Two of the biggest wastes of time, effort and energy in the football world occur in February: Mock drafts and the NFL Combine. It drives me to drink.
About ten years ago, I fell into the mock draft trap. For whatever reason, I thought it was important that I could predict who the Falcons were going to take or who the Eagles were going to take, and I found myself spending embarrassing amounts of time trying to do so. I would have my mock draft ready to go, then change my mind and do it all over again -- it was ridiculous.
They were, perhaps, the most meaningless hours I've ever spent doing anything.
After a couple of years of this nonsense, I got wise to it. I realized I could be doing something else with my time (like writing this very post, which many would argue is an equally monumental waste of time).
But even for those who still dabble in mock drafts, for those who still feel they can predict the unpredictable, I don't understand why anyone would put in any amount of thought into the process at this point in the football year. Simply put, there is no way of predicting what direction any given team will go in the draft until the first couple rounds of free agency have concluded in mid-March.
Once teams have addressed their needs and after a handful of surprise free agents have been signed with new teams (and yes, there are surprises every year), then you can waste your time mocking it up.
And even then it's a wild guessing game at the very best. I've never seen a mock draft with greater than 50% accuracy. Yes, that includes Mel Kiper, Jr., and he does this sort of thing for a living (I've often called Kiper the weatherman of sports; he's always wrong, still keeps his job, and is somehow regarded as the "expert" in his field).
But even worse than mock drafts polluting the air is the stench of the NFL Combine. I absolutely hate it.
Why, you ask?
Because it's a doggone beauty pageant. Period.
I've said this over and over again, but it bears repeating: why is the Combine even necessary in today's modern age? Because it receives big time sponsorship dollars from Under Armour?
|Under Armour: "The NFL Scouting Combine is necessary because we say it is."|
NFL teams have three or four seasons of game footage to analyze for every single player. NFL teams have the right to work out individual players, to interview individual players. They've got dozens upon dozens of college scouting reports.
Why does the NFL need to have this big gathering of dudes with their shirts off, prancing about in their underwear, running around cones and bench pressing a bunch of reps?
Rarely does a beauty competition yield the next Einstein. The NFL Combine is no exception.
Honestly, when I hear the words "NFL Combine," I think of three players: Matt Jones, Troy Williamson and Vernon Gholston. Why? Because they won the damn swimsuit contest.
An NFL scouts' philosophy has always been thus: If you can run really, really fast, then you MUST be able to play wide receiver, right?
If you recall, Matt Jones was a quarterback at Arkansas. He was huge, at 6'6" and 242 pounds. Despite a decidedly underwhelming college career, he ran a 4.37 forty time at the 2005 Combine, which nobody had ever seen before in a player his size. Scouts nicknamed him "the Freak" [how original]. He was drafted in the first round by Jacksonville as a wide receiver. He turned out to be a complete bust. Why? Because he couldn't run routes and he couldn't catch the ball.
As a Vikings fan, Troy Williamson especially gets sand in my craw. He was, arguably, the biggest bust in Vikings draft history, although the Dimitrius Underwood debacle gives him some rather stiff competition.
Despite a combined 91 receptions in three seasons in college, Williamson ran a blinding 4.32 forty time at the 2005 Combine. Obviously, he had to be a star receiver in the NFL.
Over his five year pro career, he had a combined total of 87 receptions for 1,131 yards and four touchdowns (or what Calvin Johnson would call an "off year").
Why did Williamson fail in the NFL? Simple. You can be Flash Gordon, but if you can't run routes and you've got hands of Teflon, speed doesn't matter.
(By the way, one of the fastest 40 times in that ill-fated 2005 Combine belonged to cornerback Fabian Washington, who recorded a ridiculous 4.29. He was taken in the first round by the Raiders. Too bad he couldn't cover receivers... but he was fast).
Defensive end Vernon Gholston was yet another over-hyped workout warrior who couldn't play with the big boys. At the Combine in 2008, he tied the highest bench press score with 37 reps of 225 pounds. Regarded as a "sack master" in college, he was highly regarded because he was one of two players to record a sack against All-American Jake Long.
A sack. Singular.
Gholston drew huge praise and scouts compared him to Kalimba Edwards.
Gholston was taken sixth overall by the Jets and was finally released after three seasons. Guess what? He didn't record a single sack as a pro. Not one.
But he sure could bench press.
So the moral to the story is to work out like crazy after your college career is over. Forget about fine tuning your football skills. Hire a personal trainer. Get ripped. Show off your six pack abs and run really fast. Maybe grow out your hair a little. If you look like a duck and act like a duck, the scouts will think you're a duck.
It can make you millions.