Last week, I wrote about how Kevin Colbert, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ general manager and a member of the committee who oversees the NFL’s Scouting Combine, talked on a recent broadcast about how further changes will be coming to the event, not just moving into primetime.
The league is trying to do everything it can to turn the Combine into a cash cow, similar to how they were, frankly successfully, able to do it with the NFL Draft. One thing that we should apparently expect to see in the future is turning the Combine drills into competitions, and possibly even ones that fans would be able to bet on.
On the face of it, I found this idea absurd, and I still think it will have zero affect on athletes like those this year, Chase Young and Joe Burrow, opting not to go through drills. The league wants to see these high-profile players on the field, and their thinking is that they could coax them into doing so by making it competitive.
Like I said, I still don’t see that happening, but perhaps not as strongly as I did after thinking it over. I’ve been reading a lot of comments from players about the draft, including those Steelers veterans sharing their thoughts about the team’s website.
All of them talk about how the drills were the most rewarding part of the experience because it’s football, it’s competition, and yes, you want to do the best in your group. That included Cameron Heyward, who was injured during his Combine, and sounded as though he regrets having missed out on that, even as he heads into his 10th season.
“When you look at those attributes and stats that go along with your athletic ability, you want to measure yourself up with other guys”, he told the team’s website. “I never got a chance to do that. All of the guys in my draft class have been doing well, but I never got a chance to measure against them at the Combine”.
Heyward was part of an absolutely remarkable draft class for defensive ends that included, among others, J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan, and Muhammed Wilkerson. While Wilkerson has begun to fade, the others—when healthy—remain the highlights of their position.
And yet, despite being a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro over the past two years, there’s still a part of Heyward who wishes that he, nine years ago, could have competed with them in Indianapolis, to put down 40 times and bench reps and broad jumps, to really measure himself up against them.
It’s hard to even get into the NFL if you’re not a highly competitive person. The love, or even need, for competition is the fuel that drives people to greatness and refuses to allow them to settle for the ‘good enough’. The NFL wants to extract as much of this as possible in the Combine now. I do think it will work, to an extent.