Talk pro football with SI.com's Andrew Perloff in Huddle Up, a forum to discuss the hottest topics around the NFL.
2/22/2007 12:11:00 PM
Mario Williams wowed the scouting community with his outstanding performance at the 2005 combine.
You'd think in this day and age teams wouldn't take the NFL Scouting Combine and subsequent pro days too seriously. Everyone knows the players spend weeks preparing specifically for the physical and mental tests they'll face. And every year, a few smart teams strike gold by ignoring the kind of measurables that come out of the draft process and focusing instead on college production.
But even last year, the combine shaped the very top of the first round. The Texans were quite open about the fact that they drafted Mario Williams No. 1 overall because he was 6-foot-7, 295 pounds and ran a 4.70 40, and they said little about his play at North Carolina State. I know it's only been one year, but that pick already appears to be a mistake.
Houston passed on Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Matt Leinart, despite their outstanding college careers. The Texans claimed they thought they could win if they bolstered their defense immediately, plus they had faith in quarterback David Carr. Both those premises turned out to be ridiculous. Williams had 4.5 sacks and the Texans' D struggled. Carr threw 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and came no closer to delivering on the promise he had as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft.
The Patriots have become the NFL's gold standard for drafting this decade and they rarely seem to pay attention to numbers coming out of the combine or pro days. One could argue their mini-dynasty started when Tom Brady didn't get enough zip on the ball at the 2000 combine, allowing him to drop to New England in the sixth round.
There are exceptions. Jevon Kearse's incredible combine workout justifiably moved him up in the 1999 draft. But for every Kearse, there are two Mike Mamula-like busts. Guaranteed, someone is going to make millions this week by running a fast 40 and a quarterback will bomb the Wonderlic and raise red flags. And come September, none of that will matter on the field.
Let me know how important you think the combine is and who you think this year's workout wonder will be.
I think that the best indicator of future performance is past performance (normalized for level of competition) - assuming no unusual circumstances or injuries. The Texans should have looked more at the performance of Mario Williams - who disappeared in many games against top opponents - rather than at his combine numbers.
while i'll agree raising a player based on combine workouts alone is pretty silly, one aspect of the combine is important. it's being able to see which players took the process seriously and prepared for it knowing all 32 teams would be there. and seeing which players have been sitting on their duffs, eating cheetos, and playing video games after the close of the college season. look how lendale white dropped last year... because he was immature and petulant in his interviews. he was potentially a top 15 pick before he showed every scout out there that he should have stayed another year in college to mature and get in better shape. i think just having an event like the combine can really help show you who's taking this seriously and who's not... which is why a lot of importance is placed on the interview.
I agree it seems a little crazy when skills testing outweighs college production, but if evaluation was based more on previous college production, Troy Smith would likely be a mid to early 1st round pick. Maybe he should be.
I think on field performance should be the biggest indication. with the exception of some db's who are too slow to cover wr's. I would take a productive multi-year starter anyday of a workout wonder who was good, but not great anyday.
If past performance was the best indicator than elvis dumervil would have been the # 1 Defensive End taken, not Mario Williams. Yet, he went in the 4th round. The draft has always been about potential and performance. Thus, the combine is a place to show diamonds in the roughs and for picks to solidify themselves.
Taking any one indicator as your be all, end all decision maker is going to leave you with a Mike Mamula. College production is always nice, but Jason White was productive in college. So was Eric Crouch. The combine results should be used to help separate the candidate who rate out the same based on college performance. I think the interviews would serve more of an indicator than a 40 yard dash time. But, this may be why I work in science and not the NFL.
I've got to agree with Wolfs. I think you can use the combine to find out what kind of drive and character a player has.
As for college performance, yeah, it's important, but it's still only one aspect of a player's potential. For every good player that prospered in a top 10 league program there's probably a great player that wallowed on a so-so team somewhere just out of the top 25 or so.
As a certified strength and conditioning professional, and a college football coach I want to tell you what I think of your comments. I couldn't agree with you more. Sure, there are some tests that can you give you the idea of an athlete's ATHLETIC ability (although many of the tests used at the combine are outdated or have little on-field value, such as the 225 rep test, or the 40 yard dash for all players not running streak routes), these tests do not at any point give us an accurate prediction on whether or not the athlete is suited towards any particular sport.
