INDIANAPOLIS – One of the league’s premier offseason events leading to the annual NFL Draft effectively winds down Sunday as player-reporter media sessions conclude.
Meanwhile, televised coverage of workouts continues through Tuesday, further enhancing the popularity of the NFL Scouting Combine, evidenced by the wall-to-wall coverage and the sheer mass of NFL media present the past week.
Still, the Combine shouldn’t be viewed as the be-all, do-all when it comes to final determination of a player’s draft stock. Keep in mind players spend weeks training specifically for Combine drills, so don’t get caught up in how fast a player runs or performs a drill.
Former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said it best at the 2008 Combine when categorizing the week-long process.
“You can’t weigh too much on the beauty pageant,” Edwards said. “Everyone likes the beauty pageant when they put on the bathing suits. The same thing out here, they run around, they jump, they touch the ground, they flip, they do all the Cartwheels. But at the end, to me, the beauty pageant is how they play football.”
Edwards’ final comment is the bottom line, as a team’s scouting department already has game film on the players they’re potentially interested in.
The Combine affords teams an opportunity to meet and view those players in person, sometimes the first time for general managers and coaching staffs.
Of course, how a player performs in Indianapolis plays a role, a checks and balance system when comparing drill or medical results to what’s already on film.
Ultimately, teams such as the Chiefs will do their due diligence leading to the draft when it comes to evaluating prospects or any player when determining a fit.
“What we do as an organization is we try to turn over every stone we possibly can to find players that will (give us) the competitive depth we always talk about,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said during his Friday media session.
And as often heard from team executives and coaching staffs throughout the week, the Combine is part of that process.
Sorting through the interview process
While it’s easy to get excited about the performance-based drills, don’t ignore the players the Chiefs spoke to.
With more than 300 players at this year’s Combine, teams have to be selective with interviews given the league’s rule of 60 players in 15-minute intervals.
The chosen players the Chiefs decide to interview could offer insight to what the team is thinking on certain positions before the NFL Draft.
Some of the glaring needs based on pending free agents are free safety, offensive line, wide receiver and linebacker.
Prior to Sunday, a list of confirmed players to have spoken with the Chiefs or pending an interview included North Dakota State offensive lineman Billy Turner, Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith and wide receivers Mike Evans of Texas A&M and Marqise Lee of USC.
The Chiefs will have continued opportunities to scout prospects through Pro Day workouts and individual workouts leading to May’s draft.
Intriguing, Take I
Kansas City’s pass defense took a pounding during the second half of the 2013 regular season and the playoffs.
Playing in the pass-happy AFC West continues to place defending the pass at a high premium.
Perhaps that’s why the Chiefs taking a look at versatile Florida State inside linebacker Telvin Smith proves fascinating.
Smith, who had three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns during the Seminoles’ national championship run, confirmed he spoke to the Chiefs during the Senior Bowl and has a scheduled meeting during the Combine.
He’s currently one of the few linebackers known to have talked to the Chiefs.
While undersized at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds when compared to prototypical NFL linebackers, Smith is an extremely confident player, which immediately became clear when talking to him.
One of Smith’s biggest attributes is pass coverage and his speed, which he uses to complement his range.
“That’s something we probably won’t be able to show in the Combine drills,” Smith said of his range. “But you turn on my film I’m probably the best, bar none, cover linebacker at the Combine or in the country. Period.”
Intriguing, Take II
Louisville safety Calvin Pryor revealed he’s been training with Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star reports.
Calvin Pryor said he is currently training with #Chiefs safety Eric Berry. “He’s a great role model,” he said.
— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) February 23, 2014
With free safeties Kendrick Lewis, Quintin Demps and Husain Abdullah scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, get the feeling Berry is offering feedback to the Chiefs brain trust how Pryor is doing?
A majority of draft analysts view Pryor as the top safety prospect of this year’s draft.
Reid, Dorsey recaps
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid took turns addressing the media on Thursday and Friday.
Most watched their main pressers during the televised portion broadcast on The NFL Network.
While some information surfaced in the main media room – Reid’s thoughts on giving running back Knile Davis more touches or Dorsey saying communications lines remain open with all the team’s scheduled unrestricted free agents, including left tackle Branden Albert – often the best nuggets arrive through their respective post-presser sessions with Chiefs media present covering the Combine.
During Reid’s Thursday session with local media, the Chiefs coach made it clear the team is committed to building the team through the draft and not putting everything into free agency.
“My thought on that hasn’t changed,” Reid said. “I’m lucky enough to be with John (Dorsey) where that’s his feeling. I think you kind of plug things here or there, but if you think you’re going to make a team out of free agents, I don’t think that necessarily works.”
Meanwhile, Dorsey told local reporters Friday the Chiefs are unlikely to use the franchise tag prior to the league’s March 3 deadline to identify franchise and transition players.
The Chiefs general manager added the team remains focused on working out a deal with quarterback Alex Smith, who enters the final year of his contract.
“What we’ve done is we’ve reached out to every representative for every unrestricted free agent that we have,” Dorsey said. “We’ve also talked to Alex Smith’s representative as well.”
The local feel
Seven players represented the University of Missouri at the Combine, headlined by defensive end Michael Sam.
Sam’s Saturday media session easily drew the largest crowd. He was extremely composed in the spotlight and did a phenomenal job with reporters, cracking jokes and drawing plenty of laughter and smiles.
Sam, who admitted he was gay prior to the Combine, made a compelling point to reporters to not overlook what he’s doing professionally.
“I wish you guys would just say, ‘Michael Sam, how’s football going? How’s training going?’” Sam said. “I would love for you to ask me that question.
“But it is what it is. And I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”
Meanwhile, another Tiger also did extremely well during his media session, albeit scaled down from Sam’s.
Running back Henry Josey’s well-chronicled journey to the NFL went through a roadblock following a devastating knee injury near the end of the 2011 season.
He missed the 2012 season, but rebounded to have a strong 2013 campaign, rushing for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns to become one of college football’s feel-good storylines of Missouri’s 12-2 season.
Josey’s comeback story also inspired others to do well.
“There’s a purpose of what happened to me,” Josey said. “I’ve inspired a lot of people, but also having the faith in God I was able to do what I did.
“I’m happy I can inspire people, but they inspired me to keep getting better, they inspired me to keep going forward in life because I have so many people that are looking.”
While Missouri and other big-time universities often command center stage at the Combine, players from small schools shouldn’t be overlooked.
Missouri Western State University was represented by tight end Reggie Jordan, who happily soaked in the environment.
The Combine is the NFL’s version of a job interview, an opportunity to pursue a dream.
And regardless the school a player comes from, that meaning isn’t lost.
“It’s quite the experience, honestly,” Jordan said. “I didn’t expect none of this, of course, coming out of a small school, you didn’t expect much. It’s definitely an experience right now.”