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NFL Combine nixed due to COVID as football nerds cry in their Gatorade & teams begin plotting

Jeff Okudah shows what he’s got at last year’s NFL Combine ... right before the world was cancelled.
Jeff Okudah shows what he’s got at last year’s NFL Combine ... right before the world was cancelled.
Image: Getty Images

Because COVID, the NFL Scouting Combine for 2021 has been canceled. Not a big surprise. But NFL teams are going to have to get even more creative about how they analyze the skillsets and personalities of prospects for this year’s draft.

As a diehard football nerd, I love the scouting combine. The Underwear Olympics — as they are affectionately referred to, because of the spandex outfits the prospects don — are a valuable piece of the puzzle for player analysis.

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Combine stats, like the 40-yard-dash, broad jump, vertical jump, three-cone drill, and the shuttle, all go into an athletic profile for these prospects. A good combine does not a good professional athlete make, but it can certainly help inform decisions.

Along with the workout metrics, it’s also a definitive method of gathering height and weight for prospects, which college teams have been known to be a little … um … generous with. LSU had listed running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire at 5’8”, for instance. The combine showed he’s really only 5’7”. The way college teams list height and weight is about as accurate as your average drivers license.

How on earth can we possibly move forward with analyzing quarterback prospects without #HandSizeSZN? It was the talk of the town last year, when the NFL Combine took place in February (remember February? The “before times”?). Presumptive first overall selection Joe Burrow apparently has small hands, and suddenly it was a red flag after the greatest college season by a quarterback ever. Burrow tweeted out this gem in response.

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The entertainment value and overthinking of the Combine aside, it is certainly a tool in the analysis toolbox that front offices use to inform their decisions. It remains to be seen exactly how they will replace the Combine this year, but it inevitably will not lead to a consistent, level process for each prospect. Scouts and personnel departments across the league will have their hands full as we prepare for what almost assuredly will be another remote NFL Draft from the La-Z-Boy of commissioner Roger Goodell.

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