2013 NFL Scouting Combine

by Dustin Dietz | Posted on Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Image: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

By: Dustin Dietz

The 32nd annual NFL Scouting Combine, also known as the ‘Underwear Olympics’, begin this weekend at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.  The NFL Scouting Combine is held every February shortly after the Super Bowl with the purpose of displaying college player’s athletic ability, intelligence, and overall physique. Despite the fact there is not much football played on the field during the four day event, college prospects can literally make or break their draft status for the approaching NFL Draft in April.

Prospects compete in a variety of drills including the vertical leap, bench press, and everyone’s personal favorite, the 40 yard dash. The 40 yard sprint has become the most fascinating, revered aspect of the combine because fans and scouts have become obsessed with a player’s speed. A player’s 40 time can be somewhat misleading because the men are not wearing pads when they are timed. However, a player’s draft stock can skyrocket if he is able to run a 4.3 40.

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson made headlines in 2008 when he ran the quickest 40 yard dash in the combine’s history when he ran an incredible 4.24. After Johnson ran the swift 40, he elevated up draft boards and would be selected 24th overall by Tennessee, two spots behind Arkansas running back Felix Jones. Johnson can be viewed as a combine success as he has earned three Pro Bowl selections and rushed for the hallowed 2,000 yards in a season back in 2009.

Occasionally, teams will become riveted with a player who runs a fast 40 despite the fact the player has little to no business being held in such high regards. For a case in point, one can look at former Arkansas Razorback quarterback Matt Jones. Scouts were dubious of Jones when he visited the combine in 2005 with the intention of making the transition to wide receiver in the NFL despite never playing the position in college. After Jones measured 6’6” 242 pounds and ran a 4.37 40 yard dash, NFL scouts became smitten with the player given the moniker “The Freak”. Jones would be selected 21st overall in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he would only catch 166 passes and 15 touchdowns in four seasons with the Jags while experiencing off the field issues with the law.

Players can also be mistimed in the 40 as former Southern California safety Taylor Mays was in 2010 when he was believed to have run a 4.31, but actually ran a time closer to 4.43. Teams must be cautious of freakish type athleticism displayed by young men wearing scantily clad Under Armour gear.

Players will also be administered the Wonderlic exam to measure their overall intelligence. The men will have 12 minutes to answer 50 rather silly questions. If one is intrigued by some of the past scores like I am, I suggest surfing the web to view some of them. While the scores yielded by some can be taken with a grain of salt, some of the lower scores seemed to predict future failure. For example, former University of Texas star Vince Young scored a 6 on his Wonderlic exam taken in 2006, and Young’s professional career cannot be exactly viewed as a success so far. Last year, Cowboy cornerback Morris Claiborne reportedly scored a 4 after protesting the test’s football relevance. While I realize a cornerback’s brain power is not as important as a quarterback or center, one still has to wonder how a player can score a 4 even if he is refusing to take the exam. One would figure a man who has attended at least three years of a higher education institution could answer at least 10 questions correctly, but I guess I am naïve.

A high score on the Wonderlic does not always translate to NFL success as the highest score by an active player is 48 by a former Harvard player, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has been decent at times since entering the league in 2005, but is far from an elite QB.

A few players to keep your eye on this weekend are Brigham Young defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, and Notre Dame linebacker, and catfish victim, Manti Te’o.

Ansah was the star of the Senior Bowl last month in Mobile, Alabama and has only played football for three years since arriving in the United States from Ghana in 2008. Ansah is 6’6” 270 pounds and is being compared to the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul. With more teams in the NFL using the read option, Ansah’s size and speed on defense make him a potential top 10 selection in the upcoming draft.

Smith is out to prove the pundits he is the best of a perceived weak quarterback class in 2013. After getting off to a fabulous start the first half of 2012, Smith’s production declined dramatically, and so did his draft stock. Despite several experts such as Todd McShay being skeptical of Smith’s abilities, Smith believes he is worthy of a first round selection. His arduous expedition begins when he will throw at the combine on Sunday.

Unless one has been living under a rock or on the planet Mars the past few months, one is cognizant of Te’o’s story. I am interested to see how Te’o responds and performs after such a humiliating experience. One thing is certain, Te’o should prepare himself for quite a bit of ridicule from teammates and the opposition in the 2013 season.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley will not be participating in the combine activities as he is still recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered towards the end of last season. Heading into the 2012 season, Barkley was viewed by many as the best collegiate prospect overall, but his mediocre play and shoulder injury has caused his stock to fall rapidly.

Follow me on Twitter @DustinDietz18

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