The Truth Behind the Combine

By Ben Pearl ’18

Football is the sport that never stops. The 16 game regular season is merely a small portion of what the National Football League (NFL) truly is. Between training camp, preseason, playoffs, and the draft, the season never ceases. The never-ending cycle of the league was heightened even more with the addition of the National Invitational Camp (NIC) in 1982. This camp, held in Tampa, gave NFL draft prospects an opportunity to showcase their talents. Three years after its creation, the NIC was officially renamed the NFL Scouting Combine, and continues to go by this title today.

 

In the combine’s 35 year existence, some of history’s greatest athletes have performed at the venue, as around 330 players are invited annually. However, experts constantly debate if a correlation exists between a player’s 40-time, bench press reps, and vertical jump and how well they will perform at the professional level. In fact, some of the greatest players in NFL history had less than impressive statistics at the combine. Most notable is Tom Brady, who ran a 5.28 40-yard dash and had a 24.5 inch vertical jump among other testings. While these statistics contributed to his sixth round selection in the draft, no one can explain how someone who, on paper, has no athleticism could also win five Super Bowls. Another current NFL superstar who had an underwhelming combine performance is Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. As a receiver, NFL teams were not impressed with his 4.57 40 time and his 6.98 three cone drill. Brown has overcome these measurables as he has posted three straight 1000 yard and 100 catch seasons. In addition to Brady and Brown, hundreds of other NFL players have proven that the combine does not show how well they can play.

 

In 2017, 17 running backs had faster 40 times than Le’veon Bell, 7 linebackers bench pressed more times than Von Miller, and 6 defensive backs recorded higher vertical leaps than Richard Sherman. However, these numbers will have no influence on whether these athletes become an all-pro or super bowl champion in five years. All that these testing times can do is give teams an idea of how athletic they are. In certain cases, a player’s combine can severely raise or lower their draft stock, but more often than not the combine is used to confirm what a team thinks about a prospect.

 

One of the biggest stories of this year’s combine was that John Ross, a wide receiver from the University of Washington, broke Chris Johnson’s eight-year 40-yard dash record with a time of 4.22 seconds. Four days after the combine concluded, CBS Sports released a post-combine mock draft in which Ross jumped nine spots solely based on his 40 time. According to NFL.com, 53 wide receivers have run the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds or faster since 2003. Only six of those 53 receivers have recorded at least one 1,000-yard receiving season. In that same span, 149 wide receivers have run a 40-yard dash slower than 4.60 seconds, and of those 149, eight have recorded a 1,000 yard receiving season.
After redshirting his junior year, Ross had a breakout season this past year with 1,150 receiving yards on 81 catches and 17 touchdowns. However, with the uncertainty of NFL success it is unclear whether Ross will be productive in his career. The main goal of the combine is for scouts to determine who has enough potential to be worth spending a draft pick, since each team usually has only around seven. Players must leave a lasting impression during their combine tests, as Ross did, if they want to be remembered on draft day.

Fantasy Football Midseason Review

By Ari McCoy ’17

This has been a tumultuous start to the fantasy football season. Early suspensions to top tier players including Tom Brady and Le’veon Bell, and injuries to Jamaal Charles and Tyler Eifert forced owners to search for replacements before even setting their opening week lineups. Injuries have hit a number of top players, leading to younger, less experienced players stepping up. With two rookie quarterbacks leading winning teams through six weeks in Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, this season has kicked off with a number of abnormalities.

While players every year are expected to bust or struggle for parts of the season, this year we have seen some significant players drop off. Adrian Peterson began the season poorly, rushing for 31 yards in Week One before tearing his meniscus, leaving him out for the rest of the season. Deandre Hopkins, one of last year’s top fantasy receivers, has struggled to develop chemistry with new quarterback Brock Osweiler and is currently averaging only 8.9 points per game in standard scoring. Arizona wide receiver John Brown, considered among many analysts to be the best of the Arizona wide receivers for this year’s fantasy season, has averaged a mere five points per game as the Cardinals have been unable to find any rhythm offensively. When many top players are unable to perform, there are always other players who are forced to step up their games.

Because of the numerous top players struggling out of the gate, there have been some surprising breakouts. Marvin Jones, the second wide receiver on the Bengals depth chart last season, is currently seventh in the league in receiving yards at 529 yards over six games. Running back Tevin Coleman, a backup in Atlanta, is currently ranked eighth among running backs in standard scoring, one spot ahead of the Falcons’ starter, Devonta Freeman. Christine Michael, expected to be a backup to Thomas Rawls at running back in Seattle, is now sixth in points per game at the position. In a year with so many struggling stars, these players have been season savers for desperate owners.

Like in previous years, there has been volatility among top players. With less heralded players taking their places among the league’s best, it will be interesting to see who regains their form and who continues to fall in the second half of the season.

Second Half Fantasy Football Pickups

By Ari McCoy ’17

This has been a tumultuous start to the fantasy football season. Early suspensions to top tier players including Tom Brady and Le’veon Bell, and injuries to Jamaal Charles and Tyler Eifert forced owners to search for replacements before even setting their opening week lineups. Injuries have hit a number of top players, leading to younger, less experienced players stepping up. With two rookie quarterbacks leading winning teams through six weeks in Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, this season has kicked off with a number of abnormalities.

While players every year are expected to bust or struggle for parts of the season, this year we have seen some significant players drop off. Adrian Peterson began the season poorly, rushing for 31 yards in Week One before tearing his meniscus, leaving him out for the rest of the season. Deandre Hopkins, one of last year’s top fantasy receivers, has struggled to develop chemistry with new quarterback Brock Osweiler and is currently averaging only 8.9 points per game in standard scoring. Arizona wide receiver John Brown, considered among many analysts to be the best of the Arizona wide receivers for this year’s fantasy season, has averaged a mere five points per game as the Cardinals have been unable to find any rhythm offensively. When many top players are unable to perform, there are always other players who are forced to step up their games.

Because of the numerous top players struggling out of the gate, there have been some surprising breakouts. Marvin Jones, the second wide receiver on the Bengals depth chart last season, is currently seventh in the league in receiving yards at 529 yards over six games. Running back Tevin Coleman, a backup in Atlanta, is currently ranked eighth among running backs in standard scoring, one spot ahead of the Falcons’ starter, Devonta Freeman. Christine Michael, expected to be a backup to Thomas Rawls at running back in Seattle, is now sixth in points per game at the position. In a year with so many struggling stars, these players have been season savers for desperate owners.

Like in previous years, there has been volatility among top players. With less heralded players taking their places among the league’s best, it will be interesting to see who regains their form and who continues to fall in the second half of the season.