As far as the combine, not only does it force athletes to focus on training for these tests instead of using their time for more position specific training or, god forbid, school work, it pressures them into thinking that instead of a reliable body of film from game play, their professional and financial futures really just rely on how fast they run, how high they jump, or how they score on a test that has little to no applicability to life or football.
The combine is so overrated.Last year all people could talk about was how great Mario Williams looked and the Texans bought it(so far it looks like they made a mistake passing on Bush and Young).The combine is just an over-hyped warm-up in which players show off their abilities and the team scouts and owners begin to drool over them.Most good players are'nt even drafted in the 1st round.I mean look at players like Donald Driver,Marques Colston,Maurice Drew-Jones,Devin Hester,Aaron Kampman,and Tom Brady.
The Patriots as the gold standard in drafting this year, not a chance. While the teams success has been unmatched ring wise this decade, I'd have to argue the best by FAR in successful drafting has been the Baltimore Ravens.
I do not think that combines mean too much! Guys train just to do those, but it says nothing about how well they do on a football field. I ran a 4.9 40 and other guys on my team ran faster then that, but on the field I was the fastest and the quickest, and they could'nt catch me.
It seems that the problem is a short memory: whatever happened last is what the scout remembers. Come draft day, the combine is a month back, playing is four month back, and did the scout really see what he thinks he remembers, or is there a reason to doubt the old, old data? I will bet you that is the reason the combine is given as much weight in the decision as it is. Niels
Comparing the statistics of Elvis Dumervil to Mario Williams is a waste of time. Did you take into consideration that Elvis is never double teamed and that Mario Williams is always double teamed? Or that Mario Williams the ONLY sack threat on the Texans, so teams gameplan to stop him? This is not the case. And please, to suggest that Reggie had a marvelous rookie campaign is laughable. He had a few big plays, and a lot of terrible plays. He wasn't the starting back, and had THE all-pro quarterback. And say all you want about his 90 catches-90% of them were swing passes. Drew was taking what the defense was giving him. Your arguments are terrible!
I think the reason the combines are used so much is because they provide what appears to be an objective measure of performance. It doesn't take any judgement to see who runs faster, jumps higher, etc. The problems comes in when those numbers are used to predict NFL performance. It's a lot hard er defend "the guy looked great against USC" vs. "The guy ran a 4.3!" No one can argue with the numbers. The combine provides a safety net to justify your job when you need an excuse for making a poor pick. "But hey, the guy ran a 4.3, who was to know he'd bomb out!". That's the main reason it's there, and it's the main reason it'll stay.
It's fairly obvious that the Chargers have had the most success in the draft. Here are some names in the past few years who are already at the TOP of their position: Luis Castillo, Shawn Merriman, Shaun Phillips, Philip Rivers, Ladanian Tomlinson, Kris Dielman, Marcus McNeill, and Quentin Jammer (this past year he was excellent).
Really .. the Ravens are the gold standard ... Didn't they trade a bundle to the Patriots to select Kyle Boller because he had such a strong arm he could throw a ball over the crossbar from mid-field? Boller set that franchise back 2 years. They should have been competing the playoffs with that team, instead they had to let Boller play b/c of his first round contract. The Patriots have had 0 first round failures. First round failures are what kill teams. Those contracts are too big to warrant Kyle Boller like mistakes.
Enough with the whole second guessing the Texans thing. Yeah they took Williams over Bush and others so what. A quality D-end is much more valuable than any runningback is. Bush will never be the workhorse they needed and the Texans don't have a Deuce McCallister to gain the hard yards to allow Bush to add the fluff. Williams flashed enough potential to show that he can become a dominant player in the NFL and there have been many D-ends who have taken a year or 2 to start putting up big numbers. Be fair to the kid and let him play for a couple years before you start calling him a bust or a workout wonder, and stop comparing him to the highly overrated Bush.
Bottom line Jonathan is that Dumerville has already outplayed his rookie contract while Williams still needs to live up to his.
Dumerville led NCAA in sacks his last year in Louisville and carried similar productivity into the NFL. Dumerville led the Broncos in sacks, to assume he was left unaccounted for in game planning is foolish.
Williams - double team or not, so far has failed to live up to expectations. No use arguing otherwise.
