by Kent Sterling
The NFL Scouting Combine continues to exist, I suspect, because it always has existed and the coaches enjoy eating shrimp at St. Elmo’s and dancing at Ike and Jonesy’s.
Players come to town to run and cut, throw and catch, and answer some very personal questions to gauge their ability to handle the pressure of playing in the NFL.
After all, the NFL is a $9 billion dollar enterprise, and inviting a very fast but psychologically flawed young man to represent ‘The Shield’ should be avoided. Inviting a slow but psychologically flawed young man into the club is an even worse idea.
Future players are poked, prodded, and examined to reveal any physical maladies that might ruin a hefty investment, and then everyone goes home a little less unsure about the future.
That’s what they are wrapping up right now. ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio just walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium for the final time in 2014, and former Colts president Bill Polian is on the phone a few feet away from me. He’s a good low talker, so I have no idea who is on the other end of the line. He’ll be out of here soon.
The media throng here through last Sunday has dispersed. Companies writing the expense checks don’t subscribe to the need to stay through Tuesday, I guess. I’m here because I live in Indianapolis, and why not come down to see the end of the madness. Being able to say I was the last media nut to leave the 2014 NFL Combine might not mean much to anyone else, but it’s surely incomprehensible to me.
So what do we learn from this edition of the annual conflagration of talent, team officials, and media? Not so much.
I am very sure that I would take South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with whatever pick I had, but I knew that coming in. There is absolutely nothing he could have done here to dissuade me.
A radio program director I worked for once told me, “Of course you treat everyone differently. If a host has a 10-share, I’ll thank him for crapping on my desk.” Clowney is the football equivalent of a 20-share host, so there is no telling what kind of mischief might be tolerated as long as he showed up ready to disrupt an offense each autumn Sunday.
If Houston doesn’t pair Clowney with J.J. Watt as the baddest bookends in the NFL, I would be stunned and disappointed. Watching those two make the Texans cornerbacks irrelevant would be tremendous fun – even when they play the hometown Colts twice each season.
The rest of the draft is a crap shoot. Even when there is a consensus among the mock draft guys about the first round, they are usually way off. This year, no one agrees on anything – yet. The media has a way of being influenced by one another, so in a couple of weeks, all the ‘wisdom’ will come coagulate as one irrelevant and incorrect glob. On draft night, we will see exactly what mock drafts are worth.
The people who draft talent for a living are wrong more often than they are right, so what the hell can we expect from the media?
So now we have two-and-a-half months of pro days and unending blather because the market demands round the clock and calendar coverage of the NFL.
How did Johnny Manziel spin it, and will Jimmy Garoppolo continue to move up draft boards? Will the Rams trade down or hope the Texans lose their minds and pass on Clowney?
The Colts don’t draft until the late 50s, so guessing who might be available then is completely futile. Will the Bears take a quarterback to learn behind the mercurial Jay Cutler?
I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter. What will matter is how well this draft class plays when the fur flies for real in September. Until then, it’s all talk. But that doesn’t keep us from watching and guessing.