The NFL’s dark season marches on. While I’ve sustained myself on the AAF and mock drafts, there is still a void only the NFL can fill. Luckily, the start of the new league year is in just a few short weeks. The coming weeks provide spicy new content in the forms of free agency speculations and draft analysis, starting this week with the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Scouting Combine is a beast of an event and will be the belle of the ball all over sports media. There’s a ton of information to process, and while much of it is fascinating, some tidbits aren’t. Its a safe bet that all but the most hardcore draftniks don’t care about the exact dimensions of Kyler Murray’s hands. I don’t even know the dimensions of my own hands.
With so much information out there, what should fans pay attention to at the Combine and what is especially relevant to Green Bay Packers fans?
Let’s call it what it is: the Combine is a meat market. Prospects will have their bodies measured and their physical attributes under a microscope while wearing little in the way of clothing. Not a single snap of actual football is taken.
The measurements and drills have value but tend to be overhyped. At this time last year, it was thought Baker Mayfield was too small to be an NFL quarterback. He went on to break the rookie passing touchdown record. In 2017, John Ross broke the record for the 40-yard dash time, but still hasn’t impressed as a receiver. The numbers don’t always tell the full story.
That isn’t to say these numbers are not valuable, but they must be taken with context and the big picture in mind. Certain teams value certain traits more, with scheme playing a vital factor. Ultimately a prospect’s tape shows who he is as a player more than the drills of the Combine. The real value is letting GMs see with their own eyes how a prospect’s physical acumen compares to what they’ve seen on tape.
For the Packers’ part, while Gutekunst only has one previous draft to look at, its clear he values quickness. The new Packers’ general manager favored prospects with impressive results at the 3 cone and shuttle drills.
Finally, in the context of physicality the Combine does allow scouts to get a current, unbiased analysis of a prospect’s health.
One of the most important parts of the Combine is the meetings between prospects and NFL teams. Teams are able to meet with players for 15 minute interviews, essentially a speed dating scenario. These dates are often the first time both parties have met directly and set the first impression for the rest of the draft process.
These meetings can make or break a candidate’s future with a team. The prospect is able to tell his story, control his own narrative, address any potential red flags, and sell not only who he is as a player, but who he’ll be in the locker room as well. Teams can find out how the prospect will mesh with the rest of their team, have any lingering questions answered, and get to know who the player is as a person.
The Packers historically place a great deal of emphasis on character, and Matt LaFleur has stated that personal character is paramount to him. It will be exciting following which players Gutenkunst’s staff takes a liking to.
The Indianapolis Underground
Officially the Scouting Combine is about the future rookies. They take center stage and the event is a vital part in the draft experience. But unofficially the Combine plays a role in free agency as well. The legal tampering period won’t begin for a few more weeks, but that won’t stop the negotiations from taking place. All 32 teams have representatives at the event and agents know it. GMs will take every opportunity behind closed doors to grease palms and find ways to improve their team.
The Combine is a perfect place for deals to be made. Kirk Cousins’ megadeal last year almost certainly had its roots at the Combine. Many free agency rumors over the next few weeks will be based on conversations at the hotel bars in Indianapolis.
Ultimately the NFL Scouting Combine is just one step of the draft process. College tape, pro days, and facility visits all arguably give NFL teams more information and more face time with potential players. That being said, the Combine is still a critical event. For fans its a great way to see how draft prospects compliment their tape with physical drills, see what players their favorite team will target, and hear the source of many free agency rumors.
The road to the NFL is a fascinating process to follow, and the Combine is one of the first events we can see potential Packers in action.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.