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NFL Combine 2018: What we really should evaluate in the players

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How fast are they? What can they bench press? Sure, these measurements have some useful predictions for NFL readiness, but I have a few suggestions for more practical measurements.

2011 NFL Scouting Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

The NFL Combine starts today, and that means around 300 of the best college players (though not necessarily all of the best) will be descending upon Indianapolis this week to get measured, interviewed, evaluated and just generally critiqued by NFL coaches, scouts and analysts.

And although the week-long event showcases a player’s athleticism, the skills workouts and position drills probably play a more important role as teams really look at how a player fits into their schemes and on their teams. We definitely know from the recent past that interviews with players have been an important piece of Elway’s evaluations of players as well.

But as much I love to see the freakishly strong, fast or generally athletically superior players show off their skills at the combine, and as much as the drills can show if a player has the right technique to play his position at the next level, this annual event routinely misses the mark for predicting how well a player will genuinely do in the pros. In fact, actual researchers have studied this very phenomenon and found that indeed the 40-yard dash and other events have zero predictability for NFL success.

I mean, we all thought speedy Isaiah McKenzie was the answer to a more electric punt returner for the Broncos ...until he actually, you know, had to catch the ball with defenders bearing down on him with lightning speed.

So I have a few suggestions for the NFL on some better evaluators that must be added if we’re really going to tell if these guys can handle the pros.

Can they really handle a punt? Like, really really?

Based on my limited experience playing flag football, I do appreciate the extra skill required to catch a ball spinning wildly a hundred feet in the air and judging where it will come down. So there’s nothing wrong with just purely evaluating the ability to catch a punt.

But before we’re promising that a guy has special teams prowess because he’s fast and caught a few in college, let’s ramp this up. Let’s see him catch while being “messed with” in the process - because that is exactly what 11 NFL guys running full speed at you is all about.

Blast music over the PA on the highest decibel-level the moment the ball is about to hit his hands.

Have two people jump out of nowhere and yell “BOO!” the millisecond before he catches the ball.

Fire Nerf™ darts at him before, during and after the catch.

Launch fireworks at Lucas Oil while he’s watching for the ball...that stadium hasn’t seen any for a while, so it’ll be fun for everyone.

Drench him with a Nerf™ Super Soaker as the ball lands in his hands.

I could come up with this stuff all day; I have two boys. The point is, the only way to see if these guys are actually any good at this, short of having defenders pummel them at the point of catch, is to test their concentration and poise under almost the worst circumstances.

Trash Talk Mettle

This is the pros. Time to trash talk like a professional.

I’m not talking about low-blow, amateur crap. I’m talking creative, elite-level, chain-snatching trash talk that will actually impress an opponent to the point of mutual respect

That’s when you’ve got ‘em - when there is no comeback. (editor’s note: no doubt Michael Crabtree has acknowledged being impressed yet, but once he and Aqib Talib retire, I predict the wide receiver will admit Talib’s stunt - twice even! - was pretty funny. It’ll be in the “Talib 30-for-30” for sure).

But on the other side of this age-old tradition, I want to see which players can handle the trash without losing their cool. Nobody wants to draft the next Vontaze Burfict, and a Josh Norman-Odell Beckham Jr. exchange - and admittedly, a chain-snatching-stunt-gone-too-far - is always going to end badly for the teams involved.

So let’s bring in Talib and get him talking some harmless trash to these rookies and find out who can take it, who can’t - and even who can dish it back without getting into a fight and getting the proverbial ejection. If they can impress Talib, they win that category...chains down.

‘No Comment’

All these potential draft picks will get a little practice in front of the mic at the combine, answering reporter questions about some of their performances, the teams they have met with, the season they had, blah, blah, blah.

But if we’re going to get a sense as fans and local media how good these guys are going to be in pressers, we need to have some tougher questions plus a ratings system.

I propose a mock news conference as one of the tests, in which reporters hammer the player for his poor performance on the field and ask pointed questions about his poor decisions in the game.

Players will get docked for every cliché, every “no comment,” every “total B.S. public relations” comment and every derogatory retort. But high marks - extra credit even - will go to the players who take accountability, who can explain in detail the breakdown of a play, and generally speak coherently about the game. Good jokes vault you right to the top.

Also, any player trying to outdo Cam Newton in outlandish behavior or wardrobe is automatically DQed and sent home from the combine.

Film Study 101

I am not even joking about this one - especially for quarterbacks.

Get Peyton Manning sitting down with all the quarterbacks one-on-one to watch film and break down a defense. Let the master of film evaluate if these guys have any idea whatsoever how to scout an opponent from film and if they know what to look for.

The secret will be that the point isn’t as much whether they “get all the right answers.” It will be if they can handle a Manning Film Session that could easily last three hours.

This should put an end to rookies who prefer “Madden 18” to the playbook.

Rally Cry

This one is for the quarterbacks. After two seasons of no clear leader at QB, this test is crucial. Let’s find out who has “it” - and who doesn’t.

Obviously game-on-the-line situations aren’t easy to simulate, but we can figure this out. Create flag football teams, tell the offense it is behind six points and has to drive 99 yards for the winning touchdown in under a minute. The winning team gets four more tickets for friends and family at the Draft.

