Dueling columns: NFL Scouting Combine

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    Combine gives young talent chance to shine

    The NFL Scouting Combine kicked off yesterday in Indianapolis. The annual event is basically a giant job fair for prospective college athletes who have intentions of entering the pro ranks when the NFL Draft rolls around April 25-26.

    The draft prospects will run, jump, catch and throw in front of scouts, coaches and general managers of every team in the league. They’ll even test the players’ intelligence.

    It’s like a giant beauty contest for titanic, sweaty men competing for higher draft status and thus, more money. A poor day of workouts could cost a player millions of dollars over the course of his career.

    There are those who argue that the Combine is a poor instrument for measuring the abilities of young football players. Instead of focusing on unmeasurable traits like determination, willpower, confidence and a player’s pure love for the game, teams have become more and more obsessed with the size, strength and speed of these future players.

    In all fairness, there’s a big difference between strapping the pads on and playing in a real game and running through extensively rehearsed drills and 40-yard dashes. But in the current state of the NFL, strength and speed are exactly what teams crave.

    For several seasons now, teams have had the mentality of drafting athletes and turning them into football players. It’s a “win now league,” and having the youngest, fastest and strongest players can go a long way toward reaching the top as quickly as possible.

    Sure, play on the field is important, but players still need to meet certain physical requirements or they just won’t be able to compete in today’s NFL.

    The Combine shows teams which players can stand up to the rigors of professional football.

    It also gives players like TCU’s Stephen Hodge and Jason Phillips, who are participants in this year’s Combine, a chance to show they have NFL-caliber talent. Without the Combine, talented players like Hodge, Phillips and others around the country would run the risk of being overlooked come draft day.

    Sports editor Michael Carroll is a news-editorial journalism major from Coppell.

    Game performance real measure of athletes’ skills

    Every year hundreds of football players head to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine to begin their quest to become the next Peyton Manning or LaDainian Tomlinson.

    But most of the players in attendance won’t reach elite status and many others won’t even hear their name called in New York on April 25 or 26.

    According to the NFL Web site, 328 players will be attending the combine, but with 32 teams and seven rounds of drafting, plenty of players are going to be left out, making this trip especially useless to those players. I think the Combine is useless for everybody.

    All you see is what these athletes can do in specific drills, which players practice countless numbers of times before the combine, not in overall game performance.

    It’s like taking a test you already know the answers to; you just need to remember what they are.

    Players know what goes into all seven of the Combine’s drills, 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, 40-yard shuttle and broad jump, and that is what they work out for. They seem to forget about the fundamentals of football like tackling, catching, kicking and throwing.

    I think you can learn a lot more about a player’s talent by watching game film and seeing how a player reacts to certain in-game situations than you can by seeing them run in a straight line or jumping high.

    I understand most of these things contribute to how well a person plays, but I don’t think it is as big a deal as the scouts think it is.

    Besides, the 40-yard dash is essentially worthless. How many times a game do you see a player run 40-yards? If the two defenses are good, like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, hardly ever. But even in games featuring potent offenses, such as the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints, it isn’t the big play that makes them prolific, it is the constant success of smaller plays that set up bigger gains.

    So while I wish the best for the two Frogs that will be participating in Indianapolis, Stephen Hodge and Jason Phillips, I don’t think the combine is the truest evaluation of an athlete’s skill.

    Billy Wessels is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Waxahachie.

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