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Guide to the 2012 NFL Combine

Brief Rundown
When: February 22-28 Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana Starting out in 1985 as a merger of 3 different scouting events put on by different scouting organisations, the NFL Scouting Combine has become a yearly occurrence in Indianapolis. Considered an audition , the Combine features draft prospects from various college football programs gathering in one place, in front of Scouts, Head Coaches, General Managers, and other team executives. The players go through a series of workouts, assessments and interviews in order to try to make an impression on the teams, and hopefully raise their draft stock. This isn t just an event any college player can attend; spots are usually limited to 335 (however sometimes that number isn t even reached), and each has to be chosen by a vote from the committee tasked with selecting players. Players who aren t chosen to attend the Combine can still be drafted, however they make up a small percentage of players who are. In order to avoid congestion, players at the Combine are sorted into 11 groups based on their position. The arrival of these groups is spread across 4 days: Day 1: Group 1 (Placekicker, Special Teams, Offensive Line), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (Tight End). Day 2: Group 4 (Quarterback, Wide Receiver), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (Running Back) Day 3: Group 7 (Defensive Line), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (Linebacker) Day 4: Group 10 (Defensive Back), Group 11 (DB) The combine is broken into 4 different days of assessments, and these divisions ensure there aren t too many players trying to do the same thing. For example, on day 2, groups 46 will do what 1-3 did the previous day. Then, groups 7-9 do that the next day as the others move on.

Pre-Workout Assessments
Before the players even get to the physical workouts, the have a series of commitments and assessments to attend.

Day 1
The first day involves a lot of preparation. Players arrive, register, and have an orientation of the facilities. A pre-medical examination occurs (including x-rays), and players will also undergo various interviews. Each individual team is allowed 60 interviews over the course of the whole Combine, in 15 minute intervals

Day 2
Day 2 is when the real assessments begin. Players are measured, have proper medical assessments, psychological testing, and more interviews. Despite the lack of publicity, this is one of the more critical stages; if a player is found to have a previously unknown medical condition that could affect their play, their draft stock can drop greatly.

Day 3
Day 3 involves more of the same: Interviews and psychological testing, with an added meeting with the NFL Players Association. Placekickers and Special Teams players are an exception, as they have their workouts here, unlike all the other positions.

Day 4
This is the big day, where most of the physical workouts happen.

Physical Workouts
The major focal point of the combine, the physical workouts assess almost every facet of an athlete s ability: Speed, explosiveness, strength, endurance, balance and focus. There are 6 major workouts that players from each position will participate in. These are:

The 40 Yard Dash

This is biggest and most publicised workout of the entire combine. As simple as it sounds, players start from a 3 point stance (something a lot of players such as Quarterbacks and Wide receivers won t be used to), and sprint 40 yards downfield. Times are taken after 10, 20 and 40 yards, and this drill gives a very good indication of raw speed and explosiveness. For Receivers, Running backs and Defensive backs, every part of this drill is scrutinised to determine a player s quickness. For a less mobile positions such as an offensive lineman, while their 40 yard time may not matter that much, their 10 yard time does, as it gives an indication as to how quickly they can react, and therefore how well they can do getting back to block. A good time for a Wide Receiver or Defensive Back is generally anything under 4.6 seconds, and the Tennessee Titan s own Running Back Chris Johnson has the combine record, with a 4.24 set in 2008.

Broad Jump
This is basically a long jump (like you might see in the Olympics, for example), except it is done from a flat footed, standing start. The player lines both feet up on the tip of a line, and then, with only the aid of bending (no rocking at all), launches themselves as far forwards as they can. Once they land, they have to be steady; no stepping backwards or forwards at all, until they have been measured. This drill mainly assesses the lower body, giving an indication of power and explosion from a stationary start. It also demonstrates an athlete s balance due to the fact that they have to be steady when they land, another important trait for all players. A good distance is about 10 feet (3.05m) and up, and the combine record, set by former Jacksonville Jaguars Cornerback Scott Starks, is 11 feet 5 inches (3.48m).

Bench Press
Just like what you would do in a gym, the Bench Press is all about assessing a player s strength and endurance. Each athlete has a chance to press 225 pounds (102.5kg) as many times as they can. It is very closely scrutinised; you can t bounce the weights, and you can t bow your back at all, as any press that is deemed technically incorrect is automatically deducted from your total. Due to the nature of the workout, a good number varies from position to position. Linemen are expected to be around 30 (if not higher), whereas players like Quarterbacks are acceptable to be around 20. The record is held by former New Orleans Saints Defensive Tackle Justin Ernest, who put up 51 reps in 1999.

