DOWN THE NFL SCOUTING COMBINE
by Gil Brandt
say that the NFL Combine is a gathering of the top
college players from around the country might be an
understatement. Simply put, it is the elite, the cream
of the crop, the best of the best.
is perhaps the perfect example of what a terrific
job combine organizer Gene Babb does in selecting
the right players to attend this annual gathering
in Indianapolis: Of the 246 players who were taken
in last year's draft, only 30 were not invited to
the combine. None of the non-invitees were drafted
higher than the fourth round.
so, less than a month after the conclusion of the
2001 NFL season, the league turns its attention to
the combine. This year's gathering takes place March
1-4 in Indianapolis. And while teams have already
been quite active in preparing for the 2002 NFL Draft,
the combine traditionally kicks off the beginning
of NFL draft-mania.
are several reasons why the combine has become such
an important part of the draft process. Among them:
All 32 teams get to watch the prospects in an equal
setting, under the same conditions.
Owners, general managers and coaches have the opportunity
to see most everyone who will be drafted -- all in
one place, within a four-day period. There will be
plenty of flying around the country for individual
workouts in the weeks to come, but the combine is
The combine is just another means of helping teams
make good decisions, and the escalating cost of signing
first-round draft picks makes the decision-making
process all the more crucial. Teams spent a total
of $160 million on signing bonuses for last year's
first-round picks. They want to make sure they know
what they're doing.
genesis of the combine took place in 1977, when the
workouts were conducted by three separate scouting
services -- National, Blesto and Quadra. The system
was streamlined even further in 1984, when the workouts
were moved to one site. The combine is an invite-only
event, closed to all but invited players and NFL team
course, the combine continues to attract more media
every year. There will be well over 100 writers on
hand, plus radio and TV crews. They're not allowed
to watch the workouts that take place in the RCA Dome,
but there is a special interview room set up adjacent
to the stadium for players to meet the press after
are 333 NFL prospects invited to this year's combine
-- the most since 1993. They will descend upon Indianapolis
Thursday afternoon, and here's what will take place:
stay at a hotel within walking distance of the RCA
Dome. After dinner on Thursday, they will get a brief
orientation on how to conduct themselves in the coming
weeks (after the draft, rookies will have a three-day
seminar that expands on life in the NFL).
7:30 Friday morning, the first group of players --
offensive line and kickers -- heads to the RCA Dome
for measurements. The physicals begin at 8:15. All
32 teams have trainers and medical staff present.
After that, there are two taped interviews. The first
is not exactly an interview, but an opportunity to
videotape the player for body build. The second is
a 10-minute interview in which players are asked about
their background, their goals, etc.
1 p.m., players are tested for strength -- scouts
record how many times they can bench-press 225 pounds.
After that, they take the Wunderlic test, which some
teams use to evaluate a player's intelligence.
dinner, players make their way through the first floor
of the hotel, where all 32 teams have their own rooms
set up for player interviews, psychological testing
and simple "meet-and-greets." The team officials
are well-stocked with hats, shorts and other team
apparel to entice players to stop in and visit with
them -- last year's hot items were team backpacks.
By the time the players leave Indy, they probably
have about 50 extra pounds worth of NFL souvenirs.
morning, the first group returns to the RCA Dome for
speed and agility testing. They'll run 40-yard dashes,
do jumping drills and position-specific football drills.
noon Saturday, the first group will be on its way
home. The combine will be over, but the workouts,
interviews and training leading up to the draft (April
20-21) is just beginning.
the combine already in full swing in Indianapolis,
Gil Brandt will check in with some daily news and
Players started arriving on Thursday at around noon
to a very cold Indianapolis. My first impression was
there weren't any guys out of shape; everyone was
in really, really good shape.
an example, RB Damien Anderson of Northwestern said
he was going to run, said it was important to run
and he was going to. Every guy looked like they were
in optimum condition. DeShaun Foster of UCLA appeared
to be in very good shape. Boston College RB William
Green also looked good; T.J. Duckett out of Michigan
State looked in great shape. All seemed to be at minimum
weight. Maybe Duckett was 240 but the guy looked svelte.
for offensive linemen, if there is a congeniality
award, Texas tackle Mike Williams wins it. He's a
giant of a man with a pleasing personality. In looking
at films, people have started seeing the hustle play
that he made on an interception play vs. Colorado
in the Big 12 championship game. It was a great play
that saved a touchdown.