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Falcons' Dan Quinn: Combine, pro-day hype overblown

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Raise your hand if you had heard much about UCF wide receiver Breshad Perriman before his pro-day performance Wednesday.


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Perriman, as all draftniks know, is the guy who turned in a sizzling 4.25 clocking in the 40-yard dash -- while weighing in at 212 pounds -- at his pro day. It's a safe assumption that there were more tweets about Perriman in three hours Wednesday than there had been in the previous three months, all because of his pro day.

New Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn could have been referencing Perriman (and other "draft risers") with a recent comment on the buzz about the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days.

"It's funny how people make such a big deal out of the combine and pro days, and you have all the TV coverage," Quinn told mmqb.si.com. "The Senior Bowl practices and the game itself should have a bigger impact than the combine, but they don't. We should be saying, 'You should've seen this guy play football at the Senior Bowl,' not 'You should've seen him running at the combine.'"

The truth is, though, that NFL personnel guys knew about Perriman long before Wednesday. Indeed, Perriman was being mentioned as a potential first-round pick in early February. Personnel men already were impressed by his size and speed; they also had some issues with his game, as NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah noted when he had Perriman ranked 34th in his listing of the top 50 prospects about a month ago: "He makes some special high-point grabs, but he also has a lot of extension drops. His concentration needs to improve."

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The reason personnel departments knew about Perriman is that he had three seasons of game tape. Too often, the hoopla that surrounds the combine and the various pro days helps make people forget that game tape doesn't lie.

"If you speak to any personnel men on any team, they all tell you that game tape -- including Senior Bowl practices -- count for 80 percent or more of their grades," NFL media analyst Lance Zierlein says. "While pro days and the combine can definitely help and hurt prospects when they test well-above or below expected, they don't cause the mass reshuffling of draft boards that people might think."

Some of you might be saying: "What about Teddy Bridgewater last year?" He was being talked about as the potential No. 1 overall pick, but his pro-day workout was panned, to the point where a lot of people were saying it would cause him to fall out of the first round. (He ended up going No. 32 overall, the final pick of the first round, after the Minnesota Vikings traded back into the round to grab him.)

Truthfully, the only folks saying Bridgewater was a possible No. 1 overall pick were members of the media. Now, it's probably true that a few teams might have backed off Bridgewater a bit because of his pro day. But it's more likely that teams didn't like him because of his slight build and a concern that he wouldn't be able to stand up to an NFL pounding. Still, he went in the first round, and chances are the Vikings -- who obviously didn't have the same concerns as other teams -- are mighty pleased they got him.

"There are two parallel realities that go on during 'draft season,'" Zierlein says. "There is a national narrative that we, as media members, help to create. Fans operate off of these collection of ideas, and speak of 'risers' and 'fallers' based on the national narrative.

"The other reality is the team reality, where a process of discovery takes place starting with regional scouts and then making its way to the coaches and front office. How can players be 'rising' and 'falling' before March, since coaches and general managers are all working on free agency at that time?"

Tampa Bay Buccaneers officials, including coach Lovie Smith, have been surprisingly candid about their interest in Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston as the No. 1 overall pick, with Smith going as far as to say it's not an erroneous assumption that the Bucs will pick Winston.

Bucs officials also have talked in generalities about Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, and Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt -- whose team picks second -- has said, "If (Marcus Mariota) comes to us at No. 2, he's definitely going to be the Day One starter."

Interestingly, Whisenhunt's comment was met with a lot of skepticism, with the immediate reaction being that he made the comment to possibly ramp up the trade market. Hey, that's the media for you, right?

And think about other players and other teams: Has any coach or team official spoken definitively and/or on the record about any other player? Of course not: Teams aren't going to tip their hands on who they are going to pick. You'll read comments from "an anonymous team official" or "a scout who wishes to remain unidentified," but legitimate, on-the-record comments are rare.

One thing to keep in mind, though: Even if teams aren't commenting on players, they have watched a ton of game tape on each guy they're considering. Talk to any scout or any draft analyst: One of the great things about the combine and a pro day is that they give you a chance to cross-check your own work. A guy "outperforms" your opinion of him? It's back to the game tape to see what, if anything, you missed. Or if a guy underwhelms you? It's back to the game tape then, too, to look again.

Quinn certainly knows all of this. Heck, the same thing likely happened to him when he was a college assistant, first at the FCS level, then later in his career at Florida: He had formed opinions on potential recruits, then had to go back and watch more tape when one of them didn't meet expectations, good or bad. Think of it this way: Quinn was serving up a not-so-subtle reminder to anyone who follows the draft process that a one-hour "performance" at the combine or a pro day doesn't trump three or four seasons of what happened on the field.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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