Packers Should Look Beyond Combine Results

The NFL Combine in Indianapolis is wrapping up and the Green Bay Packers, like all other NFL teams, have been busy looking at prospect workouts and interviewing potential players of interest.  The Combine is part of the scouting process and undoubtedly an important one.  Dubbed the "underwear Olympics" and the "NFL cattle call", it's the biggest opportunity to get the top college prospects in one place for auditions.  

Every year it seems that a few players emerge from the ranks of the unknown because of stellar performance in individual drills.  This year, players like Washington receiver John Ross and Temple linebacker Hasasan Reddick have seen their stock sky rocket with stellar 40-yard dash runs.  Ross set a new Combine record, posting a 4.22 and surpassing Chris Johnson's previous mark of 4.24.  Johnson did go on to have a few incredible seasons with the Tennessee Titans and appeared in a Pro Bowl.  But that's not always the case with Combine all stars and the Packers need to be wary of that.

Many of the drills that these players do at the Combine don't involve a football or aren't directly related to the game.  

The 40-yard dash showcases speed, which is important in the NFL, but it's straight-line speed and run without pads on or opponents in the way.  So much about being a good football players is about quickness and speed vs. pure speed alone.  Quickness is how well a player gets to the ball, pursues and attacks the play vs. simply being faster than everyone else on the field.  

The bench press gives teams an idea of a players's strength.  But how many times in a game are players lifting another player off of their chest while lying down?  The broad jump shows athleticism but how often is that done in a game?  

I get it: "how else are they going to measure strength?".  I'm not trying to trash on the entire Combine process.  The vertical jump and cone drills are more relevant to what football players do on the field.

But for every Chris Johnson, there's a Chris Henry who the Titans were hoping, in 2007, would be what Johnson was.  He wasn't.  Last year, the Packers drafted California receiver Trevor Davis in the fifth round after he posted a 4.42 40-yard dash at the Combine and after catching passes from quarterback Jared Goff, who went first overall to the Los Angeles Rams.  Davis found himself on the sideline for the back half of his rookie season after mental errors showed he wasn't quite ready for a regular role.  The Packers still don't know what they have in Davis.  

For every Reddick, there's an Aaron Curry, who flashed in Indianapolis and fizzled out quickly because his head wasn't into his career.  Anyone remember defensive end Vernon Gholston?  At the Combine in 2008 he measured 6'4", 258 pounds and posted the following results: 4.67 40-yard dash, 35.5 inch vertical and 37 bench press reps.  The Jets took him sixth overall that year.  He started just five games and had zero sacks in three seasons.  

Reddick is a prospect who has been mocked to the Packers and now seems destined to be off the board by the time Green Bay picks in round one.  Imagine how brutal it would be for the Packers to land him and address a need only to see him falter.  They dealt with just that with Nick Perry and Datone Jones.  Damarious Randall could be headed in that direction as well.

So the question is, did the Packers miss something with those players?

The Packers seem to take the player interviews and mental testing portion of the Combine seriously.  They typically shy away from college prospects who are coming in with baggage or a lack of football intelligence.  That doesn't mean they always draft the smartest guy or always hit on their findings.  

But what is between a player's ears is just as important as what he can do physically at the Combine or on the field.  This is the more important piece to determining a player's fit with the team and likelihood of becoming a solid pro.  A defensive prospect, for example, is going to need a good football IQ to play in a Green Bay defense that is more complex than many others around the league.

It's rare that Green Bay gets too enamored by a prospect's performance in a few drills a la Al Davis's Raiders back in the day.  With every player's results being posted instantly on social media and available to the masses, the buzz surrounding these players is heightened.  Believe it or not, some scouts and general managers are swayed by that and it does impact their decision to draft a player in certain spots.  

With some important needs that are not likely to get addressed in free agency (let's be realistic here) the Packers need to hit on their player picks.  That means extra work for Ted Thompson and his player personnel department.  They have to gather as much intel as they can do complete their full due diligence, which expands far beyond sprints and weigh in's in spandex.

