The NFL's Scouting Combine starts off this week in Indianapolis, so here's what to look out for over the coming days. First, you'll want to be familiar with the schedule of events. Every prospects stays for four days, but positional groups are staggered. Meaning that, Anthony Davis is first up on Wednesday. He'll be doing his drills and leaving this Saturday, which is just when Devin McCourty will be getting started.
It's a fun time for me, because I love following the draft process. Hundreds of NFL prospects, representatives from every franchise, and a gaggle of press descend on Indianapolis for a week of backroom interviews and workouts in speedos. All parties soon depart, dispersing around the country for a series of individual franchise visits and college pro days (coming soon to a ScarletKnights.com near you, the first showcase in what's soon to become a national trend). It may not sound like much, but it's all there is with not much else going on at the moment on any level of football.
The whole setup is one giant job interview. The NFL's medical staff will record official heights and weights and perform medical examinations. In in the midst of facing the media, prospects will have to undergo scores of team interviews, and take the Wonderlic test. Last come the workouts and positional drills, which probably get the most attention from the public, since those are the easiest to quantify.
I think everyone's in agreement that Devin McCourty is going to have a big week. He's a good player, will probably run a good 40 time, and is sure to do well on the Wonderlic and in interviews (he even went to a faith-based facility to train for the draft). Devin's going to be a big riser on the week, just like Jeremy Zuttah was a couple years back. I predict he'll run a 4.39, based on the reasoning that Jason ran a 4.32 at pro day, and that the practice bubble seemed to take .07 seconds off Britt and Underwood's times.
Anthony Davis has a lot more riding on the proceedings, as he could very well go in the first five to ten picks, or slide all the way down to the bottom half of the first round. He'll need to do well on the Wonderlic (which only really matters for QBs and offensive linemen), and in team interviews. Specifically, they'll grill him about his suspension with Kenny Britt for the Morgan State game last year, being temporarily demoted in training camp for being overweight, and the perception that his effort was inconsistent throughout the 2009 season.
Davis is sure to dazzle in his workouts, and offers the potential to be an elite pass blocker. At worst, he won't fall too much on draft day for those reasons, as teams will evaluate him and wish for the next Monroe or Ryan Clady. Now, the suspension isn't that big of a deal. His weight is a little trickier. The only thing that made it to the public is that Davis was demoted for a couple days, and didn't miss his target weight by that much to begin with. Anthony was nearly flawless in pass protection as a sophomore, but his junior film wasn't nearly as good, and he's never been a great run blocker off the edge.
That doesn't mean that all of the evaluations floating around the net are correct. There are the red flags concerning his effort last year, but other evaluations seem to be off the mark to some extent. Generally, I try to make my own judgments when possible. Certainly no one has the resources to look at every prospect, but the danger in relying in those evaluations is that they could be shoddy, and how many authors even bother to watch game tape at all?
Mike Mayock from the NFL Network seems to have a good track record at this point in terms of talent evaluation, while Mel Kiper and Todd McShay from ESPN don't have Mayock's background in football, and really should be considered solely in terms of entertainment value. What's better is that when members of the press work their sources and try to take the pulse of what pro evaluators are thinking. I've always found it odd how Mike Garafolo and Ralph Vacchiano always seem to know what the Giants are going to do on draft day, but that's to their credit, and to all the other pro football writers out there who are skilled in that area.
A lot of journalists from ESPN, SI, Pro Football Weekly, The Sporting News, etc... try to ferret out this kind of information too. My favorites are Rick Gosselin from the Dallas Morning News, Bob McGinn from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and Pete Dougherty from the Green Bay Press-Gazette, all of whom always spend a lot of time surveying pro scouts. The idea isn't necessarily that speaking to one random evaluator will provide any keen insights, but putting together a consensus of those professional opinions can at least give a good idea of what will happen.