As college football elite show their stuff in Indianapolis at the NFL combine, club execs are faced with a tough task- reliable player evaluation.
As technology explodes, so does the amount of information gathered in advance of the April NFL draft. ESPN and the NFL Network are the best in the business of grading and projecting college players transition from the college to the pro game. Mel Kiper Jr carved a niche for himself at ESPN in the 80’s when the draft was a mere blip on the radar. Kiper’s persona is such, he insists to have received interest from pro teams to run their player personnel departments, offers he claims to have rejected. The NFL Network’s superstar is former player Mike Mayock. Mayock gained notoriety by absolutely “owning” the 2010 NFL draft coverage alongside analyst Jon Gruden. “Chucky” benefited from the magical Mayock performance to the extent of landing the Monday Night Football ‘gig”.
The information overload peaked with the NFL Network began carrying the combine “tryouts” Live. The Internet was the first big plaeteau in the NFL Combine’s rise to prominence on the annual calendar. Mock drafts are everywhere, sites are devoted entirely to the process leading up to the NFL draft, the Combine serving as the main course. What is the most important factor when choosing a young man and paying him, in some cases, tens of millions of dollars?
–On field performance: How an athlete performed during his career used to be the only real barometer when slotting talent for the draft. Is he a “good football player”? seems reasonable to me. Further to the evaluation, what level of the competition did he perform against?
–Measurables– This has had the biggest impact, especially since the meteoric rise of the NFL combine. How much can he lift? How fast can he run? How high can he jump?How does he look in his underwear? Without a doubt, how a player performs at the combine is having a huge impact on where they land on draft day(s). Bruce Campbell is a perfect example. A year ago, Campbell performed like Adonis at the combine, blowing away the competition. Following a pedestrian career at the University of Maryland, most figured he would be a free agent, bypassed in the draft. But wait! following the herculean workouts at the combine, “experts” and scouts (notice not one in the same) had him possibly a 1st rounder! Cooler heads prevailed, he ended up right smack in the middle of the draft, taken by the Oakland Raiders in the 4th round.
–Off the field: Does the athlete have character issues? Again, is character good or bad? In NFL terms, a “character guy” is a guy with issues, a “high character guy” is a leader. Make sure you know your character or at least that of others. Interviews with coaches and in some case owners and upper management seem fair enough. But how about the Wonderlic test? Vince Young is well known for virtually failing it several years ago, while Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy (who can’t throw) nearly aced it this week. Who cares what kind of animal they would be anyway? (one of the questions sometimes asked)
Future is Now and Need: Do we have time to wait for kids to develop or are they took risky to take altogether? George Allen, the legendary Redskins Head Coach of the 70’s believed “the future is now”. Dan Snyder who at times runs the Skins like a fantasy team seems to share the future is now belief. The Redskins were also involved in the famous Ricky Williams trade where New Orleans Head Coach Mike Ditka traded his ENTIRE draft to Washington for the opportunity to take the dread locked running back from Texas. What about need? Do we take a guy at a position where our situation is a disaster? or do we simply take the best player available, every year- every pick. In my opinion, New England displays the PERFECT patience in running a franchise. You need only look at the 2011 NFL draft, where you find the Patriots with an extra pick in each of the first four rounds. Patience, trading back, and trading picks for next year, Bill Belichick knows how to coach and just as importantly how to stockpile talent. The Pats have gone from old to young in a couple of seasons without missing a beat, on the field.
Finally, more Mike Mayock man love…. If you want to exponentially increase your knowledge of the X’s and O’s of football, watch what is left of the combine this week. Mayock is a wealth of knowledge and shares it in a very conversational fashion.