Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Feb 2009

ESPN INSIDER: "Combine Stars" Rarely Work Out

Doug Farrar takes a look at the biggest "Workout Warriors" of the last few NFL scouting combines, players who didn't quite pan out after their draft stock skyrocketed in Indianapolis.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 18 Feb 2009

13 comments, Last at 21 Feb 2009, 11:45pm by Illmatic74


by Jmagic (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 3:21pm

Will these features ever be posted to the main site, or are they always going to be exclusively for paying ESPN subscribers?

by Joexxx (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 4:54pm

I agree - it's very annoying to see a link to an article that looks interesting only to find out you have to pay to read it.

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 5:34pm

I believe the Insider features were supposed to be posted to the main (FO) site after 4 days. What happened to that?

by jromero (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 3:29pm

Tye Law, anyone? As I recall, he may have been the fastest player in the draft a few years ago, and was taken in the first 10 picks (or so) by the Rams. As far as I can tell, he's been a total bust.

by usedbread (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 4:38pm

You're thinking of Tye Hill, out of Clemson.

Ty Law was a 1st round pick by the Pats out of Michigan and a damned good CB for a long time.

by AlanSP (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 6:03pm

It doesn't really say much to just point to a handful of guys that had great combine numbers and lackluster NFL careers. There are plenty of other guys that had great combine numbers and success in the NFL (e.g. Chris Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Patrick Willis, Mario Williams, Dwight Freeney). Granted, those guys also had great college production, but then so did Vernon Davis, who makes your list.

It would be more useful to actually look at past combine numbers and see if they have any predictive value as far as NFL performance.

A related project I started working on a while ago was analyzing the various different drills at the combine using factor analysis to see if it's possible to tease apart the things they're supposed to measure (e.g. shuttle drills are affected by both speed and ability to change direction). Unfortunately, my computer died and I haven't gotten a new copy of the statistical analysis software I was using, so that's on hold for the moment

by Tim Wilson (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 7:01pm

Ronnie Brown dominated at the combine, did not have a ton of college production, and is a stud NFL player despite his recent knee injury. This article seems like it's trying too hard to be counterintuitive.

by johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 7:59pm

I agree. Mike Mamula averaged slightly more than 6 sack per season. That's disappointing for a first round pick but not the sign of a "failure". Had Mamula been a 5th round pick he'd probably have been considered to of had a nice NFL career.

by tuluse :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 4:51pm

Ronnie Brown is kind of an outlier because he shared time with Cadillac Williams, and Brandon Jacobs for one year.

Also, I'm pretty sure Brown was projected as a high pick before the combine.

by brett ratliff (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 10:02pm

kevin jones was a good rb who had a lot of injuries that set him back. i'm not sure that players with promising young careers derailed by injury belong on that list.

by Jon :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 11:52pm

The problem with these articles is that it overlooks all the cases where the Combine did expose a potential find that had been underutilized in college.

Of course, mistakes are made. The Henry pick was particularly bad.

by WillH (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 6:42pm

I'm not Insider-able but this is more a general question, Do guys really jump up the board tons because of an amazing combine? Like a guy like Gholston who I assume is on the list but he was very highly regarded at the time before the combine and his combine basically proved he was the freak athlete he was. I'm just curious if NFL scouts/directors really need the numbers as more than some comfirmation, Chris Johnson for example it's quite obvious to see is really fast.

by Illmatic74 :: Sat, 02/21/2009 - 11:45pm

Vernon Davis being a workout warrior is revisionist history. He was considered a top 10 pick before the combine the combine just cemented it.