The NFL combine doesn’t test real football skills


By Nicholas Fortin

Editor’s note: This column is written as part of a point-counterpoint. The other column, in favor of the NFL combine, can be read here.

The NFL Scouting Combine doesn’t matter.

Players can choose to compete in a number of tests, both physical and mental, including the bench press, vertical jump and most scrutinized of all combine events, the 40-yard dash.

In other words, it’s an overpublicized spectacle that sends some prospects’ draft stock soaring and some falling for almost no reason at all. The tests don’t even have anything to do with football.

It may be great to see which prospects can run fastest in a straight line for 40 yards, or who has the highest vertical jump, or who can record the most reps bench pressing 225 pounds, but when are any of those specific tests relevant to football?

Chris Johnson is one of the best examples of an NFL player who had a great combine that transferred into a great career, but for every Johnson there are hundreds of other potential players who are athletic freaks but don’t have what it takes to compete at the next level.

While athletic ability is impressive to see displayed, the tests have no basis for determining whether a football player’s athletic ability will transfer to the field.

Jadeveon Clowney, the South Carolina defensive end who recently ran a 4.53 40 yard dash, has news organizations such as Sports Illustrated talking. And yet, Clowney will practically never be running for 40 yards at his position. Defensive ends make their money by being quicker off the line than their offensive counterparts, thus being able to take down opposing players.

In short, Clowney’s speed would be better tested in the few yards that separate him from the quarterback, not 40 yards.

Another reason why the combine is meaningless is that it almost never provides a level playing field for all of the athletes at a given position.

Take the ongoing draft debate about best quarterbacks. The three top candidates are Louisville’s Teddy Bridewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles. 

The combine’s setup gives participants the ability to pick and choose which events they want to compete in. While Bortles chose physical tests like the 40 and vertical jump in addition to throwing to actual receivers, Manziel chose not to throw and Bridgewater chose to neither throw nor run.

Sure, it’s nice for the combine to bring the best NFL prospects to one place for NFL scouts to evaluate them together, but players picking and choosing what to showcase doesn’t allow for a level playing field.

In fact, Bridgewater and Manziel not throwing at the combine creates more questions than answers. Why didn’t they throw? Why didn’t Bridgewater run? Does any of it matter?

Ultimately, the combine tests nothing football related, and it doesn’t give scouts anything substantial to use with its format, which is exactly why we shouldn’t care about it anymore.

If you want an accurate picture of these prospects, forget the combine and let the athletes leave it all on the field during their pro days.

Nicholas is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached [email protected] Follow him on Twitter