The 2023 NFL Combine is over, but the event's impact is far from it. Scouts and coaches from around the league left Indianapolis with a new set of qualitative data to evaluate NFL prospects against. As the assessments commence, NFL Network's analytics expert Cynthia Frelund joined the Giants Huddle podcast to talk about the data's impact on scouting.
Frelund spoke broadly about the scouting combine, saying it's truly an opportunity to measure prospects against external expectation. When you consider that most prospects have not played football since December, it's important for a team to get a sense of a player's work ethic and preparation over the offseason.
Stakeholders arrive in Indy with general perceptions of prospects, but the event enables them to solidify those judgements.
"It's all about the average ones in between and getting those right," Frelund said about prospects. "You can see how an average person in Coach Daboll's system would become better than average."
She also offered a deep dive into the 40-yard dash and how it stacks up against its real comparison – game speed.
"We can measure everything now," she admitted. "You can measure how fast someone starts off the line of scrimmage. You can measure when you're getting pressured and someone's in your face, then you can see 'Uh-oh, I slowed down significantly.' You can measure change of direction speed," Frelund elaborated.
The 40-yard dash only measures straight-line speed, but similar data from college football programs may help to fill in the gaps. Though there are slight differences in the way college programs record the same metrics, scouts stay consistent in their evaluations.
"You're just looking for flags of who could be good and how we could use them best…or someone who you didn't realize but is over (a given threshold), and that's a little gem." Frelund said.
At the end of the day, a majority of the comparisons are relative to other players in the position group and draft class. It's truly up to a coaching staff to develop a player and implement him into the scheme.
The analytics expert went on to talk about Wink Martindale's defense and supplementing his strong front with the "right players." On the other side of the ball, she shared her own criteria for evaluating key players.
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View photos from the Giants' suite in Indianapolis, where the team is gathered to evaluate the top draft prospects.