First Down Kentucky: The Good and Bad from the NFL Combine

On3 imageby:Nick Roush03/01/24


The NFL Combine isn’t for everybody. There’s plenty to love, and loathe, about the event. The original premise of the NFL Combine was simple: do the athletic traits match what we see on tape? It’s a simple question that gets asked in high school football recruiting every year. That’s why many times schools will invite prospects to evaluation camps to see the players train in person.

The NFL Scouting Combine has not changed significantly in its format since its inception. The difference is how the players approach the event, and frankly, it’s devalued the significance.

Deion Sanders showed up without any prep, sprinted his way into history, then exited the building. Of course, he’s an extraordinary case, but his attitude is not so different than the way players thought of the Combine for a long time. It was just another workout.

The current format isn’t just another workout. Players spend three months perfecting a handful of workouts. Rather than spending all of that time on perfecting form in a 3-cone drill, wouldn’t these guys be better if they spent their time practicing, you know, things a player actually does on a football field?

I am a football sicko who enjoys watching some of the guys perform at the NFL Combine, but even I can acknowledge the silliness of this display. We’re judging players based on how well they move in their underwear.

Opt-Outs at the NFL Combine

As silly as the drills may be at the NFL Combine, there are still two things that the most casual football fan can enjoy: QBs throwing the football and the benchpress. Both are largely absent from this year’s event.

When I first started attending the event, bleachers were set up around a bench where hundreds gathered to watch some of the strongest men in America throw up 225 pounds as many times as possible. From general managers to Johnny-off-the-Street, there was a buzz in the air anytime a player approached the 30s. That was fun, but agents determined there was more to lose than gain from participating in the event. The benchpress arena has been eliminated.

That’s not the only event that’s gone by the wayside. Only three linebackers participated in the 3-cone drill. The top three QBs in this year’s draft — Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels — are not expected to throw to wide receivers Saturday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Opt-outs have not officially killed the NFL Combine. After all, CJ Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson all participated a year ago, but the shine from the event is starting to wear off.

Combine Scuttlebutt

Even though the NFL Combine may not be the most exciting TV product for football fans, it’s a wonderful experience for attendees. Similar to SEC Media Days, this is basically a week-long NFL convention. Indianapolis plays host to hundreds of front office personnel, agents, players, and members of the media. It’s an opportunity to hear some intriguing tidbits about various players and programs.

As for the Kentucky Wildcats, folks who are close to the Ohio State program had nothing but good things to say about Chip Trayanum. He performed well and was a great kid off the field in Columbus, but lacked the opportunity and the offensive line play to shine. You should be confident that Chip can succeed next fall at Kentucky.

All of the Tampa Bay reporters were eager to ask former Wildcats about Liam Coen, but I heard just as many positives about a newcomer to the Kentucky coaching staff. Wide receivers coach Daikiel Shorts has quickly gained the respect of the UK wide receivers. The pass-catchers are eager to play for him. Tayvion Robinson only briefly met with Shorts before the outgoing receiver began his offseason training. Robinson lit up when asked about Shorts.

“He’s a cool guy. Luckily, they got him for a year. I wish I had him,” said the former Kentucky wide receiver.

The Wildcats have so much talent in the wide receiver room. Shorts sounds like the man who can unlock that potential.

The Biggest Stories from Friday

Marvin Harrison Jr. was a no-show for media interviews, while Caleb Williams showed up and was greeted by a large, large crowd of reporters. One interrogated him by calling him out for not participating in events at the Combine.

There is a group of people who are eager to see Williams fail. I don’t think he will be a bust, but I regret to inform you that Michael Penix will be a bust. Do not fall for the hype.

Penix has a great comeback story and he was incredible in the CFB Playoff Semifinal, however, that injury history is alarming. He also had one of the best play-callers in the sport, two future NFL starters at wide receiver, and an outstanding offensive line. Yes, he can sling the rock, but his supporting cast deserves a ton of credit for his success over the last two seasons at Washington.

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