Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson played 35 college games, worked out at the scouting combine and at his school’s pro day.
N.C. State defensive end Kentavius Street had an even longer resume for NFL teams to peruse. He had 46 college games of tape for teams to watch, and also worked out at the combine and the Wolfpack’s pro day.
That should be enough for NFL teams. If they don’t know who Nelson and Street are by the end of those pro day workouts, maybe they’re just not very good at their jobs. Yet, Nelson and Street — good, promising mid-round prospects in this draft — both suffered knee injuries in extra private workouts.
Street tore his ACL working out for the New York Giants, Pro Football Talk first reported. Nelson tore his meniscus and will be out 3-4 months after surgery, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Pro Football Talk said Nelson’s injury happened in a private workout for the Detroit Lions.
What exactly was the point?
NFL teams shrug and move on to the next dog-and-pony show private workout that likely won’t help a player’s draft stock. Meanwhile, the injured players are stuck rehabbing, missing significant time and in Street’s case, probably his entire rookie year. Nelson and Street will have their draft status affected due to the injuries, and they’ll lose a lot of money as a result. But hey, at least the teams got to put them through a private workout, like the combine and pro day didn’t give them all the information they needed.
Why do NFL teams do private workouts? Because they can. The union hasn’t stepped in and told players not to, although there’s no real reason for the workouts in almost every case. If you want to be cynical — and since this is the NFL, feel free — it seems like a good way for teams to indoctrinate players and let them know that when an NFL team asks them to do something, no matter how meaningless it is, they better do it. Prospects work out for teams because they worry if they don’t, their draft stock will be affected because word will get out they’re uncooperative. It’s a no-win situation when players are asked to do private workouts. NFL teams know that, and it’s a passive aggressive way for them to assert their power over players.
Christian McCaffrey showed how useless private workouts are. He smartly declined them all before last year’s draft. He still went eighth overall. McCaffrey knew that teams had enough information to form their draft decisions on him. He was right. McCaffrey was an elite prospect, and not every prospect has the luxury to turn down teams. But McCaffrey’s approach should start a trend.
The union needs to tell players to decline workouts. Agents need to band together and tell teams their clients will come meet and interview with them, but they won’t work out. Teams won’t be able to leak to reporters that players turned down workouts and are hurting their draft stock if all players are turning them down. In almost every instance, NFL teams have enough information. They still get private workouts because nobody is stopping them. Teams wouldn’t be happy if players don’t work out for them anymore (this is the ultimate “We’ve always done it this way, and we resist any change to that” league), but they’ll get over it. They did with McCaffrey.
Imagine if there was a different attitude about private workouts this offseason. Nelson and Street wouldn’t be rehabbing knee injuries suffered in meaningless workouts, worried about how much money they cost themselves for something that wasn’t going to help them much anyway.
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