The combine has always been one of the major staples of the offseason. This season will see significant changes, however, to keep everyone safe during the pandemic. The psychological testing and the interviews are to be conducted virtually, but medical exams will occur in-person with a limited number of people on hand.
Perhaps the most important change is that there will be no in-person workouts at the combine. Instead, they will take place during the pro days on college campuses.
Usually, a player’s performance at the combine has a great impact on their draft stock.
Remember how John Ross increased the hype around him by breaking Chris Johnson‘s 40-yard dash record? On the other hand, you can look at how a poor 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle managed to convince almost everyone that D.K. Metcalf wasn’t very good and allowed him to slip to the last pick of the second round.
Outside of their college tape and pro days, the combine is the primary measurement of how a player will play at the next level — it’s compared to standardized testing for high school students trying to get into college.
This year more than ever, the draft figures to be unreliable. Teams will have to rely on scouting and their analysis of tape rather than an arbitrary drill that tests straight-line speed when players rarely run in a straight line during the game.
I believe this can play right into general manager Rick Spielman’s hands.
While pro days should even the playing field, they aren’t held to the same standard as a combine in theory. Ultimately the school is trying to boost its player’s draft status to help with recruiting. The results from pro days should be weighed differently because of their player-friendly atmospheres.
This year’s draft figures to be one of the craziest in recent memory, especially if you include the players who opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns. This year players will rise and fall on the boards due solely to how much a staff liked their pro days.
This is where having continuity comes into play. Aside from the loss of assistant general manager George Patton, the Vikings are returning with primarily the same front office and staff that they had over the last few seasons, a group that is mostly intact from years prior and has drafted the most pro-bowlers (13) out of any team in the last decade.
This year the glut of picks the Vikings have will help them maneuver up and down the board looking up to pick up talent that other teams have missed out on. With opt-outs playing a major role in all of this chaos, we may see some first-round talent slip down into the latter rounds primarily due to recency bias.
A good deal for a team with a lot of Day 2 and 3 picks.