Every offseason, as the season ends and the team starts to look towards what positions need upgrading, we here at Windy City Gridiron try to keep you, our reader, best up to date on our picks and the changes we'd make. Since there are people far more qualified than myself in those areas, however, I thought we'd take a look at the meta - the process of studying the players and what we put the most stock in when it comes to looking at our preferred draft targets, and more specifically, the NFL Scouting Combine. Bet you didn't realize it starts in four days, did you?
First off... I never used to put much stock in the combine. If you just focus on the end results and the numbers, there isn't a lot it tells you - how often will you see a player run untouched for 40 yards? I know it's a fairly shallow way to look at it, but there's more that the NFL scouts look at beyond the numbers. For instance, with the 40-yard dash, it's not just the full 40-time the scouts look at; it's when the player reaches that top speed and being able to sustain it. A player can have a 4.5 40-time, but if he can't start fast, it's not likely he'll get to that speed before he gets caught. The faster he reaches that speed, the better.
I've always been more of a proponent of what the player has actually done when put between the white lines. At least that way, you're looking at the player against real football players at game speed in game situations. Even then, however, a key part of the game is emphasizing the strengths of the players while minimizing their weaknesses, but it's a fair bet that during the season you see the player in most situations.
There are other drawbacks to watching the player himself, however. First off, you may be seeing the player against actual competition, but the level of that competition is not uniform throughout the NCAA levels. For instance, you have two running backs that put up identical statistics, but one plays against the MVC and the other plays in the Big Ten.
Second, you have to take into account the other players on the team that might also be fighting for their own draft position. The Big Ten running back plays behind a better line, where the MVC back doesn't have much of a line to run behind; does that boost the MVC back's stock?
Sometimes it can be difficult to see how the individual's skills transfer over without the rest of the team, so the combine measures his individual skills into actual numbers, but in the combine, the player isn't in any football context; just measuring his physical ability. So to me, there's a balance that has to be struck between measuring the individual and what the individual does in actual games.
For more on what an actual scout looks at, check out this article by Steve Lansdale of TheRanchReport.com and Scout of Fox Sports. I found this snippet particularly enlightening:
After production, the scout says he does look at the measurable statistics... but again, only to a degree.
"We do keep the height, the weight, the 40 times, but again, you can't get too caught up in that," he said. "I'm more interested in his skills. I don't need to know a guy's 40 time. If he plays at Georgia, and I see him catch a Florida wide receiver, who needs a 40 time? If he's fast enough there, he's fast enough."
Simple, but true.
So, WCG readers... What do you put the most stock in during draft time?