likely targeting the top part of that list.
The player group I’m most interested in seeing are the linebackers/defensive ends. At best, the Chiefs have been hiding a superstar in linebacker Andy Studebaker. At worst we find that despite Mike Vrabel’s poor performance, there is a reason Studebaker wasn’t starting. Either way, the Chiefs should have their eye on at least one linebacker in the draft.
What the Combine shows is the ability of some of the defensive ends to stand up and play outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. If drafted to play that position, it will be a transition for them unless they played the 3-4 in college. What that means is that other than their college workout days, this is the only time for NFL teams to take a look at their ability to make that transition. It is also why many scouts and draftniks consider the 3-4 outside linebacker position one of the hardest to scout.
Finally, I want to talk about some players that I will specifically be watching at the Combine. The first is Center Stefen Wisniewski. Merlin and I both picked him as our first round pick for the Chiefs in our mocks a few weeks ago. However, Draft Analyst Mike Mayock no longer has him as one of his top 5 Guard/Centers. Why he’s no longer on that list is unknown to me, but I respect his opinion and I’m going to take a closer look at The Wiz at the Combine.
The second is wide receiver Vincent Brown. He caught my attention when I saw him at the Senior Bowl. I like him, but I’m not sure he’s what the Chiefs are looking for in a receiver. However, his performance at the Senior Bowl intrigued me enough that I am interested to see what numbers he puts up at the Combine.
The last player is defensive tackle Phil Taylor. The Chiefs need a nose tackle and Taylor appears to be the best one in this draft class. In Taylor’s case, I’m not just interested in the numbers he puts up. He will be interviewed. Taylor has some concerns as far as his behavior in college and seems to have turned it around only recently. So the NFL teams will be asking Taylor plenty of questions to try and determine whether the turnaround is forever or if it was just to get picked higher in the draft. So, hopefully, a sense will be gotten as to the opinions that the teams have on Taylor.
As important as the Combine is to the Draft process, the overriding factor to the numbers put up here are the games played in college. The tape that the scouts have on the players generally trumps whatever is produced in the Combine drills. Everyone has bad days and NFL teams know that. What the Combine excels at doing is giving a stage to lesser known players to showcase their ability, and I like to take advantage of that. I watch for players to catch my eye that maybe I don’t know very well. Then I research them some more. Who knows? Maybe they could be the next superstar for the Chiefs.