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Combine: Spreading out the prospect evaluations

Spread offenses in college football add another layer to evaluating NFL prospects.

INDIANAPOLIS -- NFL personnel men face a lot of challenges as they try to assess prospects and project their potential fit in professional football.

One of the factors that adds to that challenge is the proliferation of the spread offense in college football. The scheme is running rampant these days, putting players in positions on both sides of the ball that they simply won't be in when they get to the next level.

It's not just quarterbacks or receivers who are affected by the spread offense. It really alters the way guys play at all positions on both sides of the ball as well as the mental requirements on players across the board.

But according to Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert, the first man to hold a press conference at this year's NFL Combine, the challenge of evaluating players in spread offenses – or defending spread offenses – is on NFL personnel because the scheme isn't going anywhere.


"There is a huge learning curve and it just takes a little longer," Colbert said of guys coming from the abundant spread offenses that are becoming the norm in college football, and even trickling down to high school throughout the neation. "That's the majority of the offenses in college football, so we have to adapt. The colleges won't change because they're doing what they need to do to win football games. It's our job to take the talent and work with it. But it's a little longer than if they are coming from a traditional offense, for sure."

"It really affects everything. The offensive line play is different. The receivers are different. The tight ends, instead of being attached to a formation they may be flexed in the slot and they are used to block on the perimeter. The running backs have different reads, they have different run lane. The part that's left out of that is that the defense has to adapt and change and play a different style of defense than they would against a traditional offense. So it really affects a lot. But that's not the colleges' concern, that's our concern. It doesn't make it more difficult, it just changes how we have to evaluate. We have to evolve and change with the times of the colleges."

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