And while twinning would be a nice bonus, the measuring stick will be what kind of motivator the quarterback is under pressure.

We’ll call this one “The Elway Test.”

Horse Tracks - docllv’s pick of the day

Iowa's Jordan Bohannon refuses to break Chris Street's free throw record - The Washington Post
This is a great story - even though it’s not about football. With Chris Street's parents looking on, Jordan Bohannon refused to break the school record for consecutive free throws made.

Horse Tracks - the Combine

The NFL Combine: The Super Bowl Of Scouting
Here are the essential elements of the NFL Scouting Combine, which opens Tuesday in Indianapolis and runs through March 6, with 336 players invited.

The Broncos will have a close eye on offensive line talent at NFL combine
The 20th pick in the NFL draft doesn't tend to be prime real estate for selecting its very top offensive line prospects. Yet, last season, an unusually thin group of so-called elite prospects in the position group gave the Broncos an opportunity to select Garett Bolles as the draft's first lineman.

The Broncos will have a close eye on cornerbacks at the NFL combine
The players currently residing on the Broncos' roster don't have to be economists to know that a push for a valuable free-agent quarterback in the next few weeks will likely require some financial maneuvering from the team's front office.

NFL combine most important week for Broncos' offseason
The NFL scouting combine has a routine and Elway has his script, but what really matters for that week — and for the days to follow — is what he doesn’t say, what he doesn’t show and what happens away from media.

2018 NFL combine: Kentavius Street and other Freaks | SI.com
The combine is about more than sheer athleticism, but expect these players to do plenty of talking with standout workouts.

Mike Mayock NFL combine preview: Top prospects in draft | SI.com
The preeminent draft expert previews this week’s event, with thoughts on Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson, Minkah Fitzpatrick and more. Plus items on the Chiefs-Rams trade, an NFL tie to the Olympics and 10 Things

Mayock compares Josh Allen's arm to JaMarcus Russell - NFL.com
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock touted Josh Allen as the "biggest-arm quarterback" he's seen since Raiders draft bust and former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell entered the league just over a decade ago.

The Perfect Prospect at the Scouting Combine for Every NFL Team | Bleacher Report
Hint: The suggested player for the Broncos is not on offense and played for the team from T-town.

9news.com | Broncos to meet with agent for Siemian (and another QB) at NFL Combine
With all due respect to Trevor Siemian, an overachieving seventh-round draft pick who became Denver’s starting quarterback the past two seasons, or Kyle Lauletta, a projected mid- to late-round draft pick, they are afterthoughts in the Broncos’ offseason plans.

Horse Tracks

Kirk Cousins rumors: Vikings have mutual 'interest,' looking at a possible Broncos deal - CBSSports.com
There is going to be a lot of interest when it comes to the top free agent quarterback

What is Paxton Lynch's future with the Denver Broncos?
As Denver's plan to alter its quarterback room comes into form, so too, perhaps, has its plan for Paxton Lynch, the former first-round pick once pegged to be their answer at quarterback.

Mike Mayock: Six QBs in play for first round of 2018 NFL Draft - NFL.com
Mike Mayock foresees anywhere from 4-6 QBs going in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. That's only one of the interesting nuggets gleaned from his pre-NFL Scouting Combine teleconference with reporters.

Top 101 NFL free agents of 2018: Kirk Cousins tops the board - NFL.com
NFL free agency begins on March 14. Who'll be available for the plucking? Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling have combined their personal rankings to formulate NFL.com's Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

NFL catch rule revised: NFL Competition Committee discussing changes | SI.com
Maybe the NFL competition committee will clear up the definition of a catch. Or not.

Marcus Peters Trade: CB Burdened by Question of What Went Wrong with Chiefs | SI.com
The Chiefs knew what they were getting when they drafted Marcus Peters. Now as he's traded away to the Rams, the talented cornerback draws the short end of the stick. If Kansas City is successful in 2018, the franchise will reap the praise. But Peters? He'll be shrouded by questions of many wondering what went wrong in K.C.

NFL expected to have Jerry Jones reimburse legal fees - NFL.com
Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL are expected to compel Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to reimburse legal fees the league incurred this past season.

Panthers cut veterans Charles Johnson, Kurt Coleman - NFL.com
The Panthers are going younger on defense. The team released veteran defense end Charles Johnson and safety Kurt Coleman on Monday.

Best of five: Top NFL players selected at No. 5 overall
As the Broncos head to the Combine to decide how to spend the fifth-overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, take a look back at some of the best players chosen in that slot.

Mason's Mailbag: A collection of ideas for the short and long term
A few concepts worth considering plus a question about how one of the guard slots is shaping up for 2018.

Poll

Which "new tests" should be added at the Combine?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Media savvy at the pressers
    (1 vote)
  • 5%
    Ability to rally team to a comeback
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Trash talk give and take
    (2 votes)
  • 58%
    Peyton-level film study
    (46 votes)
  • 22%
    Actual punt returning ability
    (18 votes)
  • 7%
    "Whorfin"
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    "Shasta"
    (2 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now