I managed to stumble across the NFL Network yesterday and saw the thrilling WR drills where guys run crossing patterns and catch balls thrown at them from all angles. Then some deep balls. Needless to say, 3 minutes in and you are bored silly. I get the gist of combines to see the work habits of guys, gauge their speed and ability to adjust to thrown balls, but to base a lot of your strategy on drafting folks from these types of things is nutzo.
Yeah, back in the day I could run these WR drills and not have too much problem with them. Put me in pads and have Lawrence Taylor crash into me, and they’d might as well dig a hole and plant me there, cuz I’d be dead. Renaldo Nehemiah is a prime example of this. I give Bill Walsh credit for thinking outside the box, but the Skeets experience left a lot to be desired. Sure, Bullet Bob Hayes worked out, and other speedsters have made careers, but straight-ahead speed rarely translates into anything but ‘Hey, he’s fast. Hit him once, and he’s an alligator.’
If they worked these guys out in pads it might make a little more sense. better yet, look at their college tape. Jerry Rice is example of the other side of this. He didn’t work out well as a combine guy, but put him in pads with a football to chase down, and no one could catch him. Route running isn’t a skill that necessarily translates to a combine atmosphere as well. Freddy Biletnikoff wasn’t a burner, nor was Steve Largent, Dwight Clark, or Jerry GOAT. However, they could get open on just about any route. And that was when DBs could basically mug you till the ball was in the air.
So all the hooraw around 40 times makes me laugh a little as teams ignore a guy like Keenan Allen (gawd I wanted us to draft him), who left miles of tape showing his ability, while drooling over Darius Heyward-Bey and Jonathan Baldwin (and of course A.J. Jenkins).