The main difference here is one had too much emphisis on combine results, which turned into a blockbuster contract that was near impossible to live up to.
Its a good example of putting too much value on combine results vs on field results.
I am not suggesting Dumerville should have been #1 overall, but are you honestly saying you would prefer the big fat contract player who underperformed vs. a 4th round over achiever?
Personally, I think the term "BUST" should be applied to the jokers in the front office who pick guys that don't live up to expectations, not the players themselves.
Think about it: 1) these athletes all think they can play and none of them would or should turn down first round money if it was offered to them. 2) Are these guys really that bad or do they just end up in a situation that doesn't hi-light their skills? (Think Steve Young in Tampa Bay and S.Y. in San Fran. Same player, different environment. One's a bust, the other the all-time QB rating holder.)
We really need re-think the term bust. (Except in the case of Dolly Parton and Ryan Leaf!)
The combine does have its purpose, and is still a relevant indicator in player ability. It is also a good place to find players who may not have had the opportunity to perform well, or be "winners" in college football. This is a team sport. And, often times, a player cannont flourish because of the team he is on. The combine allows them to showcase what they feel they have to offer.
But, it should not be the sole indicator used to determine who you will or will not draft. Good example. Chad Johnson. He had a less than stellar 40 time in the combine, and it dropped him to a second round pick. But look now, he is one of the best, if not arguably the best WR in the game.
Vince Young was seriously hammered based upon is supposed Wonderlic test scores. He wound up having the Titans knocking on the door to the playoffs.
On the flip side, we could list any of the David Klinglers, Ryan Leafs, KiJana Carters, and so forth, who had mangnificent combines, but it translated into nothing on the NFL level. The combine is just one piece, of a very complicated puzzle.
You might want to re-think having Cutler as the cover to this story with the implication his performance in the combine overshadowed his performance on the field. The numbers sort of speak for themselves: 59.1% completion rate, 7.31 ypa, 9-5 TD/Int ratio, 88.5 QB rating. Numbers that, extrapolated over an entire year, trump many "Pro-Bowl" QBs.
The reality of the situation is that Houston had the first pick. Is it your contention that they should have forfeited their pick and waited for an overachiever in the late rounds? Elvis Dumervil is a one dimensional player, and to isolate sacks as the only statistic that matters is silly. Elvis had more sacks than Dwight Freeney, does this mean he is better. Viewing players by one determining statistic is ridiculous, as is to say that Elvis is a better player than Mario. You fail to see the players in context, which is a crucial mistake.
While I agree that too much value is placed into combine results (Mike Mamula, Ryan Leaf, Kyle Boller, etc...), I think it still has some value. But it should never be the end-all-be-all for a team, especially one drafting in the first round. The first round should be comprised of players who got it done on Saturdays, not just at the combine.
On a side note, I might be in the minority, but I still don't think that Mario Williams was a bad choice for the Texans. The Texans need a back who can pund it in between the tackles on a regular basis (Bush is out), and Gary Kubiak has a history of bringing the best out of quarterbacks, so rather than spend even more money on a first round QB, he needed to try working with what he had for at least one year. Now we know that Carr is not the answer, and the Texans still have an opportunity to draft their "QB of the Future". What they needed was a good threat on defense, and Williams can still develop into that.
The combine is just one massive job interview. You show up with your resume' and compete with the other applicants under same standard controlled situation. And like most job interviews your future employer must make the ultimate decision based on his experience. Under-performance should not overly hurt your chances for the job, but over-performance paired with a good resume' should lead to the ultimate choice for the position being chosen.
It is obvious that we have a few Texans fans defending their team's pick, not that there is anything wrong with that. But coming from a fan from another team (Dolphins - I know, they suck), Williams may end up being great, but Bush's game-breaking ability doesn't come along very often. I know he made only a handful of big plays, but they weren't just big, they were huge. How many game-changing plays did Williams make? The Texans needed a runner who could take hits, true, but I would still take reggie bush over ron dayne! How many star defensive ends get drafted that high? Jason Taylor was a 3rd rounder for crying out loud. Point being that you can find a great franchise player defensive end without spending a 1st round pick on him. But game-breaking players - regardless of the position - are hard to come by.
