2009 NFL Combine Preview

With the NFL Combine starting tomorrow, I thought that now would be a good time to take a look at what we have to look forward to over the next week. For those of you that don’t know, the NFL Combine is an annual event held each year for players entering the NFL Draft. They are put through a series of workouts and tests so that their results can be recorded and viewed by teams interested in the prospects.

The year’s prospects participate in general workouts that test their overall athleticism and position specific drills that demonstrate the players skills. The players are also measured and weighed so that they are all under the same conditions, and can be given their official size.

There are six general athleticism workouts that go on at the Combine: 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 3 cone drill, and shuttle run.

The 40-yard dash is probably the most publicized event and is broken down into their times at the 10 and 20-yard splits. Typically this is where coaches and scouts are looking to see the explosiveness of a player from a stand-still start so that they can get an idea as to how quickly a player will be able to react off the line. It also captures the overall speed and acceleration of the players.

The bench press is a test of upper body stength. The bar is set at 225 pounds and the players are supposed to do as many reps at that weight as they can. Scouts aren’t looking for an athletes max weight on the bench press, they’re looking to see the endurance here. They want a player that will be able to give them that same strangth, power and push through out the entire 60 minutes of a game.

The vertical jump measures the players leaping ability. They start flat-footed and without a single step they jump to touch the highest flag that they can. This is obviously to show if a receiver a defensive back will be able to go up and snatch a ball out of the air, but it also helps show the lower-body explosiveness of the prospects.

The broad jump is an interesting drill because it tests the combination of lower-body explosiveness and strength as well as their balance. The player starts standing and then jumps as far forward as they can with just the one jump, but when they land they have to do so without moving, like when a gymnast does their dismount.

The 3 cone drill in my opinion tests quickness more than anything else. You get to see how quickly a player can stop and change directions at high speeds. The three cones are placed in an L-shape, forming a 90-degree angle. I will give you the verbatim explination from the NFL, “He starts from the starting line, goes 5 yards to the first cone and back. Then, he turns, runs around the second cone, runs a weave around the third cone, which is the high point of the L, changes directions, comes back around that second cone and finishes.” The players are supposed to do this in the shortest amount of time that they can.

The shuttle run, which is also called the 5-10-5, is where the player starts in a three-point stance and bursts out to a line five yards to his right, touches the line with his right hand, and then goes ten yards to his left and touches a line there with his left hand and then goes five yards back to his right finishing where he started. This is where scouts are looking to see a players lateral speed, quickness and acceleration.

Well that was my brief explanation of the main drills that go on at the Combine. Let’s take a look at the position specific work outs. These are broken up into seven groups: quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers/tight ends, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. I won’t get into each and every position specific drill, but I’ll give you a general idea of what they do.

The quarterbacks go through a progression of 3, 5 and 7-step drop backs and throw the slant, in, out, corner and go routes. Scouts don’t look at this to see if the quarterbacks complete their passes They’re watching to see if the quarterbacks use proper technique in their footwork, throwing motion and body. Oh, and of course to see their arm strength.

There’s a drill that the running backs do that scouts really pay attention to. I just had to look up the name of it, and it’s called the off tackle reaction drill. The back starts in a two-point stance, receives a handoff, runs through some cones, and then they have to do some fancy footwork to continue accelerating while running over “bags” which are really like big pads that are laid on the ground in set intervals. After the bags, the player runs at a coach who leans a dummy bag in one direction or the other, and the back has to run in the opposite direction, then they run around a final cone, making a 90-degree cut up field. Here scouts are looking for footwork, the ability to keep their eyes pointed up field rather than looking down at their feet and their reaction time to the coach who leans the dummy bag.

The gauntlet. This is a drill for receivers and tight ends, and is one of the ones that the media loves to show on TV. The player lines up on one side line, face one direction and catch a ball, turn 180 degrees and catch another ball. Then you turn and sprint across the field with 5 quarterbacks (two on one side of you, three on the other) that are in 12 yard intervals that will throw you the ball as you run by them. The idea is to catch all 7 balls and do it in as little time as possible while running right across the field on the 20-yard line like it’s a balance beam, and getting both feet down in bounds on your final catch. Scouts are looking for focus, hand-eye coordination, and the balance to run in a perfectly straight line.

The offensive linemen go through something called the kick slide drill that demonstrates the ability to pass protect. The player lines up across from a defender, with a dummy 12 yards behind them and at an angle. They do this drill twice, once in the two-point stance, and once in the three-point stance. The o-lineman drops his outside foot back at a 45 degree angle and slides to keep the defender in front of him. Once the defender gets even with them they push the defender back and behind the dummy to keep it safe in the pocket. Scouts look for lower body strength, leverage, footwork and balance.

There’s a pretty straight forward drill for the defensive linemen call rush the quarterback. The line up against dummy bags, using a rip technique on the left side and a swim technique on the right side and then you sprint trough the cones to get to the imaginary quarterback. The player starts in a three point stance and the scouts are looking to see how low the player can stay, and how quick their first step is and most importantly, the ability to “run the arc” which means the ability to get around the outside of an offesnive tackle at at low enough arc/angle to not over shoot the quarterback.

Scouts like to watch the pass drop and hip rotation drill for the linebackers. It’s a hard drill to try and explain, but the linebacker lines up about seven yards opposite from a coach. The caoch snaps the ball and the player starts to drop into coverage. Then the coach gives an initial direction you have to go in at a 45 degree angle. Then the coach gives a series of three directional changes where the player opens his hips and goes in the right direction before finally the coach throws the ball and the player has to get to the ball to knock it down or intercept it. Scouts are looking for reaction time and the ability to open the hips without turning their back.

The last group to work out each year is the defensive backs. The close and speed turn drill is probably the most important for them. The d-back lines up against a coach about 7 or 8 yards away. The player has to quickly drop back 5 yards, then sprint forward 10 yards, and then he executes a speed turn and run as fast as he can at an angle like he’s trying to catch up to a receiver, and another coach is going to throw a ball to him. Scouts are looking for a clean back pedal with good technique when the drop back, and then how quickly the player can stop, plant and sprint back forward, also how quickly the player accelerates out of their speed turn and then finally their ball skills, the ability to go up and catch the football.

It should be a week of fun, with players moving up and down big boards all over the country. It’s always interesting to see how much players draft stock can rise or fall during the combine.


2 Responses

  1. […] I only put up two rounds so hopefully this makes up for it. Now that we’re finished with the NFL Combine, and the compensatory picks have been assigned it makes it a lot easier to do more rounds, […]

  2. […] I only put up two rounds so hopefully this makes up for it. Now that we’re finished with the NFL Combine, and the compensatory picks have been assigned it makes it a lot easier to do more rounds, […]

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