The end of the Scouting combine – the final drills for defensive backs came Tuesday – puts a short pause on draft-related prep for NFL teams.
It doesn’t stop, not with colleges beginning to hold pro days in early March. But full draft meetings and teams setting their boards don’t come until April, because now, the focus turns to free agency. Monday, for instance, is the deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag, and the Cards are expected to use it on defensive end
As for the combine, there was information to be found. Medical checks are crucial, and getting a chance to interact with potential draftees – the first time those like general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt had that opportunity – means something.
A 40 time or broad jump or just catching the ball can mean a little something too. All that will be noted. But it’s only the beginning of the process, and it won’t outweigh how a player actually plays.
“You have to see how the player has performed throughout the season,” Graves said. “This is all great information but it still comes down to football players. Some guys will (perform) well under these circumstances and others won’t. I just think you have to stick with what you believe in and the information you got during the season.”
The Cardinals do not know yet who they will have at the top of their draft board or who will make their “120” list. The reason the main draft meetings come in April is not only to let the information from the pro days filter in – not only will teams get to see some who didn’t run/lift/throw do those things, but it’ll be a chance to get on to a campus and talk to the coaches and trainers about certain players and what they are like on a day-to-day basis.
Teams will have also passed through the bulk of free agency, making it more clear what positions have been addressed and what needs remain for the draft. The Cards, like many teams, want to take the best player available, especially early in the draft, but need is always a factor when the player rankings are set.
The combine has the biggest spotlight of the draft preparation, but that doesn’t make information gathered there the final say.
“It’s exciting to see the players run around in shorts, particularly the guys you liked in the fall, but we again try to make sure we drill into our scouts and coaching staff we want to concentrate on what type of player they are on tape, what type of production they have,” Cardinals director of player personnel Steve Keim said. “On Sundays at 1 o’clock, you don’t see any three-cone or short shuttle drills.”