Far too often, the NFL Combine creates tunnel-vision for NFL fans. You witness a player run slower than expected and suddenly they drop a few spots. Other times, a player produces a staggering bench-press repetition total and he sky-rockets among the mock drafts posted across media outlets.
There are daily ‘Winners and Losers’ and ‘studs and duds’ articles posted, and while I understand this, certainly as a writer who’s published a few of these, I want to take a step back and make mention of my disagreement with the quick, change-of-heart mentality the NFL Combine generates.
Now, I won’t simply call this out and not give mention as to why I’m exclaiming my opinion. I want to give reason as to the issues with the love of the NFL Combine.
The most obvious and truthful: effort among fans. Effort among the media.
It’s far easier to read the Combine events list and compare 40 times than it is to examine and study film. Sitting down and scouting a player run routes, block, tackle and diagnose plays is effort. It’s time and not enough individual’s want to spend their afternoon truly diving deep into the film. It can be fun for some, but not many are receiving pay for this. It turns football into a chore, which is exactly the opposite of football’s necessity in our culture.
On Sundays, football fans want to enjoy their day lounging about, watching their favorite team play and compete, not study and examine specific faults and tendencies. Not to say we don’t all understand the game to a degree, because we certainly pay attention, but studying film and enjoying a game are two different animals. I’ll use the comparison of reading a book for pleasure vs. studying and annotating the novel for homework. Even when you like the material for a class, reading the book and making notes throughout and studying the text is not nearly the same as getting lost in reading for an hour and wondering how you went through fifty pages when you only remember flipping the thin paper corners three times.
There’s a difference, and just as the men on the field are competing and giving their effort, it’s the antithesis for fans. We’re boxing in seasons of games, hundreds to thousands of snaps, into easy-to-read mathematical comparisons in list form, helping us to enjoy football with the lackadaisical effort we adopt for the Sundays we hope return soon.
We love stats. We love comparisons. We love competition. The NFL Combine directly feeds this specific hunger for sports fans. Look at baseball, for instance. The depth of the statistical analysis spawns jokes of, “This batter is .380 when facing a left-handed pitcher in the third-inning on Thursdays in October when the temperature is above 65 degrees.”
When the measurables come out for players, all we want to do is compare them to their peers. It’s not a bad thing, but there is a blatant difference between the NFL Combine and playing in the league. Even current players agree.
Combine week is where 40’s and jumping high and far make you a helluva football player..— Quandre Diggs (@qdiggs6) March 1, 2018
The NFL Combine overstates the value of measurables and ignores the most important aspect of the prospects: film. It brings easy-to-read lists of numbers and data, rather than the players actual on-the-field product. Running fast and being strong is good in the NFL, but nowhere near as important in comparison to a player’s knowledge of the game, or their impact on the field.