The NFL Scouting Combine is the premier event of the evaluation season, but several prospects are inexplicably turning down an opportunity to show their talents before a massive scouting contingent convening in Indianapolis.
Although the decision to bypass working out in front of scouts on the big stage has been a common one among highly rated prospects, the list of absentees this year includes several draft hopefuls without first-round assurances heading into the event.
Dan LeFevour and Tim Tebow are the latest to announce their intentions to wait until their respective Pro Days to go through a full workout.
While both have committed to going through the host of agility drills and jumps conducted during the workout, the decision to skip out on the positional drills will undoubtedly tarnish their images in the minds of evaluators.
Coaches and scouts may rave about the numbers that are posted during a workout, but the essence of the combine is the competition. Team officials want to see how prospects handle the pressure of performing against other top players at their positions. Those who rise to the occasion earn high marks for their championship intangibles (competitiveness and mental toughness), and those traits highly coveted by decision makers seeking to upgrade their franchises.
Though Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen will join LeFevour and Tebow on the sidelines, their injuries have been cited as the reason for their absence. Bradford is still recovering from an injury to his throwing shoulder, while Clausen is ailing from a foot injury that may keep him from working out for scouts prior to the draft.
LeFevour and Tebow, however, elected to not participate in the positional drills at the combine despite having a clean bill of health and an anxious crowd anticipating their workouts.
LeFevour, who passed for 12,905 yards during a four-year career at Central Michigan, entered the combine riding the momentum of solid performance at the Senior Bowl. The Chippewa star impressed scouts with his accuracy and timing, and was poised to climb up the charts with an outstanding positional workout. Though LeFevour’s reported concerns about lacking chemistry with unfamiliar receivers is merited, the decision to bypass the workout prevents LeFevour from following in the footsteps of Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez. That trio cemented their first-round status with sensational workouts in Indianapolis.
As for Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner decided to wait until his official Pro Day at Florida to undergo a positional workout. His decision to revamp his throwing motion in the weeks leading up to the combine undoubtedly affected his decision to skip the quarterback drills. Tebow, who has been repeatedly chastised for his elongated wind up and slow delivery, has worked with a host of former NFL coaches to refine his mechanics. Tebow has shown off the new form during a series of interviews, but he has decided to wait until his Pro Day to unveil his new and improved form. As one of college football’s fiercest competitors, the move doesn’t line up with his personality and raises some concerns about his ability to play the position in a conventional manner.
Tebow and LeFevour should be aware that a poor performance at the combine would not greatly affect their status as top quarterbacks in the draft. The workout is only a small piece of the evaluation process, and it ultimately leads every coach and scout back to the game tape. Furthermore, the duo should understand that their best times or distances from the combine or their Pro Days ultimately stands as their official measurements. Therefore, a dismal showing at the combine could be erased with an exceptional performance at their scheduled Pro Day.
With both electing to forego the combine experience, the pressure will be on the duo to have outstanding performance under the premise of a “one-shot deal” at their Pro Days.
In the past, the decisions made by LeFevour and Tebow were commonplace, as many prospects often eschewed working at the combine due to fears about posting poor times on the “slow” turf in Indy. However, those worries have been alleviated after watching several prospects set new records in the 40-yard dash in recent years.
In addition, the non-stop coverage of the NFL Network has led to more draft hopefuls participating in the workout due to the unparalleled exposure on a big stage. Millions of viewers tune in to watch prospects showcase their talents in front of every general manager, coach and scout in the league. The strong buzz generated from a stellar showing can catapult a prospect up the charts.
Even top choices are beginning to understand the value of displaying their skills at the biggest event of the scouting season.
Ndamukong Suh is putting immense pressure on the field, as he has announced his intentions to fully workout at the combine despite being roundly touted as the likely No. 1 overall selection in April’s draft. With the top dog set to compete, other highly regarded prospects such as Gerald McCoy, Eric Berry and Russell Okung are poised to compete during the important four-day job interview.
In a draft that is rich in talent at several prime positions, the combine will undoubtedly separate the elite from the pack. Unfortunately, some promising prospects will let a prime opportunity slip through their fingers by refusing to vie for the top spot on a big stage.