On the phone conference with NFL Network's Mike Mayock, the football analyst explained why he believes the results from the NFL Combine are important.
"First and foremost," Mayock said. "From a historical perspective there's value in being able to compare kids from this year to past years, and as a matter of fact, I've probably spent 10 hours this week looking at different comps.
"For instance... DeForest Buckner who's coming out of Oregon this year at 6'7", 295, who does he remind you of? Well, Calais Campbell at 6'7", 290 years ago who ran a 5.0 440. And I have all those numbers of Calais Campbell and this year I'm going to be really anxious to look at Buckner, comparing his numbers to Campbell's numbers, and I could go right down the list and give you a bunch of those kind of things.
"So there's value in repeating some of those drills so that the analytics of the combine can help you."
This, naturally, is in stark contrast to ESPN's Mel Kiper, who had the following thought on creating player comparisons:
"You always look to draw a comparison," Kiper said on his conference call when asked to evaluate California quarterback Jared Goff. "A lot of which never mean anything in the NFL once they get there anyway; usually a waste of time trying to figure out these comparisons. You're better off looking at them individually."
But there's one person on the Patriots that's pretty outspoken against the drills at the NFL Combine, or at least believes there are far more important aspects of the Combine that should be in greater focus. Last summer, head coach Bill Belichick gave his opinion on players putting too much attention on the Combine.
"I think there are a lot of players and I think a lot of players learn from that, that they look at their rookie year and feel like, ‘I wasn't really as physically as well prepared as maybe I was in college or what I will be in their succeeding years in the league,' and train more for football and train less for the broad jump and three-cone drill and stuff like that.
"I think a lot of those guys hopefully learn that lesson and intensify their physical football training after they've had that year of, in a lot of cases, I would say non-football training or very limited training for actually football."
And this is a great point. Some players give attention to improving their 40 yard dash and working on getting out of their blocks with proper track and field form to shave a few milliseconds off of their time.
Players will rarely run 40 yards in a straight line. They'll never ever be running in proper track form that pretty much requires athletes to look down at the ground during the acceleration period.
But it happens and players do it because it helps their draft stock, instead of their playing ability.
"I think that's a huge mistake that a lot of those players make," Belichick said. "But I'm sure they have their reasons for doing it. We're training our players to play football, not to go through a bunch of those February drills."
And the reasons are valid. Would the Patriots look at a prospect a second time if they had a horrible three cone time? Probably not. These metrics are valuable when trying to make comparisons and projections, and even when it comes down to making a decision between two otherwise similar players.
The issue is that metrics are so easily digestible for the masses, and since the Combine is now a huge event for the public it will remain as such. 40 yard dash times make headlines and they're easy to compare from one player to another. Having to actually watch the the subsequent field drills- with different quarterbacks throwing the ball and other inconsistent variables- make for a much more difficult evaluation process.
But it's all a piece of the puzzle.
"Why do we have to train track athletes?," Mayock posed on his call. "Let's be training football athletes, and that's why I would tell kids to run the 40 at the combine and get it over with. Run a good time, get it over with, so on your pro day, all you're doing is getting ready for football drills.
"I think it's important that we continue all the drills that we time for an analytics perspective. However, I'd like to throw some different drills at them on the football side, just to see if kids can learn quickly. "
I wonder what the rules are if Belichick wanted to host his own scouting combine with events better determinants of player's projected ability.
Like, instead of having an offensive lineman run a 40-yard dash, he'll have them try to get to the second level on a running play with Vince Wilfork standing in their way. Or instead of making a defensive tackle go through the bench press (which is not an overly valuable piece of information), have them wrestle in a phone booth with Logan Mankins and if they survive they can get an invitation to rookie camp.
Wait, I like this idea. Television gold. Bill, I have more ideas if you need them.