Palsgrove’s Points

The NFL Combine is freaking weird. Imagine you’re about to leave college and you need a job, so you are asked to attend a career fair with 32 potential employers who all want to interview you, allow the American media to interview you and have their team’s doctors give you a complete medical evaluation where they actively look for anything wrong with you and try and find flaws in your body — oh, and they make you perform some of the same physical tests you did in gym class as a kid. Weird, right? 

And yet, that is precisely what happens in Indianapolis every year as the NFL preps for its upcoming draft (which is also a weird concept if you step back, and kinda backward). The NFL invites 320-something of the best football players in the NCAA and gathers them in Indy for a week of testing, interviews and all-around chaos. 

Also, why is it called the Combine? Isn’t a combine a piece of farming equipment? (That is a legitimate question I got from my editor in preparation for this column). So it’s called the Combine, pronounced (KHAHM’-byn), but it should be pronounced (KHUHM’-byn). That is what it was: Just a combination of a bunch of different teams who wanted to medically evaluate the players they were going to draft, and those teams decided to place those tests in the same city for ease of travel. 

It is a bizarre process with a strange history, but there are still some things the NFL does that make me tilt my head. 

Some prospects can just … say no?

Caleb Williams, a quarterback out of USC, will be the first player to be drafted in the NFL Draft in April. At this point, the only question is whether or not the Bears are the team picking him. Well, Williams decided to attend the combine, but he declined to perform any of the physical tests and declined to be evaluated medically, which is basically unheard of.

If you are unfamiliar with the combine and the NFL Draft process, you may look at that paragraph and think, “Well, if he’s a lock to go 1.01, why would he test? He has nothing to prove.” You would be absolutely correct, but that doesn’t make him any less of an outlier because Williams is the first prospect ever to decline the medical tests.

Per Jonathan Jones at CBS Sports, “One league source believes Williams is the first combine invitee to attend the event after declining the medical exams, which are typically considered to be one of the most essential elements of the combine.”

Williams wasn’t the only player to make waves by not participating in something. Marvin Harrison Jr., the superstar wideout from Ohio State and the No. 1 non-quarterback on my board, declined to participate in the mandatory press interviews. And it’s not like he announced that a week prior; he told the media and the NFL he would be there and then just … dipped. 

Technically, it is all voluntary, but why would two of the best players decline to volunteer their time for press and medicals? And why has it become standard practice for players to pick and choose what athletic tests they participate in? Because players don’t want to show their weaknesses. 

According to Pro Football Talk about Yahoo Sports, “Of the 321 players invited, here’s how many did each of the six Combine tests: 230 did the vertical. 222 did the broad jump. 220 did the 40-yard dash. 89 did the shuttle. 77 did the three-cone drill. 72 did the bench press.” 

Players won’t participate in events if there’s a worry about their performance in that event or even a hint of doubt about how it will affect their draft stock. And that goes for all events, even one of the premier events like the 40. 

Does the 40-yard dash even matter?

The 40-yard dash is very simple. Each player lines up in a 3-point track stance and runs as fast as they can 40 yards in a straight line, and that number is how fast they’ll be for the rest of their lives. The funniest thing about it? When have you ever seen an NFL player stand in a track stance and sprint 40 yards straight downfield in a football game? You haven’t, right? In fact, some of the best receivers in the NFL had rather poor 40s in their combine. 

For some reference, Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell set the best 40-yard time ever at 4.21 seconds very recently. A good time for a WR is widely considered anything under 4.40, but here’s a list of some NFLers who ran slower than 4.40 from USA Today Sports. DeAndre Hopkins ran a 4.57 in 2013. Davante Adams ran a 4.56 in 2014. Mike Evans ran a 4.53 in 2014. Antonio Brown ran a 4.56 in 2010. Demaryius Thomas ran a 4.52 in 2010. Dez Bryant ran a 4.52 in 2010. Cooper Kupp ran a 4.62 in 2017. Allen Robinson ran a 4.6 in 2014. 

Four of those guys are either surefire or borderline hall of famers, and that’s not even including Puka Nacua, who ran a 4.57 40 and reset the rookie WR yardage record. Kind of weird how highly we view good 40 times when they don’t really matter.

Palsgrove is the asst. sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *