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SportsMondayTuesday: Let The Combine Begin

Have you enjoyed your break from football? Because it is about to end.

The NFL Network will air the first of nearly four dozen hours of live coverage of The Combine on Wednesday starting at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time with an introductory press conference. I won't be watching any of it but hey, it's out there.

Large athletes will don the traditional skin-tight workout clothes that provide us with too much information about their physiques, and they will engage in activities such as the shuttle run. They will have their vertical leap measured and their 40-yard dash timed. And of course, plenty of weight will be lifted and drug tests will be conducted.

And it will all mean virtually nothing; especially during the marquee rounds of the draft (let's just say that's the first three rounds).

Just to dive right into one pet peeve right off the bat: Why in the world do they have anyone other than receivers run the 40? And even for receivers, the 40 speaks to their potential running one play - the bomb. So much other stuff (route-running, speed in the first few yards after a break, footwork) is so much more important.

That being said, raw speed is certainly a plus for a receiver and obviously it is for a running back as well. But still, why the heck is the 40-yard dash thought to be so important? Isn't speed over a shorter distance more critical in terms of getting into and through holes or in terms of getting outside on sweeps?

I suppose if you are looking for that running back who can sprint away from a tackler 20 yards down the field, then the 40 speed is of interest, but isn't the stuff he does to get to that point a slightly bigger deal?

In my book, drafting players, especially early, has to be about 90 percent video study. The only thing that matters is, what has the guy done in games? The other 10 percent is mostly interviews with teams. Is the guy a leader? The Bears certainly need a few of those.

Now, of course it gets a bit more complicated with guys who haven't played against the toughest of competition in college - the kind of guys teams should be looking to draft beyond the first three rounds. So if someone wants to put together a list of impressive combine performances by guys from places like Abilene Christian, I'm interested.

Then, in the aftermath of the combine, the guys who write mock drafts will move a few guys up based on good performances therein, and move a few guys down. That movement will have no correlation to reality, in terms of real teams' draft boards, but hey, we all need some things to do until the draft in the spring.

And the mock draft guys will predict that teams like the Bears will fill a need with their first-round draft pick. The early debate is between a safety and a quarterback. This Marcus Mariota guy will probably receive a bit of attention before the draft, eh?

The mock draft guys will do that despite the fact that people like new Bears general manager Ryan Pace make it a point (he made it at his introductory news conference) to say that they are determined to find ways to not draft for need, especially in the first three rounds. The best teams find a way to draft the best players available. There is always the chance that, by coincidence, the best player available will fill a need, especially with a team like the Bears that has a whole bunch of needs.

It will all be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in delightful Indianapolis, perhaps the most walkable city (at least in terms of getting from a hotel to sporting venues to at least decent restaurants) in the country. But don't head across the border to try to snag a seat at this event. It is closed to the public.

So you'll have to be satisfied with the NFL Network. Offensive linemen and tight ends work out on Friday. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers go on Saturday. Linebackers and defensive linemen hit the field Sunday, and defensive backs get their turn on Monday.

The network says it will employ 26 analysts during its coverage. I guess there is a bright side there. If the NFL gets much bigger, it may just have to take on unemployment in this country all by itself.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is usually our man on Mondays, but sometimes shit happens. He welcomes your comments.

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