There is very little off-season for the men and women who run NFL teams. There is a ton of work to do for all 32 teams before the first round of the draft on April 25.
Between now and Feb. 26, the all important NFL Combine is taking place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Before teams even showed up at the combine they held in-depth organizational meetings to come up with a plan of attack while they’re in Indianapolis. From the physical testing (bench press, 40-yard time etc), field testing, the Wonderlic aptitude test and the personal interviews, every single detail of a prospective draftee is catalogued for future reference.
In case you are wondering, Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Pea bench pressed 225 pounds a whopping 49 times at the 2011 combine.
The fastest electronically timed 40-yard dash ever recorded at the combine took place in 2008 when Chris Johnson ran a 4.24.
Bo Jackson ran the fastest hand timed 40 yard dash when he ripped off a 4.12 at the 1986 combine.
After the combine wraps up the teams will go their separate ways to do their own analytical breakdown of the data they compiled in Indianapolis. With 32 different philosophies, everybody views the players through a radically different prism. Some teams will put more emphasis on the interview process while others are more focused on the field drills and physical testing.
As one front office executive indicated to me the myriad of tests the players are put through either confirms what they already knew, or it tells them that they have to do more homework before the draft.
If history has taught us anything it has taught us to the folly of trying to adequately grade a draft before we see any other draftees actually play.
After last year’s draft, one prominent website gave the Seahawks a grade of ‘D-minus’ for their draft. Ten months later the Seahawks deserve a grade of ‘A’ for their picks in the 2012 draft.
The Seahawks’ first three picks, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson all became vital members of the team; especially Wilson. Five quarterbacks, including Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler, were chosen before the Seahawks selected Wilson out of Wisconsin. It was obvious the coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and the Seahawks scouting department overlooked Wilson’s small stature and saw something in him 31 other teams missed.
The ability of the Seahawks to take an impact starting quarterback like Wilson in the third round speaks to the countless hours of homework and due diligence done by the team’s scouts, personnel department and coaching staff.
Every team in the league thinks they can find someone that everybody else misses out on and watch him develop into an impact player. But for every Wilson there is a JaMarcus Russell out there that can set a franchise back years.
The Seahawks were not the only team that used the information they gathered at the combine to come up with some real gems in the later rounds of the draft.
The Redskins scouting and personnel department hit a grand slam last year when they grabbed one of the steals of the 2012 draft with their selection of running back Alfred Morris in the sixth round, 173rd overall. The 14th running back selected in the 2012 draft, Morris went on to run for a staggering 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Another example of a team hitting the jackpot later in the draft took place in third round when the Colts selected wide receiver T.Y. Hilton 92nd overall. With 50 catches for 861 yards and seven touchdowns Hilton emerged as an important weapon in the Colts offence. In the final seven games of the regular season Hilton caught 26 passes and averaged 19.4 yards per reception.
There can be no higher compliment for a team’s scouting department than the ability to unearth an impact offensive player late in the draft. Months of scouting, testing and interviewing has to happen before a team can hit the jackpot at the draft. But as big as the combine has become it is only one of many steps along the way as team gather the information they need to make up their mind on draft day.
For the record I might (emphasis on the word “might”) be able to do one rep of 225 pounds in the bench press test. I don’t even want to know how long it would take me to run the 40.