Tips on How to Watch the Combine Like a Pro Scout, Which I am Everything But

As I prepare for my first trip to Indianapolis, I've been doing some heavy research not only on the players, but also the system. A nice article I came across was the pitfalls that so many owners and Cerratos scouts fall into when evaluating players at the combine. Mike Lombardi articulated it so well:

The first rule of scouting is "to never begin with the end in mind," but there are times in which many people, including myself, have gone to the combine and fallen in love with numbers, then begun to build a case for a player. The combine is an athletic test, not a football test, which means problems arise when teams fall in love with the athlete and not the player.

Devin Thomas comes to mind. He shocked scouts with a 4.40 40" and that was all Cerrato needed to see. Heyward-Bey anyone? Lombardi explains further:

Mistakes occur each year when teams believe what they see on the workout tape and neglect what they see in game film -- or they misjudge the competition. Evaluating college players requires an evaluation of the players' opponents. Level of competition is the key factor in evaluation, so when you hear someone say they watched 10 games on an individual player, you might want to ask what 10 games? Or else why did you waste time watching him play against players who will never come close to playing in the NFL?

As an example, evaluating a player in the Southeast Conference against a smaller team out of conference is not an accurate basis. To accurately evaluate college talent, you must view the player against the best. One good level of competition tape is worth more than five tapes against bad players. Never get caught up with someone saying they watched every game. It's more important to watch the right ones, not all of them.

I'm getting a flashback of all the YouTube videos that fans (myself included) post as legit scouting evaluations. Remember when the Redskins drafted Dennis Morris? His highlight video made him look like the next Lorenzo Neal, and low behold, within 6 months, the 6th round pick is out of the NFL. 

The real value of the combine is to get to know the players on a personal level, as well as professionally. Understanding what type of individual you are bringing into your locker room is as important in today's game as knowing what kind of physical talent the player might possess. One bad apple can spoil an entire team, so using the combine to eliminate self-indulgent players is as important as any 40-time.

One bad apple can spoil an entire team? That's flat out not possible. Oh crap

This is what makes evaluating small-school players so difficult. Great players should dominate against lesser competition. And when they don't, a red flag should go up.        

Ah yes, but what if they still do dominate? Then we're left with 14,000 Colt Brennan jerseys rolling around DC. Lombardi then goes on to talk about how Terrell Suggs and Jerry Rice slipped because of poor 40 times.

Ever wonder why Jerry Rice was a mid first-round pick and the third receiver taken in 1985? His 40-time was not the fastest, but his play on the field was fast. In fact, with the ball in his hands, Rice was as fast as when he was not carrying the ball.

To round out his 5-star post, Lombard gives his 4 "Ps" of scouting...check it out.

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