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NFL Scouting Combine: To Compete or Not to Compete?

To Compete or Not to Compete? That is the question every year for many possible first-round draft picks as they prepare for the NFL Draft. The 2014 NFL scouting combine is in full swing and quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr have already decided their arms will not be on display for NFL scouts, coaches and general managers. Every year we hear about the importance of participation at the scouting combine as NFL teams try to cement the best draft choices for their franchises.

Agents are the driving force behind a player’s choice to not participate in the drills based on the theory that a poor performance will knock them down the financial ladder. The difference in salary from the first to the tenth overall selection is about ten million dollars. That’s a lot of money or as the great Rod Tidwell would say, a lot of Kwan, especially when an agent only gets to claim a maximum of 3% of that payload. But are they right? The answer lies somewhere in between but tends to lean slightly more toward the NFL’s point-of-view.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Cam Newton was the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft and for those of us who remember, the throwing portion of the drills at the scouting combine were not his best performance. So how did he end up the top overall selection? Well there’s a lot—A LOT—more to the NFL scouting combine than just the throwing drills. Newton was able to display his enormous athletic talents in the individual testing drills and most importantly was able to answer several questions during the interview process regarding his character, which was very much in question at the time. Let’s get back to his throwing drills, though. While his performance was average, it was his ability to show NFL teams that he was not afraid to compete and not afraid of what might happen when throwing to wide receivers he had never worked with that enhanced his status in the eyes of many NFL personnel.

It’s not the ability to avoid failure that makes someone great, it’s the ability to face failure, endure it and rise above it that truly defines the nature and character of that person. I’m sure not every NFL coach and general manager walked away from the 2011 scouting combine with that same perception. The only team that mattered, however, was the Carolina Panthers because they owned the first pick and they sure did take notice. The story of Newton’s performance with the Panthers since then speaks for itself. Go ahead and bombard me with the stories of how Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, and Matt Ryan all chose not to throw and how it didn’t have an impact on them. Add on the fact that Newton was criticized for his throwing performance and I’ll say diddly-pooh, they played it safe and I’ll still go with the guy willing to put it all on the line. Of all the quarterbacks mentioned above, Luck is the only one at Newton’s level in the NFL.

There is nothing more exciting in sport than watching an athlete face a challenge. At the 2007 combine two of the best competitors the NFL has seen put themselves up against everyone else. Adrian Peterson ran at the combine and posted a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and Calvin Johnson, after deciding not to run, borrowed a pair of shoes and singed the track at Indianapolis running a 4.35. This year, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has thrown down the gauntlet saying he’ll be timed in the 4.4 range when he runs his 40-yard dash and quarterback Blake Bortles, who has a chance to go number one, has said he will participate in the passing drills. I say bravo to Jadeveon, Blake and all athletes who view competition a notch above financial compensation. Yes, I know I just wrote a line that hardly holds true in modern day sport, but let me have my moment: I stand on this soap box all alone waiting for the onslaught of greed to run me down.

The NFL Scouting Combine runs from February 19 to February 25.


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