Seahawks brass venture to Indianapolis this week for an important gamble.
A coin flip.
The flip, scheduled for Friday, pits the Seahawks against Kansas City to determine which team picks 11th and which picks 12th in the NFL’s April draft.
Both teams had the same record and the same strength of schedule, so we may expect it to be a competitive moment. And perhaps combative, since the Seahawks almost got into a brawl at one coin flip last season.
But that should be it for the drama, because the rest of the week’s NFL scouting combine is part of a game of chance that doesn’t always pay off.
The current Seattle personnel staff is to be commended for fighting the tendency to bet the farm on the results of performances at the combine, which, it turns out, is mostly a modified track meet staged around a medical convention.
The event allows team doctors to examine the ligament elasticity in 700 or so knees of college players expected to be among the prime draft prospects.
But other than that, the timing and measuring and interviewing is rendered redundant by better access to the players at their pro-day workouts, which are now standard for anybody even close to NFL-worthy.
Not only does the performance of those invited to the combine have little to do with their on-field aptitude for the game, but so many players with promise are not even invited.
The previous combine provided a couple of examples close to home.
Stanford receiver Ryan Whalen was invited to participate while his teammate, Doug Baldwin, was not. And this was despite the fact that Baldwin led the team in receptions with 17 more catches and seven more touchdowns than Whalen.
Whalen was drafted in the sixth round by Cincinnati, while the Seahawks were able to pick up the overlooked Baldwin as an undrafted free agent. Baldwin led the Seahawks with 51 catches last fall. He had as many touchdown grabs (four) as Whalen had receptions.
Baldwin’s Stanford teammate, cornerback Richard Sherman, at least got an invitation. But his 40-yard-dash time and shuttle-run time were among the worst. Perhaps influenced by those times, teams picked 33 defensive backs before Seattle plucked Sherman in the fifth round.
He ended up with four interceptions and landed on the all-rookie team with Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, who was the first corner drafted.
The previous year, Notre Dame’s Golden Tate ran a hot 40-yard dash (4.42 seconds) and according to an NFL.com report, “… looked surprisingly polished running routes … he caught the ball well and showed the competitive spirit that coaches look for in top talents.”
But he was still around in the second round when the Seahawks took him. And in his first two seasons he’s shown occasional promise, though the “polish” of his routes has not exactly been his strength.
Seattle product Taylor Mays, an All-American safety at USC, also wowed at the 2010 combine with a “sensational athletic display.” But he’s now with his second team in as many seasons, with no interceptions and a scant 48 tackles combined.
The classic combine puzzler became a costly Seahawks investment in 2009. Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry was already considered a top prospect, but at the combine he reportedly solidified his status with his eye-catching times and measurements.
Compared to USC linebacker Clay Matthews, for instance, Curry’s marks showed him to be bigger, faster and stronger. Seattle took Curry with the fourth pick and guaranteed him $34 million. Matthews went to Green Bay way down at 26th.
Since then, Matthews has been to three Pro Bowls and was the NFC’s defensive player of the year in 2010, while Curry was benched in his third season and traded to Oakland for a conditional low-round pick.
To be fair, Curry was convincing in all regards, not just at the combine. That’s part of what makes it all such a crapshoot. Who knows how a player will change once he starts collecting checks? Where does he get his motivation? What part of his talents in college might not translate to the NFL?
The message for this week is for none of us to pay too much attention to the over-covered and microanalyzed results of the scouting combine.
And fans may hope that those making decisions for your favorite team have focused more on scouting the games and studying the films of prospects actually playing the game.
And that they leave the combine mostly for evaluating X-rays and the occasional important coin flip.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org