CAPACCIO: Combine is fun theater, but what’s really important?

March 2, 2018

While GM’s, coaches, scouts and other front office personnel watch a whole bunch of possible college prospects run in shorts and t-shirts, benchpress, and throw and catch, many fans often ask what the point is and what’s really important versus what isn’t this week in Indianapolis.

Without a doubt, there is one simple answer for what is the most important. And this has been reiterated to me many times over the years by those very same people.

It’s the medical evaluation of prospects.

This is the week team doctors get to check out players teams have had their eyes on for the last several months. It’s the first time they get to actually look into actual injuries they've suffered, rumored injuries, or possible ailments they’ve noticed while scouting and put together a medical profile on that player.

All of that will go a long way as they all head to April preparing for the player to make a visit to the team facility and then start setting their draft boards for April.

Even if a player fails his physical by a team at the Combine, or if there seems to be major issues with his health, that doesn’t mean he won’t get selected - even early - if the team really likes him and thinks they can work through the injury and he will still be a big asset for them down the road.

All of the other stuff we see on TV. The 40 yard dash, the bench press, the throwing and catching and pass rush drills, that is great theater and, sure, gives teams a better view and profile on each guy. But as many scouts and general managers will tell you, all that really does is give them confirmation on what they felt about the player going into the event.

Even the interviews players have with teams, while important to finally meet him and get an initial impression, aren't nearly as important this week as they will be when they all meet again over the next two months.  Teams only get fifteen minutes in these sessions to spend with prospects, not nearly long enough to really get to know him, especially knowing he's been very well coached on what to say and how to act in these short settings.

If the player tests or measures either much, much better or much, much worse than expected, that’s when a red flag will go up and teams will go back to watch film to figure out what it is they missed, if anything. That’s when they’ll start doing more re-checks and re-evaluations with that player, his coaches, and everything else they put into scouting him.

Of course, these days, players hire specific coaches to train them to perform well in all of the different physical events they’ll take part in in Indianapolis. That’s why NFL teams absolutely understand there will be some variances, usually better than expected, from many prospects.

So, when they leave Indianapolis and start setting up visits at their team facilities and getting ready to attend pro days, that’s when the real work begins for teams.

And for players? Their job is to be as good as they can in everything they do in Indianapolis, of course. And it’s nice to have a great 40 time, or a great throwing session for a QB. But none of those things are going to move the needle much or have them rise or fall on many draft boards.

So for all of us, and all of them, start loosening that belt. Because the Combine is just the fancy appetizer.

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