As NFL Network launched its coverage of the Scouting Combine’s Saturday workouts, the broadcasting operation that depends on incoming rookies choosing to fully participate in the workouts offered up, via its primary draft analyst, an editorial on the decision of former USC quarterback Sam Darnold to not throw.
Mike Mayock criticized the decision as a reluctance to compete.
“They want competitors,” Mayock said, referring to NFL coaches and executives. “That kid ought to want to get up before or after [Josh] Rosen, Lamar Jackson, all those guys, and show I’m as good if not better. . . . You ought to want to burr up and compete. And it just bothers me a little bit that he ought to override his trainer or override his agent or override his parents — whoever’s telling him not to throw — he should say ‘I’m a competitor, and I want to throw.’”
Mayock also acknowledged that the decision won’t affect Darnold’s draft grade. So if that’s the case, and if the Scouting Combine is truly a competition, there’s nothing for anyone to actually win.
Of course, there’s plenty to lose. Every workout as part of this extended job interview/audition presents another opportunity for a player to get injured, which definitely would affect his draft grade. So if a guy chooses not to participate in the Scouting Combine, he shouldn’t be criticized at all, not even with any of the caveats or wiggle room Mayock added to his assessment.
Ultimately, it bugs those who fully embrace the mostly meaningless pre-draft workouts because it provides them less of what they want, especially when it comes to filling up the allotted TV time. The fact that we never hear anyone from the Draft Industrial Media Complex criticize the decision of players to refuse to participate in the much more valuable private workouts proves this dynamic. No one from the media complains about the lack of private workouts because, unlike the Scouting Combine and Pro Day workouts, the media doesn’t get to see the private workouts.
No, the Scouting Combine isn’t a competition. It’s a job qualification system for an inherently unsafe job with an audition process that entails a degree of physical risk. It’s like telling a prospective coal miner to go 3,000 feet underground with a pick and a shovel for a week or two, for free, so that the boss can decide how well the potential miner can mine coal.
If anyone chooses not to participate in any, some, or all of the pre-draft activities and if a given team chooses not to draft pick because of it, that team can then worry about that player ending up playing football with a competitor.