2012 Combine: Smoke, Mirrors & Workouts

By Christina Rivers

Not everyone agrees that the NFL combines are a true test of talent for new players who are looking for a spot on a roster or a draft nod.  Although player workouts don\’t officially begin until today, one league official told writer Michael Lombardi that the combine isn\’t just about play, but also about lying.  Deception seems to be a big part of the “game” during the combines, so to speak.  Often players and agents will use social media to indicate they\’re interested in a team or a team is interested in them only for us regular folks to find out that neither is true.

The workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium will allow players to showcase any talents they have to all 32 NFL teams.  In between these highlights, agents, teams and even the local bars are full of rumored possible transactions.  Whoever beats the bluff usually comes out ahead.  Those who think they have the ace sometimes get suckered into believing the talk of the town, which is usually that a certain player has the potential to make their team tops in the league.  The most costly mistakes at the combines are usually made by teams that can\’t differentiate between replaceable and non-replaceable players.

Everyone knows that the Steelers are backed into a salary cap corner this season, which means that teams like the Washington Redskins (who have a lot of cap room) will most likely get targeted hard by agents.   They will tell other teams that the Redskins are absolutely looking at their players, but the Steelers, traditionally, have been able to see through the smoke screen.  Team personnel and their past procedures will often be a \’tell\’, but it\’s the lineup that often determines how hard the bluff is sold.

Kevin Colbert has always been prepared to walk away when bidding gets too high on a player that the team doesn\’t define to be worth as much as the hype.  The Steelers organization as a whole has been very good at letting the player\’s production on the field be the proof in the pudding.  The Steelers have also always developed their own charting system, and it has worked very effectively.  In this game, time and money will settle the score.  While the players play, watch for the agents to spend a lot of time at the table dealing chips that may not be worth their weight at all.

Thursday Steelers notes

Kevin Colbert talked mainly about Mike Wallace, the salary cap and the difficulties in finding true 3-4 defensemen during his media interview.  The anticipation is that Wallace will get a first-round tender offer from another team, but the Steelers could still place the franchise tag on him.  The Steelers organization will be using the Combine and Pro Days to evaluate the true potential of defensive linemen, especially those who can keep up in coverage.  Colbert also pointed out the weaknesses and strengths of this year\’s draft class of offensive linemen.  Guards seem to be plentiful while tackles are a bit shallow in depth.  This is not the year for centers.  Colbert pointed out an increase in linebackers who can cover, but so many of them are converted safeties that he didn\’t appear to be willing to go into much more discussion.  The fullback pool is full of water, but no players.  Tight ends are also a rare find this year.

Friday Steelers notes

According to General Manager Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens, Mike Wallace isn\’t likely to be in black and purple this season.  Friday, Newsome told reporters, “The problem with going after restricted free agents…the player and the agent have the leverage because you have to do a deal that you don\’t think the other team is going to match.”  It appears that the Ravens aren\’t yet willing to give up a first-round pick to Pittsburgh and send over an offer that the Steelers couldn\’t match.

Back to smoke and mirrors –  Newsome didn\’t rule out looking at Wallace, but explained that from day to day, he isn\’t sure what he\’ll do.

 

Born in 1972, Christina L. Rivers follows in her maternal Grandmother's shoes as a writer. Christina is currently a journalist for Examiner.com, and writes for several blogs. She has recently been added as a writer for SteelersDepot and 'The Beam' in Pittsburgh. Christina's favorite Steelers players of all-time are Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley. She is active on Twitter @3Rivers_Writer. Christina also enjoys collecting NFL cards, and has over 5,000 individual Steelers cards, some as old as the late 1950s.
  • Joe D

    I don’t get this article…
    Aren’t the salary’s already predetermined by CBA based upon draft pick??
    So, how does that dial into salary cap?? Steelers aren’t trading their draft picks because they don’t have Salary cap room!!!
    So what if Redskins are interested in a player… it’s a guessing game as to who they will select come Draft day.. it doesn’t really matter until it comes your turn for the selection.

    Now, if this is about wheeling and dealing free agents… different story… but College players are locked into the deal based upon where they are drafted at.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670283190 Christina L Rivers

    Yes, Joe – this is a story about how wheeling, dealing and poker playing is mostly what the combines are about. You’re correct about the new CBA agreement and how it locks up how much a rookie will make. In a way, this is a bit satirical. Imagine agents running around the combines trying to get teams to believe their player is the hottest ticket – and Kevin Colbert shaking his head at the ignorance. Thanks for asking the questions.

    And you’re absolutely correct that the Steelers can’t realistically trade off draft picks due to the salary cap. I only used the Steelers and Redskins as an example of two teams at very different ends of the spectrum in regards to the available funds they have for players. The point (and I am sorry if I was not succinct in my writing) was that the combines are heralded as a sort of horse and pony show where players get to show how good they are…but unfortunately, many of them (RGIII for example) will not even show off all of their skills. RGIII isn’t going to throw at all during combines, and neither is Luck. So – what will happen is that their agents will talk the big talk and show game tape hoping that an NFL team will bite. It’s sharks in the water friends.

    Hope I’ve provided the answer(s) to your questions and thanks for the comment.

  • Denise

    I think the Steelers will do fine as they continue to watch through the name called ” Smoke Screens” To me it does sound like the roll of the dice in these areas and it is being on top of who and where they will play and who is the best pick of the litter – per say! These guys make a lot of money per yr and during their contracts BUT you want to make sure that their productive is well worth it. Enjoyed the article and explaining the differences.

  • Gabe

    Even Colbert admitted that the 15 minutes they get to talk to players doesn’t always prove to him and Tomlin what they want to know about a player. I think this article is pretty much spot on. If he and Tomlin have to look at each other and make a decision and actually tell each other no way, then obviously the combines aren’t just about performance of athletes right??