Post 267 – Pro Football – What Matters at the Combine

The entire NFL is in Indianapolis this week for the annual combine for April’s college draft.

The staffs of all 32 teams, including executives, coaches, scouts, and doctors are there to get a closer look at the players they may draft. And there are plenty of prospects: over 300 and a convenient way to learn more about these individuals.

We all hear about the physical skill tests, such as the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and how many reps one does at 225 lbs. on the bench press.

These are part of the evaluation process, but not the most important. The two most important parts at the combine are medical testing and personal interviews.

Medical exams are the first part of the combine for a player after arriving. This is when NFL medical staffs give very thorough examinations. Any previous injury is checked out and the players bodies get continuously poked and prodded. Some executives believe the medical testing is the most important part of the combine because they want to ensure the player they draft is healthy; teams invest big dollars in the players they draft and they don’t want to waste money on a player who won’t be healthy.

The individual interviews are also very important. This is where a team learns more about the person they are interested in. They are asked a wide variety of questions, both positive and negative. It’s the negative that presents a better picture on what type of individual they may or may not be interested in.

There is the time Bill Belichick grilled a potential draftee in an interview, showing film of him not playing well and making mistakes. When asked to explain, the player blamed teammates, coaches, scheme, you name it – except himself. Shortly after that, Belichick ended the interview, thanked him, and crossed the player’s name off the list once the player left the room.

The interview session is also an opportunity for teams to see a player break down plays or determine their football IQ and players also take individual tests to determine their intelligence and psychological qualities.

They also have press conferences for most, if not all players. This determines how they handle themselves with the press and whether they are prone to saying stupid things.

After that, the prospects do their physical tests and position drills. The tests determine what athletic skills a player possesses and the position drills give teams an idea how sound a player’s technique or fundamentals are.

In recent years, most players prepare for the combine in advance and are coached up on their drills and personal interviews. It can be misleading to teams determining how well a player executes specific drills and what is really inside a player’s head. The latter is probably the hardest thing for a team to evaluate and provides a more clear-cut picture on how much a player loves the game, how he handles adversity, what motivates him, his character, and many other details.

A better way for teams to evaluate is seeing prospects at their pro days. In that setting, a player is asked to do drills they have not prepared for and these drills more likely coincide with what teams see on film.

The 40-yard dash and other physical tests are important to the teams, but the medical testing and personal interviews are the biggest reasons all the teams make the trip to Indianapolis this time of year.

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