The combine can be very misleading. It can be helpful when a team is deciding between to players that is flip-flopping over (first day picks)to give a better idea of physical potential. With that said, it is not good place by any means to decide your first round pick. Rather is a good place to get an idea on second day picks (4 to 7)who aren't expected to contribute right away and may need development.
The NFL combine is ruining teams. Every team wants that 4.3 40 to break that big play but how many running backs who rank in the all time top ten in rushing yards ran a 4.4 or better? Mario Williams was a bust because he wasn't even the best DL on his team in college but 6'7" 295 does sound real nice. They were comparing him to Julius Peppers. Peppers had over 15 sacks the year he left Mario had just 9 which really came in 4 contests. The same can be said about Reggie Bush, but he is in the right system for him. He has his Lendale White (Deuce) which allows his speed to really wear down defenses. What should matter is college play 75% combine 25%. While some would say Jason White, Ken Dorsey or even Eric Crouch. If you go watch their games their team was stacked. Who wouldn't play well in their situations. Teams need to evaluate what they need out of a player exactly. If the Texans were looking for a pass rusher they were foolish. A possible run stopper still in the works. He has the size. Titans could've went with Leinart but with the play of their receivers last year Matt would've gotten smashed. Therefore Vince's legs did the trick.
jonathan, your reasoning is a little bit out there. even texans fans dont like the pick. by the way, i dont know what game you were watching, but no team was game planing for mario william nor was he being double teamed. the fact is, mario williams wasnt a good college player, and you want to know how i know this, its because my college team is in the acc and williams team, was in the bottom of conference with 5 wins i think . it was a suprise to see 3 guys get drafted in the first round on that d-line. fact is, he was a good player, but the combine workouts put him way over the edge and by the way sweetie, the only reason why dumerville went so low in the draft was because of his hieght, he is only 5'10 and most teams if not all want their d-ends in the 6'5 or taller range to distrupt the qbs.
I think the best way to evaluate a guy is to look at what he did during college and to look at them in pads in a senior bowl type of thing where you actually can see what a guy can do in full pads on the field popping with other guys.
When Kearse was drafted, viewers of the draft were forced to listen to Mel Kiper Jr talk about Kearse being a workout wonder. Because of this, he had scared some teams off as they were fearing the 2nd coming on Mamula. It is the same reason that Merriman dropped two years ago.
Don't mean to go off on a tangent here, but if you are comparing Elvis Dumervil to Super Mario Williams, you are comparing the wrong people. I thought Dumervil was going to be the biggest steal in the draft (20 sacks senior year, tied NCAA record ARE YOU KIDDING?), but Mark Anderson (5th Round) had 12 sacks and 4 FF and, like Dumervil, saw limited action on the field.
the redskins are an example of the importance of the draft over free agent signings. the best record in the nfl over the last 5 years is a result of the best drafts over the last 6 years. the interveiw portion of the combine is the most important part, as an althelete's physical performance is already on film, the physical tests are,as has been stated, a reflection of preperation by the player. go pats
Comparing (at this stage) Dumervil to Williams doesn't make a lot of sense. Williams was injured most of the year, and playing through it, on a very subpar team, with subpar coaching, under the Bush microscope. Dumervil came in with fewer expectations, to a much sounder team, better teammates, far better coaching, and an offense that could keep him from being winded. Also, to label Williams as someone who has not lived up to his draft spot is bunk - if we put the same measure on past overall picks after their first seasons, we'd find that we'd be calling a lot of Hall of Famer's disappointments - anyone ever heard of Bradshaw? Elway? Aikman? Oh, you say QBs take longer to develop...how about Bruce Smith who looked good, but not dominant in his first year, registering just 2 more sacks than Williams, and Lee Roy Selmon, who looked good, but in a banged up year, registered just a half sack more than Williams, and Ed Too Tall Jones didn't look like a world beater in his first season. Now, you cast that against someone like Mike Mamula who actually did have 14 sacks in his first two seasons - what I'm saying is you really can't judget things yet. Mamula was maligned as his career went on, then out, and all the other folks here are either in the Hall, or should be.
I think past performance is an important indicator. However, everyone knows how the Combine impacts where a player may be drafted or if he is drafted at all. Therefore, how a player prepares for the combine can give you some insight into his maturity, commitment, and work ethic, which are just as important in the NFL. A player who performs well in college and does a great job preparing for and performing at the Combine is very likely to be a quality player in the NFL.
