The NFL Combine is generally used to collect important medical data and sit down with NFL prospects. Without that this year, teams sit in the dark on medical fitness of incoming prospects.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL scout who spent over thirty years in the league, and nine years as the Chicago Bears Scouting Director from 2001-2010. Gabriel took to Twitter today to report on the lack of transparency regarding NFL Draft prospects and their medical records due to the lack of an NFL Combine. Here is Gabriel’s tweet;

The NFL combine is a “virtual” event this year, as the league braced for the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, no official athletic testing was completed and the medical examinations typically done at the Combine were not completed. NFL teams, per Gabriel, are in the dark.

Neil Stratton, a very well connected individual inside of the league as well, weighed in on the topic as well;

Everyone knows that I like talking about the stories that aren’t sexy and presenting the important information there as well. This is another story that the information needs to be put out about.


How the league uses the NFL Combine

The NFL Combine has the intrigue of fans for the popular events that are now televised. The famed forty-yard dash, for example, is one of the big draw events. While the league uses athletic testing as a part of the evaluation of the prospects, it only accounts for a small section of it. Most fans, casual or diehard, aren’t aware of such things. The media likes to hype impressive numbers too. That’s part of the reason why so much hype surrounds the forty-yard dash event.

However, there are two private sections of the combine that is exclusively for NFL clubs. Think of the Combine as an intensified job interview, where access to 32 different employers are studying you. That’s the real reason that the combine is put on.

The first important part of the combine is sitting down and interviewing prospects in person. In-person interviews will always be better than skype or zoom calls. Everyone knows that things can be hidden in virtual interviews, such as the fact that most people aren’t wearing pants. Regardless, franchise personnel use the combine to start nailing down what guys are going to fit on their team this year.

The other important part is the medicals. League and team doctors do thorough medical examinations and collect important records on the prospects. That’s what Gabriel was speaking of in the tweet that inspired this article – the medicals are coming from college doctors who (for the most part) NFL teams are not familiar with.

The testing and drills helps attach numbers to physical traits – but game film rules all.


What the league is doing to supplement the lack of transparency

Connie Carberg is a phenomenal follow on Twitter if you aren’t already doing so. Carberg was the first female NFL scout, and was the first female to draft an NFL player. She poses a very good question regarding some of the physicals that teams typically collect;

Here’s what’s going on:

In a league wide memo that was sent in January, the NFL said, per Grant Gordon on nfl.com;

In addition, the NFL is currently working alongside club physicians and trainers to develop a way in which to obtain “comprehensive medical information on each of the invited prospects.” In-person testing will be available for “a certain number of prospects” at designated locations, likely in early April.

Grant Gordon, January 18th, 2021 on nfl.com

No one really has any additional information on what certain prospects will be there. The other prospects not included in this group will be undergoing physical checks at third-party locations.

Still, this puts a lot of discomfort on NFL teams, who generally have a staff that they trust doing this work. Now, to them, the work is being completed by complete strangers.


How this lack of information will impact the draft

Here’s the final takeaways I have from this information and the lack of an NFL Combine:

NFL teams are going to react one of two ways – extremely cautious or extremely trusting. I’d think that most teams are going to lean cautiously, especially considering how many personnel was fired following a limited season due to Covid-19. These people have jobs on the line. Therefore, I believe that if someone has a bit of an injury history, it’s probably going to hurt them more this year than it has previously. Not getting team doctors on prospects will make a lot of decision-makers squeamish about making certain picks.

It’s going to be a crazy draft year. There will be a lot of picks that draftniks will deem “reaches,” and there will be a lot of talk about “steals” in the later parts of the draft because of popular prospects dropping due to medical uncertainty. The mock draft that you read yesterday probably will have no impact tomorrow because no one really has a beat on what’s happening after the first few picks.

Get ready, dear readers. It’s about to get crazy.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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