The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Supportive, Not Overrated

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In order to truly appreciate and analyze the National Football League's annual Scouting Combine or meat market, a few things must be remembered. The original intent of the Combine was to gather the most prominent draft candidates in one place prior to the draft for full and complete medical exams, x-rays, MRI's, etc. This was done to control league-wide medical expenses and to prevent draft eligible players from having to go through the process multiple times all over the country prior to the draft with each individual team.

Over time, the workouts and interviews portions were added to the process for the same reason...to consolidate operations for both the players and the clubs. So any analysis of the Combine should be framed in this historical context. Many newcomers, youngin's or outsiders don't realize this and thus think it's all about the workouts, after all that's what grabs the headlines and is shown on the NFL Network.

While history is replete with some "Workout Warriors" see Mike Mamaula, whose one day impressive workout in Indy vaulted him into the top 10 and a selection by the Philadelphia Eagles in the draft only to crash and burn as a player. Last year's example of this phenomenon is Vernon Gholson of the Jets who rose with a better than expected workout last year only disappoint on the field in Kelly green and white. The Combine should only re-affirm what the good scouting departments have seen on film and through their campus visits of the fall.

The Combine is valuable to the clubs in that it's one stop shopping to obtain detailed physical exams, psychological/intelligence testing, interviews, measurable (height, weight, hand sizes etc) and workout results. Time is precious in the NFL so to be able to accomplish this in a span of 6 days is very important to the clubs. While the player's college game tape ultimately represents the purest form of his football resume, the Combine workouts afford the clubs an additional opportunity to observe how the player competes when all NFL eyes are on him. NFL staffs also get to talk to the player to gain a better feel for his personality. Therefore Combine material should be supplemental, not detrimental.

On the other hand, the Combine may be valuable to a player as it presents the premium NFL stage. All club coaches, scouts and key execs are in attendance; where can one find better visibility? It also permits the player to have a go at good workout numbers realizing that he'll probably have a few more shots at his campus Pro day prior to the draft if desired.

If the player has a good Combine, the pressure is off and he really can remain relatively idle through the draft. If the player wants another chance to improve, he can hold as many individual workouts in familiar environs as he wants, kind of like taking the SAT, test as many times as you feel is necessary. The downside of not working out at Indy is that the player cannot come close to replicating the Combine's visibility. Clubs are spread way thin when it comes to post-combine workouts so some club personnel who really should see the player in person may not be able to attend. A Combine impression reaches far and wide. The one further upside is if a player does not have a strong combine then he will have other and supplemental opportunities to improve his stock and times.

Another test that occurs at the Combine which generates a great deal of attention and is important is the drug and steroid testing performed during the weekend. Usually a positive test in of itself does not equate to a career hardened criminal but it does show that a player who knows he is being tested upon arrival at the Combine and still can't abstain form participating in such activities does not show a great deal of intelligence or passion to play in the NFL.

The Combine has also turned into a quasi mid -season NFL meeting place for all involved in the sport where more than just draft work gets done. Agents and teams meet about free agent players given that the free agency period commences historically a week after the last player runs his forty yard dash. The NFLPA holds its annual agent seminar in Indianapolis. Out of work coaches and scouts take one last shot to secure employment within the league. And last but not least the individual share prices of Anheiser Busch and Miller spike upwards.

The bottom line though is that the Indy Combine data is supportive in nature. The chance to meet with the player and see him compete directly against his draft classmates provides valuable insight. The medical information obtained is essential (remember the Combine's origin!). But in the end the Combine does not overshadow how the player performed on Saturdays or how he conducted himself during his school years. While there may be buzz about a workout warrior, or on the flipside about a sub-par Combine performance, that should not and usually does not rule the day when clubs turn in a card during the draft. The player's history to date is much more telling than Combine theatrics.

By Peter Schaffer  |  February 19, 2009; 1:01 AM ET  | Category:  Draft , Peter Schaffer Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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