By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)
The NFL Scouting Combine, the exact science that’s not so exact, has again come and gone.
It’s the annual football Olympics that surfaces every year on the speed-friendly turf in Indianapolis, Indiana. The spectacle is technically the first football-related interview for college football players with dreams of performing on the big stage that is the National Football League.
The “Road to the Pros,” as some calls it.
Executives, coaches, scouts, and doctors from all 32 NFL teams sat high in the press or coach’s box and glared down with binoculars or glued randomly in the stands as each participant pushed it to the max in the shuttle run, 3-cone-drill, broad and vertical jump, bench press and the critically-acclaimed 40-yard dash.
And I love it all.
But honestly, it doesn’t matter if a 340 pound lineman runs a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, or a 5.7. Linemen are measured on quick burst, lateral quickness and strength. It doesn’t matter if a wide receiver runs a 4.35 in the 40, or a 4.75.
Compare the careers of former 1st-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, who ran a scorching 4.30 flat in the 2009 Combine, and Anquan Boldin, a 2nd-rounder who ran a pedestrian 4.71 in the 2003 Combine.
Heyward-Bey is a bust considering his lofty 7th overall pick selection by the Oakland Raiders in 2009, playing on three team in six seasons and never eclipsing a 1,000 yards in a single year.
Boldin, on the other hand, is a Super Bowl champion with a borderline Hall of Fame career.
But I’m not here to compare oranges to apples and explain how sprinting down the sidelines can get you a couple extra million dollars or how lifting 225 pounds on the bench press 15 or 50 times will determine how many tackles in a game.
I’m here for two reasons.
One, to briefly give kudos to the top five quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL Draft according to NFL Draft guru Mike Mayock, for opting to lay out all their skills on the table after it has been widely publicized that this year’s crop of quarterback is “weak” and “less desirable.”
That group consist of (in order) former 2013 Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston, 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley of UCLA, and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson.
And second, the NFL Combine is also a buster of stereotypes.
In 2013, the Arizona Cardinals selected former Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope with the 174th overall pick in the sixth round. Swope ran an unprecedented 4.34 in the 40-yard dash.
That’s fast, but nothing close to running back Chris Johnson’s Combine record of 4.24 in 2008. But I’ll let Swope explain why his 40 time was “unprecedented.”
“I think a lot of people were pretty shocked,” Swope said in a 2013 interview. “You don’t see that every day, a white guy running a 4.3.”
Remember is 1992 when Woody Harrelson proved to Wesley Snipes that, in fact, white men can jump? Well, Swope showed NFL scouts that white men can run, too.
But sadly, the 24-year-old’s career ended before he took his first snap. He announced his retirement July of 2013 during Organized Teams Activities because of reoccurring concussions.
But the most recognized player for reasons off and on the field, is shattering the mold, Winston.
The stereotype around black quarterbacks on any level of football is he is “always” mobile, always athletic, and always looking to run first. But the worst and most undermining stereotype is that black quarterbacks can’t “digest the playbook,” meaning they don’t have the IQ to learn the playbook.
Winston was, of course, seen as a mobile and an athletic quarterback. Well, Winston clocked in at a 4.97 on his first attempt and a 4.99 in his second in the 40-yard dash, ranking 10th and out of 13 participating quarterbacks.
“He tuck and ran a lot during the season!”
Jameis Winston rushed for 65 yards for the entire year.
Winston is head and shoulders above every quarterback as a passer in this year’s draft. Winston is a quarterback that can extend plays from the pocket. Winston is a quarterback that can run if he has to, not a, per say, running quarterback.
And as far as the IQ insult, according to NBC’s Pro Football Talk, Winston’s knowledge of the game has reportedly caught the attention of numerous club officials who met with him during the NFL Scouting Combine.
Reportedly, an unnamed evaluator raved about Winston’s football IQ saying, “I think he’s (Winston) probably the smartest player I’ve ever interviewed” and even went out on a limb comparing him to Peyton Manning on sheer football IQ.
I don’t see Peyton Manning in Winston, but more of the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and former NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
But I also see a quarterback that’s not falling into the stereotype.
Hopefully more guys like Swope and Winston come along to break loose any stereotype chained to any players of any position in any sport.