The NFL Scouting Combine will be held in a few days, and that means the frenzy of anticipation and speculation leading to this April's NFL Draft will be kicking into high gear.
I hate all the craziness that surrounds the Combine, with players moving up and down 'draft boards' based on how high they jump, how much they lift, how fast they run and how well they perform on a batttery of psychological tests.
I think it's over-hyped, over-analyzed and over-utilized as a tool to determine which players to draft.
Don't get me wrong. The importance of getting the draft right can't be overstated when it comes to the future success of a franchise.
Look no further than your 2007 Super Bowl champion New York Giants (that still sounds incredible, doesn't it?) for an example. All eight of last year's Giants' draft picks made the team, and many played significant roles. A miss on two or three of those players and the Giants might not be champions today.
So, it's not that I don't understand the importance of scouts, general managers and coaches getting the opportunity to meet and observe players first-hand. In some cases, players from small schools who have had limited collegiate exposure can benefit from the chance to showcase themselves.
I just believe it's pure folly to base a draft choice on what a guy does in shorts, or to project that one guy will be better for your team than another because he can squat 5 more pounds in the weight room.
I believe that too much reliance by teams on what these guys do in so many settings where they aren't actually playing football leads to mistakes.
Yes, it's nice to know how fast a guy is, or exactly how big and strong he is. But, if you can't tell from watching games or watching tape that a player is stronger, faster or more instinctive than the guys he lines up against then you shouldn't be in a pro personnel position.
I believe, simply, that you judge more about a player from what he does on the field in game situations than anywhere else.
Does he make plays? Does he have good instincts? Can a defender tackle? Does he produce when a game is on the line? Does he play hard on every play? Can a receiver catch the ball in traffic? Can a back gain yards after he's been hit? Can a running back make defenders miss tackles? Can a quarterback rise to the occasion when it matters most? Does a player have the heart to compete even when things are going badly? When it's the final seconds does a kicker come through or does he shank one?
These are the kinds of questions that, to me, are more important than a player's exact physical attributes or test scores. Yes, you have to have the size, speed and strength to succeed in the NFL. But, most of all, you have to be able to play. No Combine workout can tell you whether or not a guy can do that.
So, go ahead. Watch hours of Combine workouts if you have NFL Network. Get excited by various workouts and disappointed by others. The Combine is one tool talent evaluators should use, but not the be-all and end-all.
I will give you some Combine updates during the four-day event.
Later, though, when the draft draws closer and we are down to arguing about specific guys the Giants should draft I need to hear better arguments than "he was great at the Combine."
In reality, that tells me nothing about what kind of football player a guy is.