Yesterday the 32nd NFL Scouting Combine started at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, which will be running from 27th February to 5th March. We have produced a handy guide for you so you know what the event is and what will be happening during the 6 days.

What is the NFL Scouting Combine?

This is the chance for highly rated college football players to show scouts from all 32 NFL teams, as well as various media members, what they are capable of as they try to ensure they are selected as early as possible in the NFL Draft, thus shaping their career. They do this through a number of physical and mental tests which we will look at in greater detail a little later on. It is an invite only event so all of the athletes performing at the Combine have been hand picked.

How did it all start?

The Combine can trace its history all the way back to 1982. Prior to this the only way teams scouted their prospective draftees was scheduling visits with each individual player. While this was happening then Dallas Cowboys owner Tex Schramm proposed a centralised evaluation event to the NFL competition committee.  This led to the first National Invitational Camp being held in Tampa in 1982, however there were also two other camps introduced at the same time. The three camps merged in 1985 to cut costs which gave us the Scouting Combine we know today. In 1985 it was held in Arizona, then New Orleans in 1986 before moving to Indianapolis in 1987 where it has remained since.

What physical tests are the players put through?

  • 40 Yard Dash – a timed 40 yard sprint used to assess the speed and acceleration of the players. The current record for fastest time is 4.22 seconds which was set by Washington wide receiver John Ross in 2017, who went on to be drafted 9th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • Bench Press – a test of strength and stamina, the players will see how many times they can lift a 225lb weight. The current record for repetitions is 51 set by Eastern Kentucky defensive tackle Justin Ernest in 1999, however he went undrafted and spent just 1 year on the New Orleans Saints practice squad.
  • Vertical Leap – meeting the ball at the highest possible point is a necessary skill for receivers and defensive backs and also helps defensive lineman and linebackers who are looking to swat the ball down, so this test sees how high the players can jump from a stationary position. The current record is 45 inches and is shared by Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley (2015) and Ohio State cornerback Donald Washington (2009). Both players were drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, 76th and 102nd overall respectively.
  • Broad Jump – used primarily to test a players short area quickness, burst and balance, the prospect must jump as far forwards as possible from a standing start and make a balanced landing. The current record was set in 2015 by Connecticut free safety Byron Jones at 12 ft 3 inches. Jones went on to be drafted 27th overall by the Dallas Cowboys.
  • 20 Yard Shuttle – 3 cones are set at 5 yard intervals. The player starts at the middle cone, runs to one of the end cones, runs to the opposite end cone then runs back to the middle cone where they started. This is a test of speed and change of direction and the players get 3 attempts at the challenge. The current record of 3.73 seconds was set in 2001 by Iowa wide receiver Kevin Kasper who was drafted 190th overall by the Denver Broncos.
  • 3 Cone Drill – 3 cones are set 5 yards apart to form a right angle. The player starts by running from an end cone to the middle cone, back to the starting point, then to the 3rd cone via the middle cone before rounding it and returning to the starting point, again via the middle cone. This test is used to judge the players agility, quickness and fluidity of movement. The current record of 6.42 seconds was set in 2011 by Oregon wide receiver Jeff Maehl, who went undrafted before spending 4 years in the NFL with the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles.
  • 60 Yard Shuttle – this is more like the shuttle runs we are used to in the UK during PE lessons – 4 cones are set 5 yards apart, the player starts from the first and runs to the second and back, then the third and back and finally the fourth and back. This is another test of speed, agility and change of direction. The current record of 10.71 seconds was set in 2017 by West Virginia wide receiver Shelton Gibson, who was drafted 161st overall by the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Position specific drills – each player will also have the opportunity to show they have what it takes at their own position as they are put through further tests specific to their role – for example quarterbacks will have their pocket presence tested, receivers will have tests on their route running and offensive and defensive linemen will have tests of strength against each other. A full list of position specific drills as well as more details on the standard drills can be found here

When will the physical tests be run?

Each position group has a set day for running the physical tests:

  • Friday 2nd March – running backs, offensive linemen, special teams (kickers/punters)
  • Saturday 3rd March  – quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends
  • Sunday 4th March – defensive linemen, linebackers
  • Monday 5th March – defensive backs

What are the mental and general tests?

  • Interviews – each team can interview 60 different players for 15 minutes each, thus giving the players their chance to make a personal impression on the big brass.
  • Physical Measurements – each player will have their physical measurements taken and scrutinised, including  height, weight, size of hands, arm length and wingspan.
  • Injury Evaluation – similar to a physical in a football transfer the players will get checked over by doctors to see if they have any injuries that haven’t been previously disclosed.
  • Drug Screen – each player will have be screened for drugs, obviously if there any found in their system it will have a massive impact on their draft prospects.
  • The Cybex Test –  this is another physical and medical examination of the player, mainly focusing on the joints and their movement.
  • The Wonderlic Test – this is a test that is used not only by the NFL but colleges and prospective employers all over the world. It consists of 50 multiple choice questions which are to be answered in 12 minutes and judges problem solving and learning abilities. The average score for an NFL player is around 20 and 21 is regarded as a minimum score required for a top quarterback. The highest score recorded at the Combine in its current format was by Mike Mamula from Boston College, who scored 49 in 1995 – he would go on to be selected 7th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. But if you think a low score will destroy any NFL dreams the players have have you’d be wrong – the lowest Combine score recorded was a tiny 4 by LSU’s Morris Clairborne in 2012 and he would be selected 6th overall by the Dallas Cowboys.

Who should you keep an eye out for this year?

We will be running full profiles of some of the top draft prospects closer to the draft itself but the names you want to be looking out for are quarterbacks Josh Allen from Wyoming, Sam Darnold from USC, Josh Rosen from UCLA and Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma, running back Saquon Barkley from Penn State, defensive edge rusher Bradley Stubb from N.C. State and guard Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame.

Can I watch the combine live?

If you have NFL Gamepass you can watch the combine live via the NFL Network. There will be free highlight videos available on NFL.com shortly after the events take place, although unfortunately these won’t include highlights of the players taking the Wonderlic test.

If you have any other questions about the Combine don’t hesitate to get in touch with the FMF team on Facebook or Twitter!

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