After two losses in the NFC championship game in the last three years, the Packers are facing increasing pressure to get over the hump.  Free agency aside, good drafts are the biggest key to how they can get it done.  It's yet another year where Thompson & Co. have to get it right.

 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (25)

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 06, 2017 at 06:42 am

'Packers Should Look Beyond Combine Results'

I think the Packers do do a good job of looking past the combine numbers. I think it should say "Fans, should look beyond the combine results".

The thing to remember about Reddick and Ross are they were considered to be high second round picks at the very lowest to begin with. I think all their numbers do is locks them into the first round.

Reddick has been really rising since the Senior Bowl.

What the combine does is it just confirms what those players were showing on tape.

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croatpackfan's picture

March 07, 2017 at 03:57 am

I think you are right. If Ted Thompson do not, he should start to read Cheaseheadtv.com immediatelly. He can learn a lot from here. ~~~

Of course that I understand Jason was writing this to the fans, not to TT, but I think he is already established here, so why he is affraid to write "Packers Fans Should Look Beyond Combine Results" instead of "Packers Should Look Beyond Combine Results"I do not understand...

I try to look at this year draft as PAckers do not have round one pick. They have 2 second round picks. If it is possible maybe TT can produce 2 3rd round picks from the position where Packers are drafting (e. g. 2 second round and 2 3rd round picks!). I think that would be interesting!

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

March 06, 2017 at 07:03 am

Man, every year some guy I think will be available at the Packer's pick, and who I really like, ends up crushing it at the combine or rocketing up in the last month before the draft (Urlacher and Shazier come to mind immediately). This year it is Reddick, he's not just a great athlete, he's a great player.
I guess I'll need to move my hopes to Watt, though I think he'll need a year or two to develop into a starter.

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stockholder's picture

March 06, 2017 at 07:03 am

TT should look beyond, but won't. He drafts the player with the good shuttle time, and decent 40. He contacts the league office now on players. He gets other draft scouting services. He depends on staff more than his own notes. If the coach wants a player he tries to get him. So kiss the BPA good bye. It's just draft talk with TT. Most of TTs draft guru ability, goes for where a guy will fall in the draft. He finds what he needs for the future.( if a FA leaves) He knows he's had to many draft picks not pan out now. Bringing in guys, is only to see if a guy can turn heads. Is he worth his draft position? TT will never go against the numbers now. It's still about the combine! And if a player isn't drafted, he's on it. No GM will ever go against the numbers. This has become a science. If a guy is a game changer, it's about the numbers first. $$$$!

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 06, 2017 at 07:27 am

And in other news, birds should fly south for the winter.

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The TKstinator's picture

March 06, 2017 at 07:34 pm

Unless they are in the Southern Hemisphere; in which case they should fly north.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

March 06, 2017 at 07:37 am

What a bunch of nonsense. Just because some fast players don't pan out, that's no reason to avoid speed. The Packers are a slow team that looked like they were standing still against the Falcons.

Get football players, of course, but this team needs to add some serious wheels on those football players.

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Nick Perry's picture

March 06, 2017 at 08:24 am

This year more than any in quite a while seem's like a season Thompson really has to nail the Draft. Gone is Sitton, and possibly Lang. Nelson is AMAZING but he is getting up there in years. He'll still be productive but for how much longer. Cobb hasn't put up numbers like he did in his contract year since....well his contract year. Adams looks good but he's a #2. Cook hopefully comes back but he'll be close to 30. Lacy might come back but at what weight and just how sturdy is that ankle going to be. My point is the Offense has always been well stocked but the shelves are becoming more bare.

The big dilemma now seems to be which players to try to bring back to a Defense that was BAD in the first place. The good news is this seems like a good year to be able to find an OLB, CB, RB, and TE all areas of "Need" for the Packers, some more than others. I mean who watched the combine and didn't get excited at the thought of Rodgers throwing to one of those TE's? Hopefully Ted drafts a TE and it's NOT one that ran a 4.80 40. Too many great prospects this year to pass up at that position.

This could be a draft that sets up the Packers for the next few years just because it offers tons of players at areas of need. A solid draft here I see the Lombardi Trophy back in Green Bay by 2018. A few Free Agents and a solid draft it just might be back this season!

