The NFL certainly caught the attention of many when it decided to cancel the combine back in January.
Instead of receiving our yearly glut of information that is broadcasted out of Indianapolis at the end of every February, we were given an eerie silence that reminded us once again how different life has been over the past year.
As wonderful as the combine is, it has turned into a breeding ground for hot takes, useless opinions, and is practically considered a spectacle these days. Even some of the evaluation methods have become obsolete (I’m looking at you, 40-yard dash).
But the combine is still important. It’s not just about the measurements and the evaluations. There are medical exams, in-person interviews, and psychological exams on top of the workouts. The process has been narrowed down to a science. It’s a machine.
2021’s workouts have been moved to on-campus pro days and the interviews/exams will be conducted vitrually. That sounds hectic, but at least teams will get to conduct some sort of in-person evaluation before the draft. Even if it’s nowhere near the sample size of years past.
This will undoubtedly have an effect on how players are evaluated this year. EXOS, a training site, will simulate combine workouts at its facility and provide testing numbers. Evaluators will also have to rely on pro day numbers, which are not very reliable. In-person interviews are different when compared with virtual interviews, aside from the obvious difference. The crowded pro days -that will likely be viewed from a distance due to COVID-19 policies- will also prove difficult and challenging for scouts in terms of putting the proper eyes on prospects.
Scouts weren’t allowed on college campuses last year, which means they were unable to obtain any “inside information” from coaches, administrators, other players, etc.. There’s a lot of meat on the bone when it comes to figuring out a player’s strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits; said info is vital to trimming the fat. These conversations could’ve been especially useful for the players that opted out last year.
The Buccaneers currently pick at No. 32 in this year’s draft. It’s not uncommon for teams to find a first-year impact player with that pick. Most projections for players at that pick don’t expect them to be an impact player in Year One, either.
But Tampa Bay may be in need of a spark by the time the draft rolls around. What if the Bucs lose a big-time player like Shaquil Barrett or Chris Godwin and can’t make up for it in free agency?
Should the Buccaneers trade up in the draft with the idea of grabbing a blue-chip player?
The chances of making a mistake during the draft process is already high and it’s even higher this year. Why not put yourself in position to make sure you get a guaranteed prospect? The Buccaneers are going to be prepared, but if there is room for doubt due to the changes, should they make a move to ensure they don’t miss?
The good thing about all of this is that the Bucs feel -especially Jason Licht- that they don’t have to address an immediate need in this year’s draft. That’s if everything goes well in free agency, obviously.
“We haven’t been in that position for a long time since I’ve been here, where if we are able to keep our core together, there is no immediate need that we’re going to be [addressing],” Licht told reporters a couple of weeks ago. “The picks that Bruce and I, and our staff, could either affect future needs or just be luxury picks that could help us. It leaves us in a position to take really good football players and not just direct our attention to one or two particular positions.”
A trade up would basically require that the Bucs lose at least one draft pick in this year’s draft, which is an important piece to the puzzle. You can’t count out the possibility of a player being involved, either. It could be a hefty price when everything is said and done.
But hey, if it means the Buccaneers land another Tristan Wirfs, it will could worth it.