The NFL Combine; a false measure of player talent?

The Wall Street Journal ran a very interesting article in the Saturday paper dealing with short-term testing. "Short-term testing" is the word used to describe relatively quick testing sessions meant to cover material from a much greater span of time, like the SATs, FCATs, BAR exam, etc. Essentially the question the article asks is: "How effective are short-term tests at predicting future success?" In fact, they are not very good at all.

Why is this relevant to an NFL team blog? Because the Combine is a prime example of short-term testing.

In trying to understand productivity, there are two different types of measures: Maximum performance (ie. how fast is the fastest someone can run) and Typical performance (How fast does someone usually run.) 40 times and other combine drills are terrible measures of overall talent, because they measure Maximum performance and have absolutely no concern for typical performance. We've all seen that player who runs a super-fast 40, or bench presses a school bus and just wows every team out there, then some poor, foolish team (usually the Raiders) takes them early in the draft. This is the number one mistake a team can make: looking at short-term testing, and ignoring the player's typical performance over their entire college career. The Combine is not a good measure of NFL success.

 

There are teams who pick somewhat based on combine numbers, but in reality Combine numbers are not even close to adequate measures of potential NFL players. In fact, according to a recent study by economists at the University of Louisville, there's no "consistent statistical relationship" between the results of players at the Combine and subsequent NFL performance. So what more does one need to know about the players? What can be read from between the lines?

Focus, heart, and football instincts are integral to discerning a player's potential success. Does a player rise to the challenge of a greater opponent or falter? Are they the biggest, fastest, baddest man on the field? Can they play such a physical game with their mind and not their body? Those are the questions that need to be seen on game tape and in practice. The Combine cannot provide that kind of information. Fans like to judge players, often based on statistics and Combine numbers. According to the Wall Street Journal, stats often lie when it comes to measuring NFL talent.

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