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Don’t Fall in Love with the Measurables

With the 2009 NFL Combine getting ready to kick off this weekend, hundreds of players are currently in Indianapolis getting prepared to jump high, run fast, and throw hard.

Scouts for all 32 NFL teams will be intently watching to see which prospects showcase their talents the best, and which fall flat and disappoint.

The NFL combine is the start of a long journey for these young men.   Players across the country gather to dazzle NFL teams and to boost their draft status.  Post combine, some players are heralded as improving their stock; others are deemed to be the combine goats.

Regardless of who runs the fastest or jumps the highest, it should be said up front–do not fall in love with the measurables.

Sure, it’s easy to do.  A running back projected to go in the third round runs a 4.3 forty yard dash and showcases unique agility and an ability to catch the football.

Ofter, these players will be regarded as “great athletes” by Todd McShay, Mel Kiper, and many other pundits.

Try not to fall for it.

That’s not to say that the combine cannot showcase an otherwise unknown talent for the entire league to see.  Players come in and have great success in the league despite limited opportunities in college and great combine and pro day workouts.

But I keep thinking back to the 2005 draft.  All the talk was about which running back would go off the board first–Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, or Ronnie Brown.

Brown works out at the 2005 combine

Brown works out at the 2005 combine

Brown went to the combine and ripped it up.  Ran a great time, excelled in the drills, and looked to have an unique combination of speed and power.  Brown improved his draft status, and was selected as the second overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins.

Now, Brown is a solid back in the league.  Solid.  I wouldn’t say great by any stretch.  He shares time with Ricky Williams, which is fine, as this is a popular trend in the league.

With that said, Brown has never had more than ten rushing touchdowns in his pro career.  He gained 1,000+ yards just once.  And while his average per carry is solid, he’s not an every down back.  Per year, he carries the ball about 220 times every year.

As a comparison, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings carried the ball 368 times in 2008 for almost 1,800 yards.  Peterson also shared a bit of time with Chester Taylor in the backfield.  And though he had more success and a stronger body of work in college, Peterson was drafted seventh overall.

So buyer beware.  If I were advising an NFL team, I would tell them that the measurables are great, but use it as a guide on draft day.  Don’t live and die by the numbers these players amass as they work out in shorts and sneakers at the combine this weekend.

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , | Leave a comment