The NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis has become a major media event that kicks off the offseason and has helped turn the NFL into a year round sport.
Most newspapers send reporters, the NFL Network will have 52 hours of programming and NFL Media is covering it with an army of 22 reporters.
Even fans now can apply for tickets to watch some workouts and even press conferences.
Not bad for an event that is largely a waste of time except for the media coverage the NFL gets out of it.
Most scouts would be better off staying home and watching film of the players actually playing football.
Playing football is one thing the players don’t do at the combine. Running the 40-yard dash, bench pressing, running around cones, taking the Wonderlic intelligence test and doing interviews do not translate into figuring out which players can play NFL football and which can’t.
These drills show if players are athletic, not whether they’re good football players. Another factor is that players now practice for the drills to help their scores and make the drills even more meaningless.
And now that colleges have Pro Days, the work tends to get duplicated.
Of course, scouting is always a guessing game. The teams could probably do just as well as they do now just picking names out of a hat.
There is no evidence the scouting combine and the Pro Days and the visits the players make to teams has improved the quality of the scouting.
Half the players on the first round often don’t make it big.
And the combine evaluations often make things worse. Tom Brady is the best example.
In his final college game, the 2000 Orange Bowl, he passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns in Michigan’s 35-34 overtime victory over Alabama. You would think that might have gotten the scout’s attention.
But at the scouting combine, he didn’t pass the eyeball test. He didn’t exactly have the best physique in the picture taken at the combine of him wearing shorts.
So the scouts ignored his Orange Bowl showing and he famously slipped to the sixth round.
What the NFL should do is hold the draft the first week in March instead of wasting two months overanalyzing the players.
And as the owners put so much emphasis on maximizing revenue, they should look at the expense side and ask are they wasting money in these two months of scouting.
The argument could be made they get their money’s worth in added exposure.
And the fans who love the draft get to spend two more months talking about which players their favorite team should take.
Still, they should realize what the scouting combine actually is. It’s a spectacle that has little to do with making it easier for the teams to judge players.