NFL Combine Offers Opportunity for College Players to Impress Scouts

Photo courtesy of AJ Guel, Wiki

The NFL scouting combine, an annual event held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, will take place this year over the course of six days, beginning Tuesday and lasting until next Monday. Ever since its inception in 1982, the combine is designed to help showcase prospects for teams leading up to the NFL Draft in April.

Each day serves a specific purpose as coaches, scouts, general managers and other team employees evaluate all of the 323 prospects. This is an invite-only event, as a selection committee formed by the NFL selects only those they believe are worthy of attending due to their success at the collegiate level. For some prospects, this is the only chance they will get to display their talent to all 32 teams.  

Although it can be a great platform to help boost one’s stock, it can also ruin a player’s perceived value with a poor performance.

The combine is not just a talent exhibition, as interviews, measurements, medical evaluations and intelligence tests are also conducted. All of these different portions serve to examine every single aspect of a player’s ability, character and health.  

“It’s the first time you can have your medical personnel check out these players and that was the main thing I wanted to get out of the combine,” said Charlie Casserly, former NFL general manager and current NFL Network analyst.

An outstanding combine performance does not guarantee success in the NFL, but does mean one thing: attention. More than anything, by performing well, a prospect will have coaches, scouts and the media talking about them – creating valuable buzz.

Prospects that did not play in the power five conferences in college particularly need to do well because they did not play on the national stage on a weekly basis. Playing against a lower level of talent also diminishes one’s performance as compared to teams that play in the SEC, Big 10 or Pac-12. Teams may be skeptical of a player’s ability if he played against a lower level of competition.

Chris Johnson, running back for the Arizona Cardinals, is a prime example. Coming out of East Carolina University in 2008, Johnson ran a record-breaking 4.24 40-yard dash time at the combine, a record that still stands today. That performance put a relatively unknown Johnson on the map and elevated him to a first round selection.

With the quarterback position being the most important in the league, finding the right one begins at the combine. Paxton Lynch, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are the top three consecutive quarterbacks in this year’s draft, according to Mike Mayock, a media draft analyst for the NFL Network. Out of the three, whomever performs best at the combine may likely place themselves as leader of the pack.

Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry of Alabama and fellow running back Ezekiel Elliot of Ohio State will try and state their case as the top running back. As both come from top tier programs, whoever performs better, will most likely is the top back chosen in the draft.

As always, it will be interesting to see which relatively unknown prospect comes out of nowhere to impress teams with his electrifying performance.  

This week-long job interview will be the first major step for players hoping to have their name announced at the NFL Draft. A disappointing showing at the combine will not ruin any prospects chances, but performing well and displaying good character will only help their chances.