The NFL Scouting Combine will take place again this week in Indianapolis. This annual gathering of NFL front office personnel, coaches, scouts, and of course, media, has become big news for die-hard football fans going through withdrawal with the Super Bowl in the rear-view mirror.
Even though the NFL Network will provide wire to wire coverage of the meat market and "draft experts" from Mel Kiper to Matt Miller will offer their opinions on the performances of the prospects, the question remains: Just how much do these results from the combine mean in the grand scheme of things?
I wrote this piece last year at Bengals 101 detailing the legendary "workout wonders" like Yamon Figurs and Mitch Petrus who used the combine to jump from obscurity to elevated draft status. While the combine certainly helped these players financially, it certainly didn't do anything to effectively predict their actual playing skill in the NFL.
For all the "science" that pundits like to make us believe lies behind the selection process in the NFL Draft, it still remains a crap shoot on many levels. Even though teams spend millions of dollars on scouting and have remarkable resources at their disposal to evaluate prospects, we still have drafts that produce JaMarcus Russells (number one overall by the Raiders in 2007 and Tom Brady (number 199 overall by New England).
Colts 101 went back and took a look at drafts from 2007-2010 (still too early to evaluate 2011 and 2012) to find the "boom" and "bust" players from those drafts. A "boom" player is a player who was obviously undervalued (not the first at his position taken) while a "bust" player is one who was obviously overvalued.
S Deshon Goldson-San Franscisco 49'ers Goldson was selected in the fourth round by the Niners and eventually bypassed safeties taken ahead of him like Sabby Piscatelli and Marvin White. Goldson played a large role in the Niners Super Bowl run this year and stands to have a big payday this off season as a free agent. Goldson's only standout number at the Combine was his height.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw-New York Giants Bradshaw was a seventh round compensatory pick for the Giants. He became the Giants' starting running back, recorded two 1000 yard rushing seasons and scored the game-winning touchdown in last year's Super Bowl against the Patriots. Released by the Giants this past month, he'll get a nice deal from someone. Sixteen running backs were chosen ahead of Bradshaw in 2007.
Besides the aforementioned JaMarcus Russell:
DE Jamaal Anderson-Atlanta Falcons Anderson was selected eight overall by Atlanta and was the second DE off the board behind the late Gaines Adams (Tampa Bay). Anderson was eventually released by the Falcons in 2011 and came to the Indianapolis Colts where he spent a season playing behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. He signed with Cincinnati this past off season and wasn't much of a factor. Anderson came to the Combine, but only ran the 40 yard-dash.
WR Robert Meachem, "Buster" Davis and Anthony Gonzalez- New Orleans, SanDiego and Indianapolis A run of wide receivers marked the end of the first round in 2007. None of the three ever lived up to their billing. Receivers drafted behind them included Sydney Rice, Steve Smith (NYG) and Jacoby Jones, all of whom have played in the Pro Bowl.
RB Ray Rice-Baltimore Ravens- The seventh running back chosen in 2008 is arguably the best. Chris Johnson made the Combine news that year with his record 40 time and vaulted himself into the first round. Rice became the most dependable all-purpose back in the league.
RB Jamaal Charles-Kansas City Chiefs-The Lions took Kevin Smith between Rice and Charles (3rd round). Charles spent most of 2011 on the shelf rehabbing a knee injury, but he returned to post his third 1000 yard season in five years. He's averaged 5.8 yards per carry over his career and has over 1200 yards receiving as well.
G Carl Nicks- New Orleans Saints- Nicks was arguably the league's best interior lineman and got paid like it this past off season when he signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent. Unfortunately he missed most of the year on injured reserve. Nicks went in the fifth round in 2008.
Picks 4-9: Perhaps never before has there been a string of underperforming draft picks like this sequence from 2008. Glenn Dorsey went fourth to Kansas City, Vernon Gholston fifth to the Jets, Sedrick Ellis seventh to the Saints, Derrick Harvey eighth to Jacksonville and Keith Rivers ninth to Cincinnati. After this off season when Dorsey and Ellis will undoubtedly be elsewhere, none of these players will be with their original teams. Ironically, the tenth pick, Jerrod Mayo for the Patriots, is a multiple Pro Bowler.
WR Mike Wallace-Pittsburgh Steelers- Ten receivers went ahead of Wallace before the Steelers took him in the third round. He'll be one of the most sought after free agents this off season after topping 4000 yards and scoring 32 touchdowns in four years with Pittsburgh.
DE/OLB Paul Kruger-Baltimore Ravens- Kruger was a nondescript second rounder for the Ravens in 2009. Busts, Tyson Jackson and Aaron Maybin went ahead of him in the first round. Kruger is the most sought after defensive player available this off season after leading the Ravens to victory in the Super Bowl.
S Kam Chancellor-Seattle Seahawks- Chancellor lasted until the fifth round where the Seahawks selected him and went on to become a Pro Bowl talent on a dominant Seattle defense. Nine safeties were taken before him, including Pro Bowl teammate Earl Thomas, but also 49'ers bust, Taylor Mays.
TE Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez- This was a great draft for tight ends. Hernandez went after his teammate Rob Gronkowski and Graham, a former basket ball player. Jermaine Gresham was the first tight end taken by Cincinnati.
DT Geno Atkins- Cincinnati Bengals Atkins has become a disruptive force on the interior of the Bengals' defensive line despite being around til the fourth round. Twelve DTs went ahead of Atkins who made his second Pro Bowl this season.
QB Tim Tebow-Denver Broncos- Whatever your opinion of "Tebow-mania" clearly he wasn't worthy of a number one pick for the Broncos who dealt him to the Jets.
DE Jerry Hughes- Indianapolis Colts- Hughes was supposed to be Dwight Freeney's successor with the Colts. Freeney is now gone, and despite the Colts switch to the 3-4, which Hughes played in college, there's been no signs of an every down player from him. He'll most likely be gone as well.