Vertical Jump
Another drill that is as straight forward as it sounds. Each player stands, flat footed, and with an arm extended as far upwards as they can reach. This height is recorded, and is used as the low point for their jump. The player then, from a stationary start with only the aid of bending, leaps as high as they can, tipping the highest flag on a pole that they can. The difference between this height, and their flat footed reach, is the value they get for their vertical jump. Much like the Broad Jump, a player s lower body strength is what is assessed here; their ability to squat, and then explode upwards from a stationary point. A good jump for a Wide Receiver or Defensive Back is generally about 40 inches (101.6cm). The combine record is 46 inches (116.8cm), set by Dallas Cowboys Safety Gerald Sensabaugh in 2005.

3 Cone Drill
This drill starts with 3 cones set in an L shape, with 5 yards from cone 1 - 2, and 2 3. The player starts in a 3 point stance, and explodes out to the first cone, and touches the ground. They then run back to the start and touch again. From there, they run back out, around the second cone, weave around the third cone, back around the second, and past the first cone to finish You may want to find a video of this, it s not the easiest drill to explain. This drill assesses speed, explosion, and the ability to not only change direction quickly, but retain speed when running around obstacles. This is particularly important for a pass rusher to do well in, as their ability to explode from a stationary stance and hold speed around the cones gives a good indication of how they will do when they have to run tight angles around blockers to get to the Quarterback. A good speed for a Wide Receiver or Defensive back is about 7 seconds. The Combine record, set in 2011 by Houston Texans Wide Receiver Jeff Maehl, is 6.42 seconds.

20 Yard Shuttle Run

This is a short and quick shuttle run. 3 Cones are placed in a line, with 5 yards from point to point to point. The player starts from the middle cone, in a 3 point stance, facing 90 degrees from where they will be going. They then fire out to the side, for 5 yards to that cone. They touch the ground, and then turn and run 10 yards to the cone on the far side. They touch the ground again, and then accelerate out of that, 5 yards back to the centre, where the finish is. Also known as the 5-10-5, this drill is very similar to the 3 cone drill in what it assesses; Speed, explosiveness, and the ability to change direction quickly. More relevant to lineman is that it also assesses a player s ability to bend, a trait that is important when it comes to blocking/shedding blocks. A good time for a Wide Receiver or Defensive Back is about 4.2 seconds. The combine record is a blistering 3.73 seconds, set by former NFL Receiver Kevin Kasper in 2001.

Position Specific Workouts

Each position also has a set of workouts that are specific to their positions. There are too many to name, however each of these workouts are scrutinised as closely as all of the general workouts listed here.

Pro Days
While not an actual part of the NFL Combine, College Pro Days are somewhat related, and are a big drawcard for NFL scouts and team executives. Certain Colleges with players eligible for the NFL draft hold a day on their own campus, where their players do a set of workouts and tests, as nominated by the players and the school, rather than by the organisers of the Combine. This gives talent evaluators a chance to assess players in their own settings; on their home field, with their team mates, and doing drills that they have tailored towards their own skills. There has been some discussion about the fact that Baylor Quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III won t be throwing at the Combine. This is where Baylor s pro day will come in. He will have a set of plays, drawn up between him and his coach, which will be designed to display his strengths, and the array of throws he can make. Rather than throwing at the Combine, where he is passing to Wide Receivers he may never have met before, and throws that he may not the exceptionally good at, at his pro day he will have rehearsed each and every throw several times, in order to give himself an edge. The receivers in these drills benefit greatly as well, as their ability to snap off routes that they have practiced repeatedly will make them look better than they otherwise might have done.

Final Notes
The Combine is certainly an exciting and informative time, where fans that don t follow the College game get an insight into the players that could soon be signed by their teams. However, good Combine results don t mean that a player will be successful; of the 6 record holders for the general workouts listed above, only Chris Johnson has been All-Pro or Pro Bowl selected. Gerald Sensabaugh has become a solid starter, and the other 4 player s careers range from mediocre to almost non-existent. Scouts already know what they have seen in games, and these performances will be what they rely most heavily on, as they can see how players do when the bullets are flying , in a real game situation. Nonetheless, it is important to do these evaluations, and more than one player has increased their draft stock as a result of their performances. Attending the Combine doesn t guarantee that a team will draft you. Typically about 30-40 players who don t attend the Combine are drafted anyway, based off game performances and team pro days. This leaves over 100 players who attend the Combine that aren t drafted. Usually these players are signed as undrafted free agents, and either fill a spot as a rotation or depth player on the active roster, or spend some time on the Practice Squad. An example of a success story from this is Houston Texans Running Back Arian Foster, undrafted in 2009, who lead the NFL in yards rushing in 2010.