The male version of the Miss America pageant began last week in Indianapolis, Indiana at Lucas Oil Stadium. This is not a comical or satirical comparison. The truth of the matter is, players are competing for their dreams. A young boy’s dream to play in the National Football League is no joke. But at the same time, the interactive journey with the media, teams, and skills competition is a pageant of sorts. And for many players, a stellar impression can provide dividends for a lifetime. The NFL Combine is the only one for some players to get noticed.
The Media Barrage of Questions
In a typical Miss America Pageant, this is usually the last chance to make an impression. However, players at the NFL Combine are in a sense paraded out by positions in the morning each day to be asked everything in the book. This is likely the least important part for the players but not totally irrelevant.
Players come out for about 30 minutes on eight podiums and a few side tables. First impressions matter. Although this is not a team interview, players have an opportunity to navigate the gauntlet of trial by fire. In other words, the personality of a player can play a factor in how is this player going to fit in a locker room. Especially on players like Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.
The franchise quarterback is not only the player on the field but can he lead by actions. Or does he lead by example?
And then there’s a quarterback from a small town looking to make big plays. Quarterback Tyson Bagent from Shepard University had a moment. “I jump like these dudes, I run just like these dudes, and I definitely throw just like these dudes,” Bagent said after his drills. He’s got game.
The Swimsuit Competition with Skills Competition
From my understanding, the swimsuit competition is no longer a contest in the Miss America contest. Be that as it may, it’s alive and well at the NFL Combine. Players are being measured from head to toe including weight. All these measurements bring scouts to salivate about players before stepping out on the field.
On the other hand, measurements being off can always cause controversy including future quarterback Bryce Young. He was shorter than the expected result.
Still, all eyes are on the field when the field drills start. There are players who bust out during the NFL Combine, and others who fail to meet expectations. Most of these players have tons of tape to view. Decisions for the most part are already made to draft a guy and where. That being said, tweaks come unexpectedly. One example is defensive tackle Jalen Carter from Georgia. Carter was involved in a car crash and got arrested. This could affect his Top five status.
Then there is the breakout of quarterback Anthony Richardson who broke combine records. One day of being Superman and his stock has shot up.
And small diamonds shined like tight end Zack Kunitz from Old Dominion. Here is a guy who leads most of the deep tight end class with the highest vertical and a nice 6-foot-7 frame. Also, the 4-55 40-yard dash improved his stock. Showing your stuff when it counts is even more critical for small college players. So in some cases, the skills competition may be the only chance until Pro Days.
The Evening Game Competition
After about 10-12 hours of media questions, position drills, and measurements — all players meet with every NFL team in a round-robin type of speed dating question and answer. This happens in the same stadium in a private room upstairs. Honestly, this is the last chance for a prospect to get one on one attention before flying off to go train.
By this point, teams are interested to see how a player reacts after all the physicals. All the questions included running and jumping for hours. How can this player help our team has to be the question in the end?
Ultimately, there will be a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City. Being first comes with no guarantees as far as career success. The NFL scouts do the best they can along with management and coaches.
Unfortunately, for some, a cut could come before opening day. Or a guy can come out of nowhere and become a Hall of Famer. Either way, the NFL Combine is the start — not the finish to an assessment that could take a year or two. So draftees shouldn’t be discouraged at what round or where they fall to or a team. The only thing that matters is training camp once the roster is set.
Main Photo: Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports