The Westminster Dog show gets a spot at number 9 of the Sportcenter Top 10 so people can giggle and think they’re cute. The NFL combine takes up nearly half an episode. There still is essentially no difference between these two programs.
I spent hours watching the combine even though I was never what you would consider “entertained.” A big part of that was because my brother, a personal trainer, wouldn’t let me change the channel. I looked at it as just watching a bunch of dudes running. My brother, though, saw a misplaced step, a shortened stride, bad foot placement on a cut, and poor arm movement. What he was doing resembled Simon Cowell trying to critique Andrew Bocelli’s “Con Te Partiro.”
Although 0.10 seconds is essentially how long it takes to blink, here it’s the difference in millions of dollars and a spiral into later rounds. This is where you are judged as an athlete first, and player second. It’s an imperfect system, sure. One day you could look like you’re auditioning to be Will Ferrell’s stunt double in the Old School streaking scene, and the next you could be signing for $57 million in guarantees and taking showers with Giselle.
I developed Stockholm Syndrome with the combine, though. As a former college football player, I found myself appreciating many of the skills and drills. As an everyday jackass, I realized I liked the unintentional comedy even more. So if you’re the frugal type that didn’t upgrade your cable for the NFL Network, here’s what you missed:
1. Tavon Austin is a Man of his Word
If you talk a big game, you better be able to back it up. If you prove yourself on the field of play, you’re adored, and if not, you become a joke. Consistent performance is the only thing that separates the Kobe Bryants from the Freddie Mitchells. So when Tavon Austin brags, “I think I am the best all around player in the draft,” he better not disappoint.
He didn’t, quite the opposite actually. Coaches didn’t care about his 1,900 yards and 15 touchdowns at West Virginia, simply because he was 5’8’’ and 180lbs. So his brashness at the podium turned a few heads. Then, his 4.34 40-yard dash turned a few more. He disproved the little-man critiques on the bench, too, with 14 reps of 225lbs, 12th among all WRs. He launched himself the second round to 16th on Kiper’s Big Board.
2. Doctor's Excuse
In a draft where there was no surefire number one pick, the closest thing to a consensus brought even more doubt. Star Lotulelei, at the top of most big boards, was ruled unfit to participate in the drills due to a heart abnormality. He has since been cleared by specialists to exercise, and will have to prove he's still worth a first round slot at Utah's pro day.
3. I Love Watching Fat People Run
Sadly, none of the fat guys were as amusingly terrible as Andre Smith. Actually, they were freaks. Dion Jordan, a 6'6'' 248 lb defensive end, was the big star and showed his explosiveness with a 4.53s 40 and a broad jump over 10', showing his explosiveness as a pass rusher. Perhaps Chip Kelly stays a bit nostalgic for Oregon with his 4th overall pick for the Eagles. Shariff Floyd moved fast during his 40, recording a sub 5s time for a Defensive Tackle. The drills moved him even faster up draft boards, as his size, agility, and obvious nickname for a defensive star make him a guarantee to go toward the top of the draft. Luke Joeckel and Ziggy Ansah are among the other bigs that won't have to wait long on draft day in a draft without standouts at the skill positions.
4. No Quarterback Standouts
Todd McShay agrees. His draft grades have zero quarterbacks graded as first rounders. In a league getting closer and closer to flag football, I don't expect this to happen with such a great demand. It will get interesting, though, since it could depend on the individual teams' preference. The first round could include Tyler Bray, Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson or even Ryan Nassib. The hot new fad at the quarterback position is athleticism, so expect to see Geno Smith go early. A close runner up is the ability to ace the interviews, so that's where Matt Barkley, who dealt with the blood-sucking media in Los Angeles during his time at USC. I see Geno going to Buffalo in an attempt to get a QB not from Harvard and Barkley to the Cardinals after trading backwards in the first round.
5. Manti Te'o Swears He Likes Girls
Of course the star of the interview round would be Manti Te'o. Every coach did their best Katie Couric impersonation, even if a couple may have crossed the line. Rumors are abound that Te'o's sexuality has become the elephant in the room for most NFL teams. Most teams, however, simply want to try and understand how a football player could be that naive. Te'o reportedly did a very good job, humanizing the situation with the sad story of his family sneaking in and out of their house to avoid reporters. Besides skepticism about his love life, Te'o's 40 time hurt him more than anything. Already considered undersized for a 4-3 middler linebacker, his 4.82 40-yard dash cast doubt about his ability to run with tight ends in a 3-4. If teams can't find a fit for him, his drop may be even more severe than Deadspin suspected.