Scouts, teams, and GM’s are measuring the measurables in a controlled environment many call the underwear Olympics.
It offers evaluators a chance to see everyone in a non-game environment where coaching and schemes doesn’t factor. However, even with all of the interviews, testing, exams, physical tests, and video, draft picks often just don’t work out as expected. Namely, it is difficult to assess one’s mental toughness- how one will overcome adversity, & how one will play under pressure.
It becomes an art because scouts are also trying to measure the immeasurables: leadership, work ethic, quality of teammate, character, etc.
I enjoy this test the most, probably because I can still bench so there is some tiny level of comparison. I also think we can see a glimpse of a player’s desire; how much someone wants it. Even though the bench press is not the most transferrable to success on the field, it does offer a snapshot of one’s strength.
- I witnessed Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming, (projected 2/3 round) will himself to complete three more reps after he hit his limit at 15. After crosschecking with other scouts on his feat, the consensus was he has an “iron-will”.
- Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley St, (projected 3 round) managed 21 reps in the bench press, but he was the only player I witnessed who actually cheered on his fellow WR’s before he lifted.
Since zero QB’s attempted the Bench press, I think one quarterback would stand out in the future by merely attempting it.
3. Only 5 guys didn’t have this…
The initial physical testing for each position is the same; hand, arm, wingspan, height and weight. Armed only in their Under Armour briefs, these guys are all extremely built, so you notice when someone looks “soft,” not as defined or muscular.
During the Defensive Back’s weigh-in, I counted 5 players who had zero tattoos. At some point, these non-inked guys had to make a decision “not” to get it done. Interesting, because ink is such the norm these days that I merely wondered if there would be any correlation with success.
4. Confirmation bias…
Scouts have seen these guys at various points throughout the season and have all formed opinions, positive or negative. The fact is that with scouts, they are making biased opinions. It’s impossible for them to have an unbiased viewpoint. Even when the big names of each position are called, like Michael Sam, Johnny Manziel, or Jadeveon Clownley, everyone pays a tad closer attention…
Since people’s jobs and reputations are at stake with choosing the right player, how much of scouting is actually dismissing information that is contrary to their viewpoint (i.e., he had a slow 40 time), while highlighting information that confirms their belief (i.e., awesome arm)? Or as one scout put it, “The draft is not about hitting home-runs, it is about base hits.”
5. The hardest working coaches…
There were three coaches who were the most visible during my 3 days. I saw them everywhere!! And although Rex & Rob Ryan work with two different teams, they were always together. The third coach was Jack Del Rio of the Broncos. In addition, here is one of my favorite coaches…
The NFL Scouting Combine was incredible. I made these 5 observations because in all seriousness, I couldn’t tell one incredible athlete doing the 3-cone or shuttle drill from another. The 335 players all looked like PGA Tour pro’s on the driving range, everyone was elite!!!
Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. DRB & associates coach executives and professional athletes. Some clients have included three different winners on the PGA Tour, Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens.