Every spring, hundreds of college football players head to Indianapolis, Indiana for the annual NFL Scouting Combine, where they’ll compete in a series of events to impress coaches, scouts and draft analysts in preparation for the NFL Draft.
Inevitably, some of those players exceed expectations while others don’t live up to the massive hype bestowed upon them.
Among this year’s batch of labeled “disappointments,” especially in terms of speed, were members of the 2014 TCU football team. Of the five Frogs who competed, four finished with 40-yard dash times in the bottom third of their respective positions.
NFL analyst Matt Miller noted the lackluster times on Twitter.
TCU players all ran slow. Something to that.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 23, 2015
But are these numbers, which will likely hamper draft stocks of the former Frogs, an indicator of future success?
Yes and no.
Combine performances certainly hold some merit, or teams wouldn’t hold so much stock in them. There is undoubtedly value in analyzing a player’s athletic ability through numbers that simply can’t be denied.
That said, numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is a prime example of a player that couldn’t translate his impressive combine numbers into football success.
Heyward-Bey ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds before being selected seventh overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2009 NFL Draft. Three years later, the Raiders released Heyward-Bey, in part for failing to live up to his draft position.
Looking solely at his combine numbers, Heyward-Bey should’ve been a superstar. After six seasons in the league, he’s only scored 12 touchdowns and has been labeled a draft bust.
On the other hand, four-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady turned in one of the most maligned combine performances of all time, running the 40-yard dash in 5.28 seconds, which is still the slowest time among active NFL starting quarterbacks.
Once Brady hit the football field though, it was clear the combine numbers were not an indication of his ability to play the game. The Patriots quarterback is a two-time NFL MVP award winner and widely considered one of the greatest players of all time.
Like Brady, ex-TCU linebacker Paul Dawson disappointed scouts at the combine, but that doesn’t mean he should hang up his cleats just yet. Dawson defended his ability as a player on Twitter.
I’m an awesome football player. The best/most productive linebacker in this draft. Not a track Star. #meetmeonthefield
— Paul Dawson Jr (@PjDawson47) February 22, 2015
And Dawson is right. He is an awesome football player.
The Dallas, Texas native led this season’s stout TCU defense with 136 tackles, six sacks and four interceptions. He was one of the team’s unquestioned leaders and labeled a possible first-round draft pick entering the combine.
One bad day shouldn’t outweigh several seasons of game tape.
Just because Dawson runs in a straight line (without pads, mind you) slightly slower than his linebacker counterparts doesn’t mean he isn’t worthy of a first-round pick. Football speed is a whole lot different than track speed.
Much of the same can be said for Dawson’s fellow Frogs, each of who, are worthy of being selected in this year’s draft.
Alongside combine snubs Chucky Hunter and Sam Carter, TCU’s crop of Dawson, Kevin White, Tayo Fabuluje, B.J. Catalon and Chris Hackett dominated the Big 12 this season, helping lead TCU to its first-ever Big 12 title.
Many of them didn’t look like superstars on paper coming out of high school, garnering only two or three-star ratings from websites like Rivals and Scout. That said, they proved their worth at the college level on the field.
College success doesn’t always translate to NFL success, as college stars-turned-NFL flameouts like Tim Tebow and Vince Young have shown, but TCU has a history of churning out solid NFL players.
The leaders of the 2014 TCU football team proved their worth time and time again on Saturdays and, in my opinion, have every right to keep proving their worth on Sundays through actual football competition.
Forty-yard dash times are great, but they don’t tell the whole story.