For plenty of players in the draft pool, the months from January through April amount to a genuine job interview. For the guys at the very top, however, the pre-draft process is no more of a job interview than the first days of free agency are.
So with the NFL taking the made-for-TV Scouting Combine workouts to prime time, it’s high time for the most significant participants in the Scouting Combine to get something more than food, lodging, a thorough poking and prodding by the assembled medical professionals, and interrogations by a bunch of teams that ask a bunch of questions aimed at trying to piss them off. It’s time for the top prospects to get paid.
The league keeps tweaking the Combine in order to maximize revenue, and the league will surely keep doing so, eventually moving the Combine to L.A. — and eventually charging good money for fans to watch the festivities from most of the 70,000-plus seats at the new L.A. stadium.
But the players will keep showing up and running, jumping, throwing, catching, lifting, turning their heads and coughing, etc. for free because they always have, and because they have no real voice in any of this. They’re not yet in the NFL Players Association (maybe they should be from the moment they become draft eligible). They have to take whatever the NFL offers.
Unless, of course, they’re willing to take a stand. Whether it’s Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert or Chase Young or any of the other top prospects now or in the future, someone needs to be the first one to say, “Sorry. I’m done performing for free. If you want me to be part of your dog-and-pony show, you’ll need to cut a check.”
And it’s not the players who should be doing this. The top agents who annually represent the top players should be the ones to come together and tell the teams that, absent compensation, the top prospects will not be participating in the Scouting Combine. Or anything else prior to the draft from which the NFL profits, including the draft.
At the college level, everyone associated with the game makes money, except for the players. From the moment the college career ends until the player’s name is called, everyone associated with the draft makes money, too, except for the players.
It will continue this way until the top prospects do something about it.