Later today, hundreds of college prospects, NFL coaches, scouts and team executives will descend on Indianapolis for the annual scouting combine.
It’s a chance for all teams to get a look at the top college talent in an equal setting, and it amounts to a four-day job interview for some of college football’s brightest stars.
The combine is a combination of physical and mental testing, and here’s a breakdown of what will be measured in Indianapolis, according to NFL.com.
This drill commands the most attention and discussion. It’s the marquee event at the combine. The 40-yard dash is most critical for skill players and linebackers looking to show they have the speed to play at the NFL level.
This is a test of basic strength, as combine participants lift 225 pounds as many times as possible. This drill is a chance to see if the prospects are really as strong as they look or say. The bench press is critical for offensive and defensive linemen who are out to show they have the power to win battles in the trenches.
Like the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump is a drill that gets plenty of attention. This is all about lower body explosion and power. The vertical is also critical for the skill players, especially wide receivers and defensive backs who have to be able to outjump opponents for balls down the sidelines.
The broad jump also tests lower body strength and explosion, but to a different degree. Instead of jumping straight up, participants in this drill see how far they can jump. There is no running start with the broad jump, as the athlete starts in a balanced stance and then jumps as far as possible.
This drill tests players’ ability to shift directions at a high speed. Three cones in an L-shape. 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 the second cone and finishes.
This is also a drill of speed and quickness , testing the athlete’s lateral movement. The athlete starts in the three-point stance, explodes out 5 yards to his right, touches the line, goes back 10 yards to his left, left hand touches the line, pivots, and he then turns and runs 5 more yards to finish.
The combine is known for the cognitive testing players undergo, specifically the Wonderlic test. The test results are supposed to be confidential, but each year there are reports released to the media about the low scores that some top prospects received. Low Wonderlic scores don’t appear to deter teams from drafting talented players. Last year LSU cornerback Morris Clairborne reportedly scored a 4 out of 50 on the test, but he still ended up as a top-10 pick. This year the NFL is also adding an additional test to supplement the Wonderlic. The new test is computerized and designed to provide a comprehensive look at a player's "non-physical capabilities, aptitudes and strengths," according to NFL.com. The league has not released any more details about the test.
One of the most important elements of the weekend for teams and prospects is the time spent in the interview rooms. Each team has the opportunity to conduct 60 15-minute interviews over the course of the weekend, and they use that time to get to know prospects with some tough questions. Scouts will often test a player’s football knowledge or address any off-the-field concerns they may have.