Each NFL team has completed its annual trek to Indianapolis for the scouting Combine. Each team tested, timed, probed and found a few players who surprised. But in most instances, the Combine was a check mark. It has become an exercise in confirmation.
There is no supplanting a player's game film.
Game tape remains the crux of the draft process. Several teams arrived with a mindset on players already formed from their game videos and from their scouts' on-campus reports. The crafty, superior teams in the draft use video as their foundation and then use the Combine to further answer two crucial questions -- is the guy, simply, a football player and does he exhibit passion for the game?
You get those two things right and often the rest falls into place.
"There are going to be exceptions on tape, there will be guys who aren't even invited to the Combine who become great players, but the biggest thing is the tape is the thing that defines production and passion," said Carolina running backs coach Jim Skipper, who coached in college football for nine seasons and who enters his 33rd NFL coaching season.
"I don't care if a guy at the Combine talks passion. I care more if I see it on tape by him going full blast 100 percent on every snap. The Combine is all about measurables. It is an important part that helps you make decisions -- but only after watching the tape. And even then, you still don't know how it is all going to turn out. What we are all doing is making a very good, calculated, educated, theory-based guess."
Some teams looked for spontaneity at the Combine. Scheduled interviews with players can become stale, so they catch them additionally in their hotel lobbies for eye-to-eye, impromptu chats. Scouts say when people insist a player's heart and passion for football cannot be measured, the answer again lies in the video. When his team is being clobbered 45-0 and he is still playing exceptionally hard, well, that shows the heart and passion they want.
"If a player can't get the team interviews right at the Combine, that is a big red flag," Skipper said. "Every player should pass that. They had plenty of time to prepare. It's just sharing a bit of yourself. But you'd be surprised how many times you leave those sessions and say, `Uh-oh, he is not going to fit into our locker room,' and just move on."
SB Nation presents: The Post-Combine Mock Draft
Here are five players who used the Combine to their advantage -- harmonizing with their game video -- and left teams swayed that they are, indeed, football players who possess fierce passion:
Todd Gurley, Georgia, RB (6'1, 222 pounds) - Gurley suffered a left knee injury, a torn ACL, in mid-November and missed the rest of Georgia's season. He did not run at the Combine nor did he let teams examine his knee. He should be healed as early as May and by no later than July. And if his recovery stays on tract, several teams believe he can be special.
"He's bigger than I thought he was," an NFL coach said. "He is a natural leader. Of course, we've all seen him play. But he is better in person than anything I've seen or read from afar. That kind of person stands out. Some team is going to rightly give him every chance to get well and be as great as he can be."
Gurley in the NFL Draft
Landon Collins, Alabama, S (6'0, 228 pounds) - "He's an old-school safety, big and explosive," an NFL scout said. "He ran faster than anyone expected. He's smart. (Coach) Nick Saban coaches the secondary at Alabama, so you know he's smart and prepared. He is a very intriguing player. The passion is there."
Vic Beasley, Clemson, DE/LB (6'3, 246 pounds) - Beyond his outstanding Combine numbers, Beasley made a strong impression with his versatility. "He just jumps out at you as a player and a person," an NFL scout said. "He's explosive, active, can play in the 4-3 scheme as an end or as a 3-4 rusher. He's coachable. He's got the motor."
2015 NFL Draft
2015 NFL Draft
Eddie Goldman, Florida State, DT (6'4, 336 pounds) - "He looks the part, big, thick, can play in the middle," an NFL scout said. "Some guys love to talk. This guy has a quiet confidence. You don't want to mess with this guy. Sometimes silence is powerful. He looks you right into the eyes. He is not intimidated. He's like, `You can say whatever you want to say, but I'm going to show you.' He has this 'I'm going to kick your ass on the field and that's it' kind of attitude. And he knows and loves the game. You can build a lot around that."
Brandon Scherff, Iowa, OT (6'5, 319 pounds) - An NFL head coach said: "His game tape speaks volumes. But then you sit across from him and talk to him and you are blown away. You want to sign him up right now. You leave saying, `That guy is doing it the right way.' I left thinking, `Wow, where can we get some more of that?'"