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How Seriously Do Teams Take the NFL Combine?

SI.com's Andrew Perloff recently complained that NFL team's put too much weight on "Combine" workouts in his "Combine Craziness,"

You'd think in this day and age teams wouldn't take the NFL Scouting Combine and subsequent pro days too seriously. Everyone knows the players spend weeks preparing specifically for the physical and mental tests they'll face. And every year, a few smart teams strike gold by ignoring the kind of measurables that come out of the draft process and focusing instead on college production. But even last year, the combine shaped the very top of the first round. The Texans were quite open about the fact that they drafted Mario Williams No. 1 overall because he was 6-foot-7, 295 pounds and ran a 4.70 40, and they said little about his play at North Carolina State

I lean toward the view that the Combine has increasingly become a show, especially now that the NFL Network covers it in detail. Such workouts seem best suited to identifying some of the people at the very upper and lower end of physical ability given their position -- the "freak"ish Jevon Kearse blistering a 4.5 or some cornerback who can't run below a 4.8 in the 40. This might be especially useful for players from lesser known schools or playing in situations not really permitting them to showcase their abilities. Everyone in the NFL knows about the Tom Brady's or Emmit Smiths who were pretty average in "skills" tests but could flat-out play.

Nonetheless, stories come out every year supporting Perloff's point of view -- team's placing considerable weight on these short & t-shirt workouts. No doubt, separating a player's college production from his team and competition setting is not easy, especially at certain positions such as QB. Yet, it's hard to see how such contrived tests really help separate people.