The NFL Scouting Combine takes place each year in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year’s combine began on February 26th and ended yesterday (March 4th).
As this event has been in the news for the last week I want to provide a brief overview of what exactly the combine is. Like other NFL events (such as the NFL Draft), the combine wasn’t always an event that had non-stop television and media coverage. But, NFL fans no longer believe in an offseason. To many, the NFL season is 365 days per year, there just happen to be breaks in the game action that would count as an offseason in any other sport.
What players participate?
The following football players are eligible to be invited to the combine:
- All college seniors following their final year of college eligibility.
- All underclassmen who declare for (and qualify for) the NFL Draft and satisfy all NCAA and NFL requirements.
- An athlete that is not playing collegiate football may qualify under a special circumstance in the year that he would have been eligible had he been playing college football.
The goal of the combine is to invite every player that will be drafted in the upcoming draft. Eligible players are nominated by teams and scouting services and voted on by the selection committee. The combine can process 335 athletes each year, though the number of participants varies each year.
Some players decline to participate at the combine, and the combine doesn’t replace private workouts, team visits, interviews conducted at the Senior Bowl or the East-West Shrine Game, or other opportunities to visit with potential draftees. But, the combine can have a major influence as to where a player will end up on a team’s draft list, which in turn could have a major impact on their salary and career earnings.Embed from Getty Images
What happens during the combine?
While a large gathering of NFL executives will inevitably result in conversations between teams regarding players available via trade, discussions with agents, and other conversations, the main purpose of the combine is to evaluate prospective draft picks. The process for players generally consists of four days of activities broken into three major areas.
Each player that attends the combine receives a thorough set of psychological and physical health evaluations before they participate in any on-field workouts. These results provide another data set for the teams to evaluate a player. While the results could potentially impact the draft position (or draftability at all) of a player, there have been instances where a previously unknown medical condition was discovered, allowing the player to pursue treatment.
Teams are permitted to schedule 15 minute interviews for up to 60 prospects at the combine. These are not the same comprehensive interviews that would be completed at team visits, as only so much can be covered in 15 minutes. Teams use this time to confirm their analysis of players or to get a better feel for the individual. It’s possible that a player interviews so poorly (or blows off his interview) that a team will remove that player from their draft board. More likely though, is that this interview becomes an additional piece of data about that player that will be evaluated along with other interviews, game action, medical evaluations, etc., to help the team make an informed decision about the player. Every once in a while, stories emerge of strange questions asked of players during the interview process. Not including this year, when a player was reportedly asked how many testicles he has, here is an article that discusses some other awkward interview questions.
Every player that goes through the drills process completes seven drills; including the:
- 40-yard dash
- vertical jump
- broad jump
- bench press
- three-cone drill
- 20-yard shuttle
- 60-yard shuttle
Additionally, each is put through another set of drills specific to his position.
All of the on field workouts happen on the 4th (and last) day of that player’s combine experience. Though, remember, that arrival at the combine is staggered over four days, on field drills are being completed for the last four days of the combine overall.
The combine is not an exact science. However, there have been many players that have used the combine to enhance their draft stock based on measurables including size, strength, agility, and speed. Many other players have seen their draft status plummet. In some cases, players have had a previously undiscovered medical issues diagnosed, and while it may have negatively impacted their draft status, the discovery may ultimately have saved their life.
The results of this year’s combine can be found here. The 2019 NFL Draft takes place from April 25th to April 27th.
For information about the NFL CBA, please see our CBA Summary.