The made-for-TV elements of the Scouting Combine already aren’t very compelling; they’re simply the closest thing to football that we’ll see until the Hall of Fame game. But those made-for-TV elements of the Scouting Combine become even less compelling if the people scheduled to participate in the made-for-TV elements exercise their prerogative to choose not to participate.
The primary goal of the Scouting Combine always has been to bring the prospects together for an economically feasible examination of their bodies following the completion of their college football careers. The other aspects (interviews, workouts) flowed naturally from the reality that the players were all in the same place at the same time. At some point, NFL Network realized that putting the workouts on TV would be (slightly) more interesting than replaying old games or showing outdated NFL Films top-10 lists.
So NFLN needs guys to choose to participate. Often, it gets couched in terms of “competition,” an obvious-yet-sort-of-subtle effort to appeal to the basic pride and ego of the men whose best interests may be served by not working out.
There will be disappointment and derision from some in the media who annually hype the importance of a guy running in a straight line without pads for 40 yards. During a football game, a guy only runs 40 yards in a straight line when something very good, or very bad, has happened. In either case, it never happens after a player’s helmet and pads spontaneously have flown off his body.
But the made-for-TV semi-spectacle is far less spectacular if the best prospects opt out of it.
Really, so what if they do? They’re all going to run at their Pro Day workouts, unless the numbers at the Combine are so good that they put the hay in the barn. But since most Pro Day workouts aren’t televised (with the exception of the periodic quarterback being half-heartedly swatted at with brooms), those who benefit from the broadcast of the Scouting Combine want players who just finished playing football mostly for free now want them to participate in a Superstars-style production entirely for free, all under the guise of a job interview.
But the work that matters is already done, and it ended when the college career concluded. The rest of it is just filling space, killing time, and generating ratings points at a time when no football is being played.