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Handsback's picture

March 06, 2017 at 10:06 am

I agree in your line of thinking....the Packer's needs match up very nicely to this year's draft strength positions. So instead of drafting back-ups in the 4-5th rounds, TT could be getting starters.

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Rossonero's picture

March 06, 2017 at 08:32 am

"what is between a player's ears is just as important as what he can do physically at the Combine or on the field." -----> THIS.

I'm very intrigued by TJ Watt. He was incredibly productive in only one season as a starter. Like Clay Matthews, I think he'll shoot up draft boards and would be happy with him late in round 1.

His potential is incredibly high. And imagine him training every off season with JJ? Maybe, just maybe, he could lure JJ Watt to come to GB late in his career too. Gotta have dreams...that's what makes life tolerable.

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zoellner25's picture

March 06, 2017 at 08:42 am

I think this fan blog site is running out of ideas to write about during the off season

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jasonperone's picture

March 06, 2017 at 09:24 am

We know (and hopefully you do too) that you don't have to visit the site so it's appreciated when you do. It's through comments that we pick up more viewership and exposure online so thanks for looking past the crap content and posting a reply to give this piece and the site a boost!

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 06, 2017 at 01:14 pm

It is a rough time of the year. I'd like to see some articles about FAs. Analyze their game. Think about how they would fit here. Some will say that is pointless because of TT. Who cares. This is FA time of year. You could do the same with some of the draft guys, but usually I think you get more into that in April.

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jasonperone's picture

March 06, 2017 at 03:18 pm

We've had a few of those and more to come. Breaking down fit can be tough unless it comes from someone who's into X/O's. The Ted factor does play into not having a ton. More likely later this week

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jasonperone's picture

March 06, 2017 at 09:16 am

I didn't want to take the "fans should" route as much as focusing on the team here. Fans don't have to justify themselves at all. There is no right or wrong way to support a team so you won't often see me telling anyone how to be. NFL teams picking the right players? Yes, they have to justify themselves so, in my opinion, it's a relevant idea.

That said and as you can probably glean, I'm not a huge fan of the Combine as a whole so no surprise, this narrative comes off as garbage to some of you. The Packers do a good job already of diving deeper into players, but they need to have a good draft this year. It seems like a pivotal time for this team. Unturn every stone and look beyond the flashy 40 times and jumping out of the building. It means nothing if a guy doesn't know where to be on the field or can't get in sync with the quarterback.

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dobber's picture

March 06, 2017 at 12:43 pm

The Combine is an easy--and lazy--source of information for fans (like me) who don't watch a lot of film. When you latch onto that, you get a very one-dimensional view of these prospects as athletes...not so much as players.

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The TKstinator's picture

March 07, 2017 at 09:40 pm

I gleaned. I most definitely gleaned.

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Handsback's picture

March 06, 2017 at 10:00 am

TT is a scout first and foremost. I would say the one thing he looks for is OLB/ILBs with 3-cone drills under 7 seconds. Sunday was a rare lazy day in our household so I watched some of the combine. I didn't think I would watch much, but in looking at the DL do all of their drills....I found it pretty interesting. If I liked a players movement and took away either his skinny legs or messing up the drill I found several guys that I thought could make an impact with the Packers. Beyound the obvious top guys here is who I liked: Reddick was an obvious one, but another guy who I thought may make a bigger impact was Willis from KS, State. They have him as as DE, but looked like he could play OLB to me. Tomlinson from AL looked pretty lean for a tackle and showed smooth movements skills and was a great HS wrestler so he should do well in the pros.

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stockholder's picture

March 06, 2017 at 10:39 am

I've been high on Willis since the shrine bowl. He'll go before the end of the 2nd round. Measurements are better than Reddick. Don't think the Packers will get either. Still seeing that CB first. And my feeling is Jackson is exactly what Tramon Williams was. So I'm still going to say TT will take him first. But the biggest feeling is if Mc Caffrey Rb drops. TT will take him per Kipers draft. And we still have not signed Cook. His past contract before the packers, was up to 5 mill a year I heard. TT isn't going to pay that. So that leaves 3 positions before OLB. RB, CB, TE. And he won't even look at Willis/Reddick, if Perry or Jones sign. And T. McKinley may slide to the packers with a bad shouder now.

