I'm back. Actually, I was back yesterday. But five minutes into the work day, I was clobbered by that Star Tribune computer virus. So, like the Detroit Lions, I was done almost before I started.
I won't be attending the scouting combine in Indy this week. And I'd like to say I'll watch less coverage of the combine than I have the Olympics. But zero can't be beat, so I'll just say I won't be watching any future NFL stars or busts being weighed in their underware or bench-pressing 225 pounds while some overcaffeinated musclehead screams for one more rep.
To me, the combine can be summed up in two precautionary words:
For every guy who runs real fast or causes a talking head to prattle on about how a player's draft stock is rising, just remember "Troy Williamson."
I hate to pick on Troy. It's not his fault he went to the combine, ran the 40-yard dash of his life and caused the Vikings to loose their minds and pick him seventh overall with the draft pick they got in the Randy Moss trade. Troy was a good kid who couldn't live up to that selection because, well, he was a receiver who couldn't catch.
His selection in the draft had more to do with him running a fast 40 in February of 2005 than it did with anything he did on the football field in the fall of 2004.
Troy isn't the only example of a "combine pick." Perhaps my all-time favorite example was former Gophers cornerback Willie Middlebrooks. I liked Willie Middlebrooks. I also knew there was no way in God's Green Earth that Willie Middlebrooks was a first round draft pick.
Willie didn't have the insticts or the desire to be an NFL star. But Willie was 6-2, over 200 pounds and could run like a track star. Willie went to the combine in 2001, ran like the wind and got selected 24th overall by the Broncos.
Willie lasted five dismal seasons in the NFL, starting just one game. He's considered a big-time draft bust. But I'd put more of the blame on then-Broncos coach Mike Shanahan for letting the combine influence his decision to take Willie in the first round.
Elsewhere around the league ...
. Randy Moss made headlines for saying he doesn't think he'll be in New England after 2010. This tells you how slow the news is right now. Randy's contract is up after 2010. Randy also will be 34 in 2011. So, yeah, logic would suggest this is the last year for him as a Patriot. Not even SuperFreaks can outrun Father Time.
. The Saints didn't use their franchise tag on Darren Sharper. Again, it only makes sense. Like the Vikings did last season, the Saints are weighing the odds of Sharper being able to cheat Father Time for another season. I don't think there will be a serious market for Sharper. At least not one strong enough to make him leave the perfect fit he found in New Orleans.
. Tim Tebow won't throw at the combine because he doesn't want to hurt his draft status. I didn't think it was possible to hurt his draft status. Tebow should have swaggered into Indy and did everything. Instead, he put his PR spinsters to work saying he's rebuilding his throwing motion for his pro day. Just another reason to ignore the combine.
. If you do watch the combine, you'll hear a lot of teams talk about "character" and "red flags" and other things to make it look like they're above taking players with questionable personalities. It's done to be politically correct. It's also a bunch of hogwash. Every player acquisition, including the draft, comes down to this simple equation: Risk vs. Reward.
Last year, Percy Harvin was considered the greatest character risk among potential first-round picks. The Vikings were and still are a team that likes to brag about its team character and how things have been cleaned up since the Love Boat set sail in 2005.
No way Percy and the Purple end up together, right?
But when you're sitting at No. 22 and a great talent like Percy is still on the board, whaddaya do? You pick him because: A, the object is to win games, and B, the Reward is greater than the Risk at No. 22.
In the top 10, the Risk would have been greater than the Reward. That's why Percy tumbled.
A similar thing happened in 1998 with Randy Moss and the No. 21 pick. The Vikings were there to grab a great player and it paid off.
.At No. 30, maybe there's another slider that the Vikings can catch. Personally, the Vikings' top priority should be exhausting all angles to get a quarterback worthy of the first round. It doesn't matter whether Brett Favre returns. That should be priority No. 1 in the draft.