Combine Alternative Universe
There is nothing is sports that quite rivals the unbelievable amount of coverage devoted to the NFL draft. Countless people make their livelihood off of it, and millions more are deeply immersed in the day-to-day drumbeat of information, despite the fact that most of the reporting is pure speculation, and that the previously mentioned “experts” are constantly changing their minds. You can add in the fact that hometown fans are going to see only 5-7 of these dudes ever play for their team.
But at least that occurs over a long period of time, a time where there are no games and few practices, so something must be doled out to the seemingly insatiable appetite of fans. That kind of pales in comparison to the intensity of the handful of days of the NFL combine. This one I don’t get, except to say that ANYTHING to do with football is sufficient to many.
The only combine coverage I see is by accident. In the background at a bar, or on a TV I can’t miss in a studio. I have never done farm work, but I would rather spend the next few days learning how to operate a combine than to go to the combine. I would rather combine a trip to the dentist and a mediocre movie than spend an afternoon at the Dome in Indianapolis. I don’t even like combination fried rice, but I like it better than the combine.
So much of it is completely irrelevant. Sure, if you are going to stake your job to the handful of picks you have, due diligence is important. But, really. The Wonderlic Test, for instance. The NFL has now for years been told by their own people that it is not any kind of way to find out about the kind of knowledge needed on the football field. I don’t know if Ole Mister Wonderlic (if there is one) has a lifetime contract with the league, but they still make it part of the drill.
You obviously want fine athletes playing for your squad, so many of the agility tests have some validity, but even they are flawed. How often does anyone need to run 40 yards on a football field, yet that is the distance of measurement most used for running. What possibly can it matter how high a quarterback can jump? Hand size, I get it, but bench press? It’s a different sport, but Kevin Durant famously couldn’t even bench 175 ONCE, and he seems to be doing just fine.
The biggest story going into the combine was how tall Kyler Murray was going to actually turn out to be. In a SHOCKING development, he actually was slightly taller than the 5’10 he was listed at by Oklahoma, a mighty 1/8th of an inch.
Missouri’s Drew Lock measured out this way. Height: 6-3 6/8 Weight: 228 Hand: 9 Arm: 32 4/8 Wingspan: 77 1/8 (by the way, what’s with using all 1/8ths, how bout 6-3 ¾???). Here are a few comparables from a quarterback you might know. Height: 6-4 3/8 Weight:211 pounds Arm: 32.75 inches Hand Size:9.38 inches. There you have it, Lock is the next Tom Brady.
In 1917 Patrick Mahomes did his work at the combine. His forty time of 4.80 would have ranked him 17th among defensive lineman, and we think of him of a very athletic QB, and actually only five quarterbacks were ahead of him in that particular area, which kind of backs up what I said about quarterbacks and their forty time.
There are far more stories about teams making big mistakes due to combine blowups than there are successes. Mike Mamula is the poster child for this. He was considered the first player to directly train extensively for the speed and strength drills at the combine, a player who was perhaps considered a third rounder in 1995 went #9 by the Eagles, who also traded picks to move up. Mamula was not awful, he did have 31 sacks in a five-year career, but he obviously should have been drafted in keeping with his solid college career, not four days of running around half-naked.
Of course, half-naked is what Chris Jones, now a standout for the Chiefs, ended up being, as his pants slowly descended during the forty-yard-dash. Undaunted, and obviously also realizing his future livelihood could be greatly affected by the absurd exercise of a defensive lineman running forty yards, he plowed on in a cheeky performance that is the most memorable occurrence I have seen in Indy.
Hey, I am not going to tell you not to watch. My life’s journey the last few years has made me far more appreciative of what others may get joy from in their lives. I will say that I might draw the line at any of you who were watching LAST YEAR’S combine which was shown on NFL Network in the days leading up to the event, but whatever. Just know you won’t have karmic company in me.
Just a further heads-up. If Kansas City ever gets the NFL draft, soak up some of the activities around town, fan-fests and the like should be fun, but avoid the actual draft itself like the plague. I went in 2012 when the Chiefs had the number one pick. All the things that fill up the time on TV can be informative and at times dramatic. There is none of that in person. Pick the player, bro-hug the commissioner, wait, wait, wait, rinse, repeat.
Bring lots of beer.