“It’s not the genius who is 100 years ahead of his time but average man who is 100 years behind it.”

~ Robert Musil

Vern Gambetta opined about the NFL Combine recently, in an interesting piece over at the EliteTrack site. I have to say that, although I enjoy following the Combine and the various “Pro Days” throughout March, I have to agree with Vern that little of true value (outside of the entertainment aspect) can be derived from these events. What happens, of course, is that the potential NFL draftees – out of necessity (and who can blame them?) – train specifically for the few tests administered at these “showcase events”. And to make matters worse, the tests themselves aren’t truly indicative of how a potential draftee will perform on the field. Let me rephrase that. The test themselves might tell you who the best athletes are at those particular events, but not, for example, who will wind up as a prolific, team-turning, running back. The 225 lb. bench press for reps is one example. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what football skill can be correlated to the bench press, much less a bench press for maximum reps.

Now, what about all that business I wrote about the vertical jump awhile back? What about the SPARQ tests I was enamored with? Big, big difference here folks, in our two “potentials” pool. The pool of potential NFL draftee’s is, no two ways about it, a highly select group of athletic freaks. My task (if I were a scout) at the Combine and Pro Day events is to rank the best athletes in the country at their respective positions, not to vet a group of relative unknowns according to potential athletic ability. This is a very important point, as each successive layer of athletic “herd culling” requires, then, ever more precise and ever more pinpointed analytical tools.

What I’d like to see is an agreed upon before hand, position-specific set of skills tests that would be administered and run in a Crossfit Games like fashion. Put a set of meaningful (i.e., no bench press nonsense), position-specific drills and exercises in a hopper, and draw-out a few to test each fitness aspect critical to the position in question. Such a “skills & drills selection” could be performed and agreed upon (though kept secret) by, say, a scouting committee, well ahead of time. The actual, particular tests, then, would change every year. This would serve the draftee’s best interest by forcing him to train and prepare for a wider range of modalities, thereby (1) increasing his overall GPP fitness, and (2) better preparing him for the rigors of upcoming camp. As it is now, the athletes are forced to narrow their training scope well prior to the actual testing so as to excel at the specific, known events. I would go so far as to say that most of the potential draftee’s off-season training, for years prior, is targeted toward excelling at these few specific combine events. And who can blame the athlete for “training for the test”, when obscene amounts of money hinge on the performance outcome? I just think it’s in the league’s, and in the potential draftee’s best interest, to widen the possible testing range, make it unknown going in, and thereby forcing a more well-rounded training approach.

With all of that said, let me introduce you to Thomas White, a draft-eligible wide receiver out of Baylor University, and a gifted athlete whose play I’ve followed for quite a while. Not only is he a great all around young man and a tremendous athlete, but he’s a testament to dedication and work ethic as well. Check out Thomas’s blog, and especially this video montage of him preparing for his chance to shine at an upcoming Pro Day event. I’m looking forward to him putting up some impressive numbers, and putting on a hell of a demonstration of athleticism for the scouts.

In Health,

Keith

3 COMMENTS

  1. Keith, I totally agree with you. The best players on the field are not necessarily the guys that put up eye popping numbers in the combine. I do think that the vertical jump test is a great measure of explosiveness, but its interesting how that too isnt always an indictaor of on field play

  2. I was just talking about the Combine last night. I’ve been following it more this year, partly because of Hayward-Bey – you know (or maybe you don’t) that I’m a Buckeye (go JL!) (and a HUGE football fan in general, esp. college), but I go to all the Terps games and have become an adopted Terp (hubby and all his family are Terps) so it’s been fun to watch him shine the last few days. I was intrigued by the differences in the times in different tests between all the positions. But I do agree with your system. Now THAT would be fun to watch.

    • I really do think that the professional ranks would end up with a better crop of draftees year-to-year, if these athletes were encouraged to train for GPP vs. a narrowly (and largely useless) set of skills. And I really can’t get over the bench press insanity. Let it go the way of the Dodo, please.

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