There is less than a month left until the NFL draft takes place and many players are taking the opportunity to improve on their draft status by holding “pro day” workouts at their college campuses.
Coaches, scouts, general managers and other league personnel scrutinize each player by putting them through various tests to determine something that should already be obvious: Can they play football at the next level or not?
I enjoy reading how fast a player can run and how high he can jump as much as the next fan, but those facts do not reinforce my opinion as to what I think of the person as a football player. What they did at the college level has to be the best measuring stick when evaluating talent.
There is no reason for someone to ask Reggie Bush to run a 40-yard sprint to see if he is fast enough. We already knew that. If you want to know how fast Bush runs, ask the University of Arkansas, Fresno State or UCLA. Last season, Bush outran the whole UA defense on a 76-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game. Against Fresno State, Bush racked up 294 yards rushing on 23 carries, which is an eye-popping 12.8-yard average. UCLA experienced Bush’s blazing speed as well when he ran for 260 yards on 24 carries.
Telling me that he can run the 40 in 4.33 seconds does not let me know anything I did not know before.
The NFL combine is probably the most thorough examination a prospective draftee will ever go through. It is borderline degrading. Everything the players have accomplished in their young career is all of a sudden worth nothing. Their athletic ability, intelligence, strength and speed are questioned and if they perform poorly in any part of the drills they risk plummeting down the draft board.
Vince Young of the Texas Longhorns had a low score on the Wonderlic test, which is an intelligence test every player takes, and all of a sudden he is not good enough to even be considered the first quarterback picked April 29. Forget that he single-handedly picked USC apart in the Rose Bowl by rushing for 200 yards and throwing for 267 yards. Now all of a sudden Jay Cutler from Vanderbilt is a better quarterback because he had a couple of good practices at the Senior Bowl.
Cutler led Vanderbilt to a 5-6 record, Young took his Longhorns all the way to a perfect 12-0 and you are telling me Cutler should be picked before Young? That is insane.
There are players who are studs at the college level, but are never able to make the transition to the much faster pro game. Joey Harrington and David Carr come to mind. Harrington, the No. 3 overall pick in 2002, has developed a habit of throwing games away since entering the league and Carr, the No. 1 overall pick 2002, has made being sacked into an art form. I strongly doubt Young will be one of them, though.
It is good for teams to test players in various ways before the draft, but the results should not play such a big part when it is decision time.
One test that I think should play a significant role is the interview the teams have with each player to see what type of person he is. That is very important. You want to know if you are getting a team player or a headache. Will this person be a good fit for the organization and can he carry himself properly off the field or will he keep the team’s lawyers busy in the off-season. That should be far more important than any 40-time.
Johan Mengesha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org