Each offseason there is a tremendous amount of weight placed on the results of the scouting combine. And yet, for all the poking, prodding, and testing, it still seems like anything but an exact science. And in many cases, the results produce a false sense of a prospect's true talents.
No fanbase understands this better than those in the Raider Nation, who watched for decades as Al Davis would reach for workout warriors who hadn't necessarily proved their immense physical abilities could translate to an NFL football field. The list of players who fall into that category is a long one and we need not go through them to prove this well-established point.
For most of these years, the means why which NFL scouts measured these players abilities were simply a stop watch and an actual measuring tape. And college athletes would train for months, not to prepare themselves for a career in the NFL, but for the physical tests which in many cases, in no way resembles what they will be doing at the NFL level.
The NFL is now looking seriously into changing that.
"Our first focus is to look at what we do currently and making sure that that's relevant," NFL Scouting Inc President Jeff Foster told USA Today. "And if it is, great, we'll continue to do it, because historical comparison is really important to the evaluation process. But if we believe that there's something that's not relevant, then what can we replace it with that will help us evaluate the players?"
No combine event is more discussed and held in higher esteem than the 40-yard dash. It's as if the prospect with the fastest 40 time wins the draft lottery or something, watching his stock jump up, sometimes several rounds. And yet, often that speed quotient is meaningless in a vacuum and for that reason the level of importance placed upon it is also heavily scrutinized.
Up until now, most cutting edge technology and analysis of the level being discussed was implemented on a team-by-team basis to try and gain a competitive advantage ala 'Money Ball'. And if those studies revealed uneven results, that was on the specific team.
The process for hoping to bring those tests to the scouting combine begins this week, as USA Today notes.
On Wednesday, the league will hold its first football performance and technology symposium, featuring speakers including Dr. Marcus Elliott, founder and director of P3, which has evaluated NBA combine participants the past two years in a 3D motion analysis lab.
"Everybody wins when you do these things," said Elliott, a onetime physiologist and injury prevention specialist to the Patriots. "You start choosing players that are slotted more correctly based on their real physical tools, and you also have insight into injuries they're at risk for, so you can help them prevent those injuries."
The Raiders' new regime has done well of late to bring the organization out of the age of stop watches and measuring tapes. Basically, they are functioning much as the rest of the league.
Roger Goodell and the NFL realize it's probably high time the scouting combine join the club(s). It could mean the end of the combine as we currently know it, along with future crops of more pro ready, properly evaluated prospects.