I thought we were over the NFL Scouting Combine. In the Moneyball era of sports analysis, can't we all agree the drills at the combine are meaningless?
What a player does in shorts has little direct relevance to the gridiron and any team that sinks money into a player because of his vertical leap is bound for mediocrity. But somehow the annual event is more hyped than ever.
The NFL Network has hours of coverage and the league set up a Super Bowl-like radio row in Indianapolis this year. For what? The three-cone drill, the 20-yard shuttle, the broad jump? The two aspects of the combine that truly matter, the interview and the physical, aren't on television and no team is going to divulge any real information on what they've learned in Indy.
We're more likely to see a potential mistake come out of the combine than unearth a gem as teams let the numbers sway them instead of what they see on college tape. Even as teams get more sophisticated, you still see Mamula-ian mistakes - the Jaguars' choice of Matt Jones in 2005 is the recent example that sticks out in my mind.
In a coach-driven league, winning teams are all about finding guys who fit their system instead of the best athlete. The great dynasties are filled with tales of draft picks who didn't have the right size or 40 time but turned into Hall of Famers. Look at the rosters of Bill Walsh's 49ers or Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys.
Today's premier team, the Patriots, almost always ignore the combine come draft time -- most notably in 2000 with Tom Brady in the sixth round. The one combine superstar New England did take, receiver Chad Jackson in 2006, turned out to be its worst pick in the Belichick era.
The formula for drafting a championship-level team is elusive and whatever we hear in the coming weeks about big-time prospects will most likely not pan out. Draft analysts are too hesitant to label top prospects as potential busts, even though a big percentage of first-rounders won't work out. They'll use numbers from the combine to make their points even though those numbers haven't proven anything through the years.
If you're trying to glean meaningful inside information this weekend, you have as much chance finding it in Matt Walsh's video archive as you do on the NFL Network. You're better off going to YouTube and watching Darren McFadden highlight reels -- at least that's entertaining.