Combine adds: Pads? Lasers? Surprise?

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
2:31
PM ET
LuckBrian Spurlock/US PresswireWould 40 times be more useful to talent evaluators if players had to run in pads?
INDIANAPOLIS -- Having flying cars chauffeur prospects from meetings with doctors to news conferences and back to their hotel rooms doesn’t appear to be on the horizon at the NFL scouting combine.

But as the media’s four days here got under way Thursday, I started thinking.

The league’s made it clear it wants to continue to grow the event for TV purposes, to get more fans in Lucas Oil Stadium to watch workouts and to continue to take year-round ownership of the sports calendar.

Aside from that sort of growth, what would the talent evaluators want to see added to the combine that could assist them in their jobs?

I’ve annoyed as many people as I felt was reasonable with that question and got an array of answers.

Ruston Webster, Titans general manager: “Maybe it’d be nice to see the receivers and the DBs have some one-on-one time or something like that. That won’t happen, but some competition would probably be good to see.”

Carl Peterson, former Chiefs GM, current chairman of USA Football: Guys running in pads. Peterson said he would like to see the standard 40s continue to maintain an apples-to-apples comparison over the years, but he would add a second time for players to run in pads. It can be dramatically different and gives a much better indication of football speed. He said if it ever happened, there would be a big issue made of having all players in a common type of pads for their positions.

Rob Rang, analyst for NFL Draft Scout: “One of the things I’ve always wished they’d do is take advantage of the technology that we have today and start using some electronic testing as the key way of being able to time not only the 40-yard dash but the three-cone drill, things of that nature. Have electronic testing for the bench press drills. You sometimes hear about when players are doing the bench press and some of the repetitions aren’t allowed because he doesn’t lock his arms out or whatever the case may be. If you had some laser sighting there, you would be able to know what is the range that a player has to lock his arms out to for that to be considered a repetition.”

Bruce Arians, Cardinals coach: “Pads. Let them play football. I don't think agents would go for that.”

Rick Smith, Texans general manager: “If anything, if you could have more time. I don’t advocate that because I think it’s set up the right way at this point. But in the grand scheme of things, I think as an evaluator if I had a little more time with a guy it’d probably be good.”

Bill Polian, former GM of the Bills, Panthers and Colts, current ESPN analyst: “I’d cut it back. It’s too much now. It stresses these kids way too much.” Prospects get wake-up calls as early as 5 a.m. They have days filled with medical appointments, meetings, press sessions and test-taking, and that doesn’t even count the actual workouts.

Polian said he would consider cutting out a player’s media obligations but that he would look for wherever something could be trimmed. He noted a new intelligence test added to the Wonderlic this year. The new test will take an hour, and he’s not sure what he’s getting as an evaluator in exchange for 333 hours of test-taking by this year’s combine participants.

Mike Smith, Falcons coach: “Fifteen minutes goes fast in the interviews. If we could have a little bit more time. Maybe cut the numbers down [from 60] and allow us more time to spend with each player.”

Ryan Grigson, Colts general manager: “Put them in pads; that’s the only thing. The great thing about this is it’s just one more reference point. If you think a guy’s a great cover corner, a great athlete, has great speed on film, then if he runs 4.35 you say, ‘OK, he’s really that guy.’ But the play speed and the actual game playing is so huge.

“I’ve gotten burned on it myself. A lot of times you can go out and watch a player in drills, a corner for instance, he’s 6-foot-1, 200 pounds that’s a low-rated guy. Then you go out to practice and his movement skills are off the charts. And you get bamboozled into thinking he’s a player. Well there is something to be said for how you process information as a football player. That’s why I like taking guys who are productive in the actual environment.”

At least some drills in pads could make the workouts closer to football and further from something evaluators need to translate into football.

Gil Brandt, pioneering personnel man for the Dallas Cowboys, currently with NFL.com: “The one thing you could do is put some sort of drill in every year that’s foreign to everybody. Let’s say the triple jump, for example. Everybody is practicing these things now so they get them down. Do something like the triple jump, which shows your explosion. Then next year come up with something else.”

I love this idea.

One challenge would be keeping the secret, but if it were determined late and kept among very few people under lock and key, the element of surprise would be a great addition. Beyond providing more info about a guy’s athleticism, personnel men could see how players react to something they have not rehearsed.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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