The 2020 NFL offseason was very different for obvious reasons. But 2021 has its own unique complexities that are coloring how things ultimately play out. Arguably one of the most significant qualities unique (hopefully) to this offseason is the absence of a formal, full-fledged NFL Scouting Combine.
While it can certainly be argued that the Combine is overvalued, there is a lot of important information to be gleaned from those days there, including the in-person player-to-team interactions, which can only be partially replicated through Pro Days. Pittsburgh Steelers’ president Art Rooney II earlier this offseason talked about the complications of the offseason and the draft without the Combine.
“Not having the combine this year it’s not a good thing, that is for sure,” Teresa Varley quotes Rooney as telling Steelers Nation Unite members, in a recent Steelers.com article ahead of the draft. “We’re doing our best to gather the information we normally get on players. It’s going to be a little scary this year going into this draft. We won’t have the same kind of information we normally have on players.”
The situation this offseason is the inverse of a year ago, where they were able to get in the Combine before the pandemic truly hit in the United States, after which almost all Pro Days were wiped out. This year, individual schools are participating in their Pro Days, with the massive gathering in Indianapolis canceled.
That leaves a major part of the evaluation process in the hands of individual teams, and frankly, requires talent evaluators to be more critical and objective as these players perform on their home turf, so to speak, and without some of the tools available at the Combine.
“That will probably affect the later rounds more than the earlier rounds because those players are sometimes the ones you don’t have as much information on,” Rooney admitted. “It’s going to be little bit scary going into this draft not having the usual amount of information and not having the contact with the players.”
It’s worth noting that the Steelers drafted the first player selected in last year’s draft not invited to the Combine a year ago. Dotson projects as a full-time starter this season.
That would be Kevin Dotson, a fourth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette, which produced Ike Taylor and…not a whole lot else. Charles Tillman is the most notable alumnus, along with Jake Delhomme and Brandon Stokley. Tillman and Taylor were teammates, if you didn’t know.