I should think the most important part of the combine would be the interviews. You can obviously see how good a football player a guy is by reviewing his films. However, I wold want to then meet him, and see how he answers certain questions and handles himself. Does any NFL team really need a guy with no character, a troublemaker if you will, or a guy with a poor work ethic who already thinks too much of himself.
I don't think the 40 yard dash is important at all. A 4.2 forty yard dash is useless if the guy is running in the wrong direction or not following the play. Being a Seahawks fan, two of our top defensive players (Grant Wistrom and Lofa Tatupu) are guys that hardly impressed anyone in workouts. However, they have endless motors and never stop working.
It seems everyone continues to miss the boat on the Mario Williams pick. The mistake wasn't that they took Williams over Bush. Bush wouldn't have gotten the Texans any closer to being a winner than Williams. The mistake was they decided not to draft Vince Young, and keep David Carr as their quarterback. After one season Vince Young is already a better quarterback than Carr, he raises the play of everyone around him. David Carr is, well, David Carr.
Mario Williams has played one year on a team that had two street free agents starting on the DLine...he was double teamed. If you don't know that then you never saw the games. Either way...its one season from a lineman...he wasn't horrible and can't be called a bust yet.
Dumervil is a third down sack specialist. If he plays every down then Denvers run D will suffer for it...just like Indy's D suffers with Freeney.
Bush is a good player...but he is a smallish running back who will catch passes most of his career. Sorry but you don't take players like that with the first pick of the draft.
The mistake was not taking Vince Young who turned out better so far then most thought he would be.
Lets not act like the Texans were the ONLY team that thought highley of Mario Williams. HE was one of the top 3-4 players on every board in the league.
Right on the money. You should be featured more on the front page. How else can you explain Jerry Rice, the Pats success, Baltimore Ravens (took a little known undrafted RB by the name of Priest Holmes) as well as busts like Leaf, Mandarich, the Boz and a laundry list of other big money guys that produced nothing?
Ok, First off the Patriots are one of the best Drafting teams because it´s a miracle if they ever get to draft in the top 20...but, most importantly the Pats draft who they can coach up... They never have a draft pick in the first 3 rounds who dominates immediately... Ty Warren was amazing this year after what 4 years of playing.. Asante Samuel was amazing(third round) after 4 years of playing... The list goes on...Logan Mankins benched the 225 only 17 times, and was considered the third best guard by Dr.Z. Again it comes down to the right player for the system. I believe Mario Williams has a shot at being the best at his position if he has the determination as well as the coaching...same goes for Reggie Bush last year and Brady Quinn and Jemarcus Russell this year. Could any of those players have done anything in Detroit....Unlikely!!
The combine is a useless excercise that personifies America's chronic obsession with statistics.
How many busts do you see in the NFL compared to, lets say, the English Soccer Premier League. As a huge fan of both leagues I can honestly tell you I don't know that 40 times, height, weight etc... of any soccer players. Players are bought and traded according to HOW GOOD THEY PLAY ON THE PITCH!
And accordingly it is very rare in soccer that you find a big name signing turning out to be useless, whereas the NFL seems to produce at least 5 in every draft. Why? Because they were drafted high cos they ran a fast 40 or had a good vertical jump, instead of being drafted because they were dominating in college.
I am a Houstonian and I am ashamed of the stupid fans in my cowtown who keep on double teaming to defend Mario"Bust"Williams and David Carr"wreck".
What did these two guys do in their college carreers? Win the National championship or take home their toilet bowls?I think you see pedigree in college championship games not in some stupid wonderlick test or modeling combine.
i am a texans fan... and mario wiliams was NOT being double teamed all year. listen to his coaches talk on local radio and you'll know that... watch the film or the highlights and you'll know that. the guy may pan out - he may be a great player - but it will surprise me. most guys who are great are dominant in college and don't disappear in big games. mario disappeared in college against big-time programs / opponents. he has amazing physical skils - but does he have the work ehtic to develop the great technique to accompany it? - the people he is around regularly are likely the only ones that can say for sure - but at least they still believe in him more than Carr - which they were wrong about. Bush was better. Young was way better. If Young continues to develop and is the winner in the NFL that he was in college it will be the equivalent of picking Sam Bowie in front of Michael Jordan.
