Spectacular Combine Stats Do Not Guarantee NFL Success


((Saquon Barkley/wikipedia))

So, now that the NFL Scouting Combine is wrapped up, can we stop slobbering over a large group of freakish 20-22 year old athletes?

All weekend long I got urgent "Push" alerts on my phone breathlessly telling me about Saquon Barkley's 40-yard dash time, how many times guys bench pressed 225 pounds and how far Josh Allen threw the football.

But what does all of those urgent, breaking news reports actually mean? Very little....

It means guys trained really hard to run fast, gather extra strength and spent time working on their footwork and drills.

Most of which means nothing in terms of gauging their NFL careers...

Perhaps the funniest to me was the adoration of former Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. Barkley was a very, very good College Football player and his freakish athletic ability.

He's a 5 foot 11 inch, 233 pound fast and strong young man. And he ran for over 1,000 yards each of his three seasons in Happy Valley. He also returned kicks and excelled at that too.

Barkley ran a 4.40 40-yard dash...for whatever that means....and had a pretty impressive 41-inch vertical leap.

What does this all mean? Welp, it means in shorts and a t-shirt, he's an impressive athlete. And yeah--he has the makings of a top-flight NFL Football player.

But the folks at NFL.com---well, they might have gotten just a bit carried away on the technical stuff, they were constantly tweeting comparisons to current NFL players. Not all which was received well by those current players...

Not everything at the event was fodder for cynicism. Seeing the amazing performance of former UCF star Shaquem Griffn was nothing short of inspirational.

The kid has more heart than just about anyone you'll meet and had to beg for a combine invite.

Not only did he show up...he made the most of it...rocking 20 reps at 225 pounds and running a faster 40-yard dash than many of the guys smaller than him.

Griffin will be a Star. Both in the NFL and after. Someone with his handicap succeeding at the level he is should and will be an inspiration to everyone. It should be.

He's going to make an NFL GM willing to draft him---very, very happy.

But that all being said....I have a point to make here and it is this:

Watching guys in compression shorts run fast, throw the ball far, catching passes and doing shuttle runs is an odd form of entertainment for some people but ultimately, it means very little.

Game tape, interviews and reaction to pressure and stress means everything and not everyone handles it the same.

Being able to perform in a universe where most everyone is your physical equal is a shock to some 21-year olds systems. It's hard to comprehend a game where almost everyone is as strong or fast as you and many have more experience and can anticipate what YOU want to do before you think about it.

It's a big adjustment.

For every 32-kids drafted in the 1st round of April's draft, 5-10 of them will go on to be NFL stars, or at least better than average players. 15-20 will be solid pros, unspectacular but in the league long enough to make their money.

And at least 5 of them will bomb out, tank, not adjust and be out of the league quickly. It's not for everyone. In many cases the adjustment is too much for some kids to make and all the poking and prodding and uncovered drills in the world won't show that.

Picking athletes to be professionals is a very inexact science. For all the research and testing you still can't always get into someone's head. Nor can you figure out how they are going to adjust to being in an unstructured environment where they are responsible for their own lives and have nothing to do other than play football. No classes, no tutoring or mandatory study sessions--just training and time to themselves.

Some are ready to make the adjustment...and some aren't.

But you won't know until you know.

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