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vj_ostrowski's picture

March 06, 2017 at 12:26 pm

I agree that the combine isn't the end all be all, but there are times/measureable filters that GB has had in place since Ron Wolf and they will NOT stray from them. Any time a fan suggests a CB shorter than the GB limit - forget it, it's not happening. There's tendencies for WRs, RBs, Edge rushers, and CBs that GB sticks very closely to.

Sherman broke a couple of those filters to reach for guys he liked to disastrous results. Not saying those kinds of players can't make it, but as long as the Al Davis/Ron Wolf/TT tree is still rooted in GB, they are NOT breaking with some of this stuff.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

March 06, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Did someone say TT values brains because we have a very complex defense. Then we must have drafted some stupid guys because our defense has been crap for years. Maybe just get good football players instead of trying to have Einstein try to cover a LB. TT is the single most overrated GM in history. Look back and see all the great football players he passed on to draft the Sherrods and Datone Jones and yes, even Nick Perry, the one year wonder. Our GM was a linebacker. Aside from Clay name a linebacker he's drafted who could ever cover a TE or rush the passer. We go through this same exercise every year, thinking we have a good team when in fact we have Aaron Rodgers and few pass catchers who keep us in games. TT and Capers have done nothing defensively in all their time her. I expect nothing from this GM. He needs to go and take the toupee with him.

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ben's picture

March 07, 2017 at 02:22 am

"the packers should look beyond the combine"?

the packers and TT should get over themselves and "their way of doing things" and take a closer look at the combine

drafting in spite of team need and combine #'s has squandered the greatest opportunity given to any franchise in NFL history. Aaron Rodgers is the best player in football history now playing at the most influential position in the history of team sports. Rodgers was a dumb-luck gift, and The packers couldn't have done worse the last 13 years if they threw darts or spun a wheel in choosing what Free Agents and Prospects they've brought in.

What a waste.

Doing it his way, and getting players in his image is great for TT's ego. But how bad do you have to overthink it, to not have a player in your secondary that can run a 4.5. And how bad do you Packer fans have to be overthinking it to keep TT and MM around.

What a joke.

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Turophile's picture

March 08, 2017 at 06:03 am

It's all about value.

I'd take Villanova's DE/OLB Kpassagnon in round 4 if he was there. A project, but great tools to work with.

I'd take CB Brendan Langley in the 6th as a developmental guy, because he is 6'0", 200lb, runs a 4.43 40 time, with 22 reps of the 225 lb bar. With late picks like Langley, you look for something to hang your hat on - size, speed, smarts, etc.....and he has plenty to work with.

Kpassagnon is a bigger risk, being taken earlier, but 6'7", 290lb guys that run a low 4.6 time and have his athleticism, are unicorn rare.

Bottom line is don't take athletic marvels early, without the high quality game tape to back up the physical skills.

For example, I have serious doubts about CB Adoree Jackson, an athletic phenom, who gave up a lot of plays in college, and also left his football team once to pursue track at an Olympic level. He should cost a first or at worst second round pick, too much to pay for potential, in my mind.

Another thing I like the combine for, is checking out guys who have come back from injury. For example, Auburn DE, Carl Lawson was a very talented pass rusher who had an ACL. Watching him run a 4.67 40 at 260 lb, run a good shuttle time and lift the 225lb bar 35 times tells you he is pretty fit.

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stockholder's picture

March 08, 2017 at 06:38 am

The packers aren't going to take workout warriors under TT. We now get to look for another NT because of Guion's suspension. I wanted chris Jones with Clark last year just because of the PED problem. TT had faith in these guys to go straight. It isn't happening. So better include another NT in the draft. Stevie TulkOlovatu 6'1" USC sound like a good guy? I know how you like TTs USC players.

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Sean David Westreicher's picture

March 09, 2017 at 08:56 am

Former players,invited prospects,draft picks (future and present) how does the road too 53 come together as a Green Bay Packer

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