NFL scout Chris Landry has attended every single NFL Combine – all 31 of them – so he knows a thing or two about the process.
And he’ll be the first to tell you that the combine is less about football and more about personality.
“The toughest thing is to evaluate the person,” Landry said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The football part is relatively easy. The getting to know the player and getting to know the person and knowing how they’re going to respond to certain situations is very difficult and, quite frankly, where the most mistakes are made.”
If personality is important, Marcus Mariota is going to be a highly coveted prospect. In fact, Mariota has reportedly done extremely well at the combine and may be well on his way to the No. 1 overall pick.
“Everybody’s going to see players a little different,” Landry said. “Everybody is going to put greater emphasis on certain things than others. I actually was in a couple of the interviews . . . with Mariota. He’s phenomenal. I mean, he’s going to impress you. He is well-spoken, he’s bright, he’s humble. He walks into the meeting – you guys would be impressed.”
Landry was present for two of Mariota’s interviews. Mariota walked into the room both times and knew the names of every coach and executive in attendance.
“You could tell he had done his homework,” Landry said. “He had questions for them, and he did a good job. One team drew up a play – one of their plays, not an Oregon play – and then proceeded with the interview. Towards the end of it, they asked him to draw up the play that was explained about eight minutes ago, and he was flawless with it. He’s very, very good. He’s going to do a great job with that.
“So listen, if you’re looking for someone that is clean, that’s got transferrable skills, that has the ability to be able to learn, he’s going to measure with high marks there.”
One of the criticisms of Mariota, however, is that he kinds of blends in, that he doesn’t have a magnetic presence. Is that a concern for NFL teams?
“No, because you can lead in different ways,” Landry said. “Tom Brady’s personality is a lot different than Joe Montana – and I’m not comparing (Mariota) to these two. I’m comparing those two personalities. No one kind of blended in and was more quiet and unassuming than Joe Montana, but he led in a different way. But I think that you got to kind of drill down and let guys be their own personalties. I don’t think you have to be someone that screams and hollers, and I also think you can learn how to speak up a little bit more once you’re more comfortable.”
To be fair, Mariota wasn’t all that vocal during his freshman year at Oregon, but he became more comfortable speaking up as time went on.
“He’s still not a real vocal guy, but he’s more of a take-charge guy,” Landry said. “The one thing you don’t want is a guy that is mouthy coming in as a rookie that has all the answers. I think once you earn respect, people gravitate towards you. When that is the case, when somebody needs to speak up – whether it’s vocally in a group meeting or an individual setting – I think he’s probably the type that will do that.”