NFL Network insider and all-around smart football guy Daniel Jeremiah made an interesting point recently that absolutely terrified me -- the 40-yard dash could become obsolete in a few years.
This is a well reasoned, clearly articulated opinion. It's also true. NFL Next Gen Stats have evolved rapidly over the last few years. Every conceivable piece of data is now being recorded for every player on the field during every play of the game. It's been revolutionary for the entire NFL and provides an interesting extra layer of information for fans as well.
Yet one also shudders at the notion of what would become of the NFL Combine if they ever did get rid of the 40.
More than fun and awe-inspiring, these stats allow coaches and general managers to evaluate and analyze player performance in real-game situations. That is invaluable, indisputable data. As they say, the eye in the sky never lies. Now they have statistical data to further enforce and inform decision making.
Which brings us back to the NFL Combine. Now that the NFL has this kind of information about college players, it renders many silly tests at the combine pointless. The most pointless drill at the combine, which has long been known is not a measure of football ability but nevertheless a fun conversation topic, is the 40-yard dash. If they're going to get rid of one drill, the 40 makes the most sense, and yet something about me hurts at the notion of doing away with it.
Getting rid of the 40 is harken to getting rid of the slam dunk contest at the NBA All-Star game. It might be pointless, but it's the most entertaining event by far. It's also why people tune in to watch the event in the first place. Sure, the 3-point contest is good too, much like the 3-cone drill or broad jump are fun to watch, but the masses tune in for the main event. For the NFL Combine, that's the 40.
Who doesn't love watching offensive linemen sprint 40 yards for the one and only time that matters in their football career? And what about the defensive backs who talk smack in the lead-up to the event and then say they usually run faster after recording a 4.35 time? And what about Rich Eisen? How is he going to raise money for charity if the 40 is canceled? No, it's inconceivable and I won't stand for it.
Jeremiah is correct when he says the 40 will become obsolete for how talent evaluators judge prospects. Quite frankly, it should be pretty unimportant already. And yet, the NFL Combine can't survive without it. It's the headlining act, and while the other events are interesting, they are but a footnote in 40's festival. The star attraction was, is and always will be the 40. You can't get rid of that.