The Hype Machine

By Aaron Goldhammer

While the owners and the NFLPA prepare for a dreaded lockout, the league owned NFL Network just spent the last week broadcasting live workouts from the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

As the draft continues to grow into a bigger spectacle each year, the combine seems to play a larger and larger role in who gets picked where. The Super Bowl may still be the biggest football convention of them all, but the combine is gaining, fast.

The year, our own Chris Fedor packed his bags and drove the negativity train to Indy for the weekend. Hundreds of other provided reports live from the bench press or the long jump. I’m not sure if the Hall of Fame will enshrine LSU CB Patrick Peterson one day, but I know the guy can run one hell of the 40-yard dash.

Now that the combine is over, most draft experts have completely revamped their big board to reflect their opinion of how players faired at Lucas Oil. Tomorrow, Chris will reveal his changes on our draft site, http://www.espncleveland.com/draft

However, while we talk combine and lockout on the show this week, please pause the internet stream for a moment to ponder the following words:

Every year, there are tons of guys who look great at the combine and terrible on Sunday’s in the fall. Meanwhile, a different bunch of players shock draft experts by contributing despite unimpressive workouts. I’m sure that Tony Mandarich could have done infinity reps at 245 pounds and set an all time record at the high jump. He’s still one of the biggest busts of all time.

League executives might tell you that they use data gathered at the combine to help formulate their draft board in April. In reality, the combine’s main purpose is to help fuel the hype machine that the NFL draft has become. For fans and networks, the Panthers are already on the clock. Don’t get hooked.

Trust me. Tom Heckert’s plans have not totally changed based on some dude’s 40-time or high jump.

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