Football fans have no doubt seen the highlights before. Every year, without fail, there’s a ton of them: clips of players running and jumping, being measured and timed, even lifting weights.
These videos are, as you may have guessed, from the NFL Combine. This day-long event is held every year, usually towards the end of February into early March, and plays host to a slew of college prospects looking to improve their standing ahead of the NFL’s draft in April.
A lot people find themselves wondering whether the Combine really matters. They see all this footage, all this hype, and ask if it’s all really necessary? What can predominantly no-contact drills exactly do to help evaluate a player?
It turns out a whole lot.
The NFL draft spans seven rounds, each including 32 picks apiece. That’s 224 prospects. No matter how many tape scouts watch throughout the year, they can never fully know the utility of everyone entering the draft pool. There are, after all, only so many opportunities they have to watch college players in person.
Attending the combine serves as a scouting substitute in some cases—or at the very least a chance to confirm pre-existing findings and pass verdicts on players who might not be as well-known.
Standouts at the Combine matter. The league usually has a good feel for who will go with the top picks, but the draft gets more wide open as you get to later rounds. It’s even a bit more open by the end of the first round.
Performing well at the Combine is a legitimate chance for players to enhance their stock. It could be the difference between getting drafted in the third round and the first round. It could even be the difference between getting drafted and not getting drafted at all.
Players at the Combine are gauged in a number of different areas, both mentally and physically. The top activities include the 40-yard dash; the bench press; the vertical jump, the broad jump; the 20-yard shuttle; the three-cone drill; the 60-yard shuffle; position-specific drills; interviews with teams in 15-minute intervals; physical measurements; injury evaluation; drug screen; the Cybex Test; and the Wonderlic Test.
So the next time you see combine results flash across your screen or hear it being talked about, don’t be so quick to write it off as a minimally valuable meetup where coaches, scouts, team personnel and executives shoot the breeze. The NFL Combine matters, and while results aren’t everything, they do have an impact on where a player is taken in the draft.