- Chris Sprow, ESPN Insider
At the NFL combine, the talk every year is never just about the prospects. Like the first day of a new high school year, it's also about deciding which trends to embrace as a way of climbing the competitive social ladder. Coaches and GMs are peers eyeing each other and whispering about what is now real social currency and what is, in a football sense, played out. Scheme elements are denim, personnel trends music, and the recently cool -- the Jim Harbaughs, the Pete Carrolls -- help dictate the new scene.
The combine is where evaluators take those trends and view prospects as the tools to stay relevant or get ahead. This year, the dual-threat quarterback, the zone-read gunner, is in. An agent representing a quarterback in this class told me he now works harder to market a running threat as an aspect to his client's game and searches far and wide to find potential clients who fit the trend. A QB coach who trains NFL quarterbacks and prospects alike says "Teams are now always asking me if my guy is able to, in their words, 'beat defenders with the ball in his hands.'" It's not just evasion, it's the ability to attack.
The numbers tell the story. The chart at right shows that in 2012, QBs who had more than 30 designed runs more than doubled over 2011. All five of those quarterbacks were first- or second-year QBs, and you see some major offensive performance spikes for those teams in cases like Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, Russell Wilson in Seattle and Robert Griffin III in Washington. Even Cam Newton and Ryan Tannehill helped their teams jump in win totals and proclaim the future brighter.
The trend is, by many accounts, here to stay. Right?
Maybe not. Here's why.