As someone already mentionned, the combine is a tool to give the coaches an idea of what a prospect can do physically. Past performances can be overrated. After all, guys like Ryan Leaf, Mike Williams and Charles Rogers (sorry Lions fans) had stellar college careers, and look where they ended up.
As for Mario Williams people tend to forget two things: 1. The DE position is one of the hardest to make the adjustment from college to the pros. 2. He is the best pass rusher on the Texans roster, which means he got double teamed more often than any other lineman on that team.
You want to see more production out of Williams, then give him time, and a big guy in the middle to take on two blockers.
I think that the combine should be a tool for getting to know the player, his character, work ethic, demenaor, personality, leadership qualities, etc. as the major focus for NFL teams. Yes, all those track & field skills, and agility skills are nice. But, playing fast on the football field takes football abililty, learned and proved on the football field, in full pads, with someone trying to knock you into next week!
Hey guys, let's not get away from the original intent of the combine - to evaluate players' physical health, which they still do, although not on TV. There is still a lot of value in that. The other evaluations i.e. 40, bench, shuttle ect. gives a measurable account of the basic physical atrtributes associated with playing football. It does not, and can not measure the "Fight in the Dog". Only past performance can do that. Competitors compete, no matter what league they are thrown into. Look at the history of division 1AA and Division II players who have impacted the NFL. Their participation in the combine and other events of exposure is vital to their opportunity to be considered for the next level, due to the fact that their conferences don't get the national media coverage that the SEC and such get. Kudos to ESPNU and BET for doing a great job of providing coverage of smaller conferences on a national level, but events such as the combine gets these guys the opportunity to be evaluated and considered for a shot at the next level, without which, they may not get. Keep the combine. It is a tremendously valuable tool. Yes some players' stock rise or drop based on their participation, but overall, the combine is probably a 90% or better forcaster for the overall participants. Who has stats on this????
I want to echo what a number of folks said, that while it's insane to pick a player high just based on good combine numbers, a poor or disappointing showing at the combine can be very revealing. Lots of guys have scored excellent numbers and then flopped, and lots of guys have scored mediocre numbers and gone on to be champions. But how many guys came in overweight and out of shape, put up terrible combine numbers, and still had a great career? None, that's how many.
The combine is like a standardized test for which you have been given the answers, then practice them over and over. Challenging to be sure, but predictable. An NFL game is like a high-speed pop quiz. Not only weren't you given the answers, you don't even know what the questions are. Only the stout at heart and the quick of mind and reflex will prevail.
Comparing Williams to Dumerville is stupid. Dumerville went into a playoff team, Williams joined at team that "earned" it's #1 pick. You may as well just say everyone should have drafted Joseph Addai, and totally ignore that Edgerrin James has MUCH lower stats now that he's "slumming" it in Arizona, as opposed to what he put up in Indy.
What the Texans NEEDED (and I expected WANTED) was to trade that one pick for lots of picks so they could add players. But everyone knew that and no one wanted anyone at the top THAT badly. (and yes, that includes Bush) So the Texans went with a "value" play. If they can draft well this year, the Texans can do better in another year or two, but going into the '06 season they were STILL several players away from contention and would have been even if they'd chosen Young, Bush or Lienart. (especially if you consider only _1_ of those three made the playoffs, and he was NOT the "lead story" of his team at the end of the year)
The combine is just a tool to help find out the measureables & health of each player. I think production should also play a part. The problem with the Texans was that they immediately dismissed drafting Vince Young because of David Carr. I don't blame them for not taking Reggie Bush, but they should have known what they had in David Carr and realize that a guy like Vince Young doesn't come around often in drafts.
The combine seems like another attempt to utterly simplify something to a series of quick facts. Too bad people think it's more important than it is. I chalk it up to nothing more than excessive hype. But then the NFL these days seems to be all about excessive hype.
The Pats Belichick + Pioli, by far, have drafted the best recently. They translate drafts picks into productive players. They identify the players that fit their system. I'm not a Pats fan, but I do respect their draft record for 1st and 2nd round picks the last 5 years. When you can add 2 to 3 players that can make an impact on your roster every years - that's impressive.