Mariucci would prefer that all players work out at combine
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kevin Jones didn't run and it probably cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That was bad for him, but very good for the Detroit Lions.
Jones, the star running back from Virginia Tech, opted to not run at last year's NFL scouting combine here, preferring to work out on his own at his college "pro day." That's nothing unusual because most projected first-round draft picks decide to go that route.
However, Jones, ran poorly during that session at Virginia Tech, finishing the 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range. Once considered the best running back in the draft, Jones slid all the way down to the 30th overall pick where he was taken by the Lions, who had traded up to select him.
Ironically, if Jones had worked out at the combine and turned in a good time in the 40, his second time in that run would've been discounted and he probably would've been drafted much higher. Based on their film study of Jones, the Lions knew speed wasn't an issue but head coach Steve Mariucci admits he was surprised by Jones' initial performance.
"His 40 time wasn't as fast as everybody thought it would be, considering he's a 10.28 100-meter guy," Mariucci said.
More than 300 college players are gathering in Indianapolis this week for the combine and most of the players who are projected to be first-round selections probably won't run. Instead, like Jones, they'll wait for the pro day at their respective colleges.
"We would prefer everybody work at Indy," Mariucci said. "If you get a slow time, we'll work you out again. We don't want one 40 time to knock a guy from the first round to the third round. We want to be more thorough than that. It's very expensive to send 35 (scouts and coaches) down to evaluate these kids (in Indianapolis) and it's an incomplete evaluation (if players don't work out)."
Because a player could lose significant contract signing bonus money by sliding down in the draft, players -- and their agents -- treat the combine with skepticism.
"What happens is that you have dollars at stake and sometimes kids get talked into thinking they could hurt themselves if they're not at their best," Mariucci said. "You don't want to drop from the seventh pick to the 21st because it's a huge difference in money. That's why these guys are training, dropping out of school to train."
That training is very intense and aimed at one thing: impressing the NFL's scouts and coaches.
"They train and lose weight so they can run fast. Then they have to bulk up again to play football. It's all for the test. It's like the Olympic finals -- you'd better be perfect. I wish it wasn't like that," Mariucci said.
But even for the players who don't run, the combine is still a test. Each team is allowed to interview the players; the agents coach the athletes on what to say and what not to say. Questions are anticipated and the answers are rehearsed.
"We get the pertinent information but we always try to ask them something they haven't been prepared for, something off the wall to see how they handle it," said Mariucci who, along with team president Matt Millen, interviews the players. "You don't think Matt throws in an around-the-corner question?
"Sometimes, we'll put them on the board and have them draw up a protection or the progression from their favorite pass play. You don't get a lot of time with them, but you want to find out as much as you can."
I rember thinking when Jones ran that we no shot for him because he would drop to the late first round. At first I wanted us to draft him with the number # 6 pick But, after he ran I was all about Sean Taylor. I guess Thats why I dont have a front office job because I have no clue what i am talking about.