Sports Commentary

-— Thomas Ross ’14

My personal opinion is that everyone places far too much emphasis on the NFL scouting combine. Nonetheless, I also fall into the trap and become enamored by athletes who didn’t appear to be anything special during the collegiate season, but then ran a superhuman 40-yard dash in their underwear.

Hopefully, the success of players like Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, will force GMs to reconsider dropping a player on their big boards just because he’s an inch too short by their standards. Front office personnel have to recognize that sometimes a dude can just flat out ball, even if he’s only five feet 11 inches. But I was far too optimistic in thinking that it was a player’s production on the football field that would determine his draft stock. Front office personnel have found another attribute to explain Wilson’s success despite his below average height. Wilson’s 10 1/4” hand size is enormous and allows him to control the football with ease in all types of weather.

This newfound emphasis on hand size bodes well for Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel. Manziel’s measurables are similar to Wilson’s; he failed to crack the six foot mark, but possess a hand size of 9 7/8”. This all but assures that the GMs won’t make the same mistake in passing up the chance to draft Manziel because someone thinks he is a little short to play QB in the NFL. Former Indianapolis Colts GM, Bill Polian, said Teddy Bridgewater’s small hand size of 9’ 1/4” is a bigger red flag than Manziel’s height. Polian expressed 9’ 1/2” as a good benchmark number for hand size.

Enough about hand size. So what about Johnny Manziel? If I were a GM, I wouldn’t draft him within the first five picks of the first round. And it has nothing to do with his measurements. He is a fine football player and may end up having a very nice NFL career, but there are red flags that I couldn’t ignore.

Manziel’s brash, in your face attitude reminds me far too much of Ryan Leaf and the way he came into the NFL. And we all know how that turned out. Manziel needs to be humbled and put in the right situation with a team that doesn’t require him to play immediately. If he goes number one overall, I think it could damage his career, with the Texans needing him to start immediately and contribute right away. On the other hand, if he drops out of the first five and into a more stable situation, like with the Minnesota Vikings at number eight, I think Manziel could be successful. The Vikings can use Ponder at quarterback until Manziel is ready and can always feed the rock to Adrian Peterson.

The rest of this year’s combine went as expected. The class is extremely deep, especially at defensive back with four players having sub 4.40 second 40-yard dash times. The player who would have lost the most if he performed poorly at the combine was South Carolina’s defense end, Jadeveon Clowney. But Clowney confirmed what his tape showed; he is an absolute freak on LeBron James’ level of athleticism. The 6’5” 266 pounds. Clowney ran a stellar 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash and will immediately upgrade the defensive line of the team that drafts him.

Senior Thomas Ross is a staff writer. His email is