Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater all outsmarted the NFL combine. Media pundits may criticize, but NFL GM’s know better. Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate in part two of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.
I did already know all that was occurring, but you make a good point. Perhaps the combine is vitally important because it gives us baseline tangible measurements for each player. But, those measurements just go to prove the player’s intangibles: how well they prepare, how well they deal with pressure, etc. It’s a simple yet very intelligent observation.
So if that is the case, and combine tangibles tell us who has the intangibles to succeed in the NFL, then what do we make of someone like Jadeveon Clowney? The South Carolina defensive end and hopeful number one overall draft pick, participated in the 40-yard dash at the combine but nothing else. He ran magnificently, proving his ability to prepare, stay in shape, succeed under pressure and just be flat-out freakish. But what do we make of the fact that he skipped pretty much everything else? Was he scared to do poorly? Did he not prepare physically for other drills or tests? Or did Clowney outsmart the system a little bit by knowing he only needed to do this one thing to stick in everyone’s minds?
We also had other cases of combine excellence that may not translate to the NFL. Johnny Manziel ran very well during his drills. He also took a beating from former championship coach Barry Switzer about his personality and maturity, and took more criticism from NFL analyst and former pro quarterback Ron Jaworski about his actual passing abilities. Manziel seems like a perfect example of “it only takes one team.” Someone is going to love his game and everything he brings. I guess the combine performance is a part of that, but it seems like the smallest part, even though he performed admirably.
Then there’s someone like Teddy Bridgewater. He doesn’t have the elite size, strength or speed that some franchises are looking for. However, he may have done well in those other elements of the combine that you hinted at, like the personal meetings and interviews that the public isn’t privy to.
In other instances, players like Kyle Fuller and Aaron Donald seemed to get huge boosts to their draft stock after the combine was over, even though prior to the workouts, they were behind many other players that play the same position as them.
Jadeveon Clowney gave everyone exactly what they wanted and got exactly what he needed out of the NFL combine, no more and no less. Give him and his team credit, they completely out smarted / out played the system and I’d be shocked if other players don’t play a similar game in future years. Clowney entered the NFL combine with tremendous game tape from 2012 and solid tape from this past season in 2013. Some say he took a step back, others say he was avoiding injury, and the realist in me says that football is a team game and he was probably getting double and triple blocked this past season. So he has great tape, great size, great strength; great tangibles all around. What does he have left to prove?
The only thing he had to gain from the NFL combine was proving his intangibles and his ability to prepare. So Clowney showed up, crushed the most popular event, and basically left after that. Bravo. Well played sir. I’ll remember how you crushed it, and could care less that you left. He avoided any negative and reinforced a big positive. I’d be shocked if he didn’t go number one over all at this point. Only a quarterback can steal his thunder.
Which brings us to Manziel and Bridgewater. I like both of these quarterbacks a lot. I think they are being under valued as a whole because neither one shines quite as bright as Andrew Luck did, and we as the football viewing public may have gotten overzealous with quarterbacks like RGIII, such that the media is now over compensating its expectations. That being said, I’d like to distinguish between two points of view when it comes to player evaluations, especially with these two quarterbacks.
First there is the sports media evaluator perspective of men like Ron Jaworski. I respect his evaluations, but take it with a grain of salt. Its his job to find pros and cons of players, especially the highly touted quarterbacks. Any criticism lumped on Manziel after his strong showing at the combine can be ignored by these folks. We must turn to our second perspective to see the truth. I’d lean the opposite way with Bridgewater. Any extra kudos thrown his way by the sports media evaluators can also be ignored.
The perspective I’m interested in, and the one you care about as a fan of a team, is that of the front office, the general manager and the head coach. Both Manziel and Bridgewater showed they can be trusted to lead a team with their combine showings. This is good. Yet neither did anything to sway the prior opinions of their abilities as seen on the game tape. This is also a good thing. Manziel is fast on his feet and quick to move in the pocket, mainly out of necessity as his size requires him to side step defenders to find his open receivers. A GM who wants this type of quarterback will snatch him up in a second. He is going top five. Bridgewater on the other hand is a more traditional quarterback and I love his completion percentage (71% in 2013) and the touchdown to interception numbers (31 to 4 in 2013). I’m not swayed by his lack of speed or strength and neither will a GM. I do worry he won’t escape the pressure that bad teams drafting quarterbacks high usually inflict upon their rookie passers (poor offensive lines are common place on bad teams), but not enough to let him slip out of the top ten.
This year’s NFL combine was really a victory all around for the most highly touted players. Clowney might not be the only one who’s figured out how to “game the system.”