The path to the NFL Draft

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By Marcus Clarke

Marcus Clarke (Khai Le)

By Marcus Clarke

The April 21-22 draft is fast approaching, the day many college players have been waiting their whole lives for, the day when their lives will change for ever.

In the era of guaranteed contracts, a player drafted in the first of the drafts seven rounds will make millions of dollars before even stepping on the field.

However before a player is drafted, he must prove himself not only during his college career but at the NFL scouting combine.

The NFL combine, comparable to a meat market, tests every aspect of a player’s physical and mental ability. So much emphasis is put on the combine that players began their training even before their seasons have ended, because they know that if they perform well, they will make millions more.

If they don’t perform well they will certainly lose money.

An example of this is former University of Arizona running back Chris Williams. He was drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft.

Amazingly, he did not even start on his own team in college. His college teammate, Mike Bell, started over Williams, but Williams was drafted long before Bell, because Williams performed well at the combine.

It’s amazing that the body of work Bell put together in four years of starting at Arizona was set aside for three days of combine work.

On the other hand, you have Tom Brady, the Patriots starting quarterback, who performed horribly at the combine.

All the scouts said he was too slow, too weak, and did not have all of the “tangibles” to succeed in the NFL.

When the draft came around he was picked near the end of the sixth round of the 2001 draft.

This pick panned out, however, Brady has led the Patriots to four Super Bowl appearances, and three Super Bowl titles, winning Super Bowl MVP twice.

Then there is Ryan Leaf, thought of as the worst draft pick in NFL history.

When Leaf went to the NFL combine he looked unstoppable. He was the top of his class in nearly every event along with Peyton Manning.

Leaf went on to be the second overall pick in 1998 to the San Diego Chargers behind Manning who went to the Indianapolis Colts.

Leaf played four terrible seasons for the Chargers before being kicked out of the league for various team and league violations.

It is situations like this that lead skeptics to believe that the evaluations prior to the draft such as the combine are overrated.

These evaluations of players do not test a player’s football ability, but his athletic ability.

Skeptics also argue that some of the combine’s tests are irrelevant, such tests as the Wonderlic test. The Wonderlic tests the mental capacity of a player on non football topics.

Also, players from major schools have everything to lose and nothing to gain because they already receive so much exposure.

However, for a small school player, the combine is their chance to prove that they belong among the elite. Their games aren’t televised nationally so they don’t get as much exposure as their big school counterparts.

Dominique Rogers-Cromartie from Tennessee State is this years “diamond in the rough.”

No one knew who he was until he stepped foot in the RCA dome where the combine was held.

He went from an unknown to a first round lock, based on his three day combine workout.

Some teams are too involved in the combine which leads them to make bad choices in the draft.

Running fast times and doing well on the wonderlick test can only get you so far in the NFL.

Being a football player is not something you can test or measure; it is only something you can do by playing.

The combine is a bit over rated which leads to an overrated draft pick, which lead to millions of dollars lost.

However, it does have its good qualities.

It gives those who would not otherwise get an opportunity to showcase their talent the ability to prove themselves.

The draft is what all these players have worked their whole lives for. The combine is not the proper way to evaluate their talent.

The combine does not judge a players football ability, but his athletic ability.

One day we will find a more accurate way to measure a football player’s ability.

As for this years draft, we will just have to see what teams pick the right player.

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