February 20, 2014

A Comprehensive Guide to the NFL Combine

By - Tim Swift

One of the biggest highlights of the National Football League's offseason comes in late February, when GMs, coaches, scouts, and owners descend upon Indianapolis for the combine.

Many people believe that because the players aren't in full pads during the event, it lessens the significance of analyzing them. However, for many of the evaluators around the league, it's the first impression they get of the prospects.

Here's a list of what the players will be facing when they arrive in Indy.

- Workout Drills

Photo by: Ben Liebenberg
These are the drills that will get most of the attention over the next week. The ones that will be talked about the most are the 40-yard dash and the bench press. The other drills that the players will participate in include the vertical jump, three-cone, broad jump, and shuttle run. Flashy numbers in the 40 and the bench press are sure to impress the fans and media members alike, but most NFL executives know that the workout drills are just a small part of the much bigger picture.

- Positional Drills

These drills are much more important to coaches and scouts. During this period, you're going up against other players that you could be facing off with over the next several years. The biggest traits that the coaches want to see are technique and effort, even if you don't execute each drill perfectly. If you're fundamentally sloppy or not giving it your all, coaches, scouts, and GMs will notice immediately.

- Dealing With the Media

At some point, people in the media are going to ask dumb questions. Questions that pry into your personal life and have nothing to do with football. Some people will even ask questions to make things about them and not the players. Trust me, each team will be watching to see how players deal with the media and how they answer tough questions. If you can't handle media sessions during NFL combine week, you are way more likely to blow up after a big loss or break down after a slump in play.

- Film Work and Testing

Sooner or later, coaches will get players in a room and ask them what they're seeing on game film, and they've got to be able to explain the plays and schemes. It's amazing how some players reach this level by dominating physically, yet don't have any real grasp on why they should be lined up at a certain spot. The film work is one of the most underrated parts of the combine, and can go a long way towards impressing a team enough to want to draft you or scaring a team away altogether. Also, players will be taking the infamous Wonderlic Test during the week, which will be the source of much debate when the scores get out, and they always do.

- Team Interviews

This is one of the aspects that the public doesn't get to see, but the prospects better not mess up. These teams are going to be ruthless in what they ask. There will be questions that could have nothing to do with the game, like when former Miami GM Jeff Ireland asked about Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. When a team is contemplating on investing millions of dollars on someone, they pretty much want to know everything there is to know about that individual. The teams want complete honesty here, and if they find out something later that is negative that you didn't talk about in the interviews, that will be a big red flag that they'll remember on draft day.

- Medical Testing

This is the one event at the combine that is required. You can go to Indianapolis and not workout and not talk to the media, but you're getting in front of several doctors and getting poked and prodded whether you like it or not. NFL medical staffs are much more detailed in their evaluations than colleges are, and you won't be able to hide some underlying ailment that a college staff might be willing to overlook.

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