Last week's NFL Scouting Combine brought draft prospects, team executives, sports agents and journalists to Indianapolis. Tim Graham of the Athletic has spent many years covering the event, an experience which has provided him with important perspective. "You need to make sure you don't get too excited about a guy because he ran a 4.3 forty (yard dash)," Graham said.
"There are a lot of guys who will then come into the Combine and have a...Combine breakthrough performance. In shorts. They call it the 'Underwear Olympics.'"
According to Graham, most team executives and scouts are gauging draft prospects by their on-field performances against their toughest collegiate opponents. A player from the University of Alabama, as an example, would be better judged on his success while playing against the University of Georgia. The measurements taken at the NFL Scouting Combine are usually used to confirm previous judgments.
NFL teams have miscalculated in the past, Graham says, by taking too much from Combine performances.
Asked for a notable example, one name came to mind.
"Mike Mamula," Graham said of the Lackawanna native who was selected seventh overall in the 1995 NFL Draft.
"Had a very good career with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he wears that 'scarlet letter' as the Combine warrior because his stock skyrocketed."
While Graham had other examples, he was asked about Aaron Maybin, the Buffalo Bills first pick in 2009 who had a lackluster professional career. Graham offered a balanced assessment of Maybin's ascendancy, one not shared by most diehard followers of the Buffalo Bills.
"He showed up to the Combine expanded, a lot bigger than he had been," Graham said of Maybin who was coming off an impressive sophmore season at Penn State. The Bills believed Maybin would only gain in size and strength as he got older.
"Then, he got to the Bills and he couldn't hang onto the weight consistently." As Maybin worked out during the long NFL season, he would shed pounds.
"Chan Gailey (the Bills head coach at the time) had a problem putting him on the field becuse he just wasn't big enough to play defensive end in the NFL."
"They made a mistake based on what they saw at the Combine."