The annual NFL Combine is many things to many people. For the media it's a chance to gather with the entire league in Indianapolis and get to know the year's crop of prospects. While there they also hear from almost every head coach and general manager in the league.
The teams set to draft players have their first significant opportunities to meet with and get to know players they may be interested in. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said on Wednesday that he and his staff value these interviews significantly. They also get full medical reports on players, often the first time extensive check-ups and analysis is done on a player's health.
Watch the Combine live beginning at 9 a.m. ET on NFL Network, or watch it live on NFL.com by clicking here.
For players, it's a grueling job interview that includes every inch of their body. They try to impress teams with their minds and the athletic performance their bodies can exert.
Some teams have as many as 60 player interviews lined up during the week of the Combine. Rarely will a player know what team they're scheduled to meet with, instead they're only given a card with a room number and a time. Once there, they'll be expected to think quickly on their feet—or in their chair—just like they would on the football field. The room can be a simple one-on-one with a coordinator or a sit-down with a franchise's entire roster of decision makers.
Essentially, it's a sun-up to well-past-sun-down day for everyone involved.
While at the Combine they'll also take the Wonderlic test, a cognitive aptitude test that covers a variety of topics. It's a 50-question, 12-minute test that uncovers a player's ability to process information and problem solve.
The workouts that players go through is where the flash of the Combine comes into play. What was once a series of drills held somewhat privately for scouts is now a major TV production.
In addition to position-specific drills like throwing, catching and defending, the players will workout in the 40-yard dash, the bench press, the vertical jump, the broad jump, the 3-cone drill and the shuttle run.
Speed is one of the most exciting elements in the NFL and its why the 40 has become the showcase of the Combine. Players running fast times show unique athletic ability. The 40 is also one of the most enigmatic events at the Combine. A player with a blazing time must still have the game film of play to back up an impressive 40-yard time. The event measures speed and explosion. Athletes are timed at 10 yards, 20 yards and at the finishing 40-yard line. 40 times are often most important to wide receivers and cornerbacks.
The bench press is where players can show their strength. It's particularly important to players that play positions that require a premium on strength. Offensive and defensive lineman require numerous skills to do what they do, but strength is the baseline to accomplish anything in the trenches. The press is 225 pounds and a player will attempt to do as many reps as he can complete. The endurance of strength in this workout is the key and it often indicates how much a player has worked out with strength training in his career.
The vertical jump is another workout that is of special importance to wide receivers and cornerbacks and tight ends, the positions on the field where jumping to great heights can provide a significant advantage. It displays explosion and power from the legs as the player stands from a flat-footed start and jumps straight into the air.
The broad jump isn't much different in terms of what it measures, but is completed differently. It measures explosion from the legs as a player starts from a standing position and jumps outward as far as he can. Many position groups can benefit from this type of explosion because it demonstrates how quickly a player can use all the quick-twitch muscles that fire the body off the ground. Last season Julio Jones wowed Combine onlookers when he jumped 11'3".
The 3-cone drill is a short-area test that demonstrates a player's ability to change directions at a high rate of speed. This is particularly important to players required to be mobile over significant portions of the field like defensive backs and linebackers. The three cones form an L-shape and a player starts and runs five yards to the first cone and back to the starting position. From there he turns and runs around the second cone and runs the last portion of the L-shape out and around the third cone. From there he changes directions again and comes back around the second cone and finishes out toward the starting line.
Many believe the shuttle run is one of the most important drills at the Combine because it tests a player's lateral movement. It's similar to the 3-cone drill in that it's also a short-space test, with the added dimension of lateral tests. The start-stop action and lateral movement is important for every player that is required to move beyond five-to-ten yards around the field. Starting in a three-point stance, the player begins by going five yards to his right and touching the line and going back ten yards to his left. With his left hand he touches the line, pivots and runs five more yards to the finish. A four-second run in this drill will make any scout pay attention to you.