As I go back over game film of players and gather my final thoughts on this year’s class of NFL prospects, I can’t help but reflect on 2 main players. Both of these young men fought for almost every college defensive award this year. Both were also mentioned as the possible #1 pick overall in most mock drafts. So, what happened? The same two things that happen every year, the beauty pageant, known as the NFL Combine and misinformation.
The months leading up to the draft are led by the best used car salesman. They will talk the naive out of getting the best value on the lot and have them leaving with the biggest lemon. They’ll send the buyers home with a product that has less tread on the tires and a bad motor in order to be able to get their trade in of a pristine Cadillac that the used car salesman convinced them wouldn’t make more than a year or two. It’s the perfect example of what’s going on right now with Nick Fairley and Da’Quan Bowers.
Before we get into these individuals, let’s talk about how this can happen year after year. The concept of the NFL combine is genius and it works great for the coaches / general managers who understand the nature of the beast. Good drafting teams start rumors about prospects that they want to fall to them. Bad drafting teams believe these rumors and play right into the hands of these superior teams. My Golden Rule for the draft assessment is: Listen to everything, believe nothing. What I mean by that is, when you here character rumors, injury concerns, etc, you listen to them but you don’t chalk these up as facts. Instead you do extensive research and find out if these are actual truth based rumors.
Some teams do this, we call those team “playoff” teams. Why? It’s simple, they’re in the playoffs every year because they do the leg work and know fact from fiction. Many NFL teams have become lazy and rely too heavily on the NFL combine. This goes against the first thing I was taught in scouting and that is that your evaluation should be 90% based on game film. When did Nick Fairley get passed by Marcell Dareus in most media draft boards? The answer is after the combine. The game film didn’t change after the combine, but Dareus ran a quick 10 yard split. Who cares, he ran that same speed on the game film that we watched in January, February, March and so on. This shouldn’t make you change your rankings.
Another knock on Fairley was that he was too mean and played dirty. Give me the dirty player any day of the week, you can have the defensive tackle that goes to Starbucks after getting his mani / pedi. Defensive tackles face double teams all game long, it’s perhaps the grimiest job on the field. If you don’t have a mean streak in you, your will, WILL be broken.
Da’Quan Bowers has a little bit of a different situation. There are injury concerns about the surgery he had this off season. Teams don’t think he’ll be the same player and there are some reports that came out saying that he could have a knee problem that’ll only get worse. It’s funny that a team would leak this information out because teams that find this stuff out want to keep it a secret so other teams will draft him and allow better prospects to fall to them. The most likely situation is that a team hopes that the once mentioned first overall pick will slide drastically to them. Bowers is now being mentioned by some media types as the 5th best defensive end, after first being reported the best overall player in the draft.
So, what do you do if you’re the team picking in the top 10 and you hear these rumors? First, you go back to the tape and make sure you love this kid and see if you see any hint of ongoing injury concerns on his game film. Bowers played through the injury for most of the year. This will allow teams to see how he played, even when he wasn’t 100 % and the severity of the injury. Then if that checks out, these teams will have Bowers in to do an extensive check up with their doctors. He went to Indy for a medical recheck and the doctors said that everything looked fine and there was no sign of further damage. Bowers even tweeted after the check up about how excited he was that everything was now cleared. The media really didn’t pick up on this because frankly, it wasn’t as entertaining. One Cleveland Browns reporter stated that the Browns doctors cleared him as well. Then the following day reports came out that he might have a prolonging injury that will only get worse, from a different source.
Don’t become a part of congregation of morons that trust religiously in the Mecca known as the NFL Combine. You could end up with your favorite team trading in a Bentley and pulling up to training camp with a Pinto with no warranty.