Every year around this time 300-plus former college football players eligible for the NFL draft close in on a six- to eight-week workout process in preparation for the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
During the 2012 NFL scouting combine held from Feb. 22-28, former Arkansas Razorback players Jake Bequette, Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright will participate before the league’s 32 teams, their coaches and key personnel in hopes of improving their draft status and in some cases getting drafted period.
An invite to the combine does not assure a player the opportunity of being drafted but the opportunity certainly enhances their chances.
At the 2011 NFL combine, four Razorbacks showcased their talents. Quarterback Ryan Mallett, tight end D.J. Williams and offensive lineman DeMarcus Love were drafted in the third, fifth and sixth round respectively.
Offensive lineman Ray Dominguez went undrafted after attending the combine but signed a free-agent contract with the Green Bay Packers after the draft.
Each combine invitee can choose to participate in the series of mental and physical tests, physical drills and in some cases interview with prospective teams.
The interview process allows each team to meet with up to 60 different players for a maximum of 15 minutes. Topics of conversation during the interviews range from football knowledge to character concerns centered on the individual player.
Made even more popular by the Madden NFL video game is the Wonderlic Test. The assessment shines the spotlight on those players that perform well and those that test poorly.
The Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test is a 12-minute timed aptitude test with 50 questions. The word test is designed to gain a better idea of an individual’s ability to problem solve and their overall intelligence level.
The common score of most football players is 20, denoting average intelligence. A testing performance of 10 means the person is considered literate.
A score of 24 is the median national average. A high test score of 31 corresponds with chemist and related fields.
According to Paul Zimmerman’s The New Man’s Thinking Guide to Pro Football, the average Wonderlic test scores are broken down per positions:
- Offensive tackle: 26
- Center: 25
- Quarterback: 24
- Offensive guard: 23
- Tight end: 22
- Safety: 19
- Linebacker: 19
- Cornerback: 18
- Wide receiver: 17
- Fullback: 17
- Running back: 16
Over the last 10 to 15 years the medical tests players endure have been a subject of controversy.
Most NFL teams throw up a red flag on players with an injury history. Even if a player has been productive at the collegiate level and scored well on the physical performance tests during the combine, said players tend to slide down teams' draft boards once their doctors are able to perform orthopedic and MRI exams.
In the past medical information was traded freely between college team doctors and NFL teams. Now, due to medical privacy laws college teams can no longer hand over personal medical information on any given person.
What happens on the field during a game can be observed and documented most of the time; what happens on the practice field cannot. For this reason, over 600 MRIs are performed yearly at the combine. That is an average of two MRIs per player each year.
The physical and speed drills tend to grab the headline attention at the combine. Fans drool over 40-yard dash times and player bench-press reps while teams focus on 10-yard and 20-yard split times, vertical jumps and three-cone drills.
Heading into this week’s combine Joe Adams is listed as the seventh-best wide receiver on Draftcountdown.com. Adams' stock has risen over the past two months from a thought fifth-round draft pick to a possible second-rounder.
Adams is listed at 5’11”, 190 pounds with 4.39 40-yard dash speed.
The second-fastest wide receiver among the 66 compiled in the 40-yard dash is Jarius Wright. Wright is listed at 5’10”, 180 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.33, just two-hundredths off Connecticut’s Kashif Moore’s 4.31.
Wright is ranked No. 25 out of the 66 receivers attending the combine.
Greg Childs is the bigger receiver of the Razorback bunch and the bigger prospect of the group until he hurt his knee during the 2010 season. After a slow start Childs picked up his pace in the LSU and Kansas State games at the end of Arkansas’ 2011 season.
Childs has a great opportunity to improve his draft stock at the combine. He is ranked No. 35 on the board. His 6’3”, 217-pound frame along with his production early in his Razorback career will attract attention.
If he can improve upon his 4.55 40-yard dash and show explosiveness in his breaks while running routes, he could see his name called during the NFL draft.
Childs will get to answer his fair share of questions about his knee during the scouting combine. Perspective teams will poke, prod and examine his knee before the week is through to make sure he has fully healed from his injury before risking a draft pick on him.
After Jake Bequette’s first-team All-SEC performance in 2011 it is hard to understand why he is not listed higher than the 14th-best defensive end in the draft.
Bequette’s hamstring injury aside, he posted 10 sacks during the season tying him for the SEC lead with South Carolina’s defensive end Marvin Ingram. Both players were tied for the ninth-best sack total during the 2011 season.
Ingram is ranked as the second-best defensive end.
Bequette enters the combine as the fastest defensive end among the 42 invitees having run a reported 4.59 40-yard dash. His 6’5”, 271-pound frame makes him an ideal 4-3 defensive end in the NFL.
When the combine announced their list of invitees for 2012, a couple of Razorbacks were surprisingly missing: linebacker Jerry Franklin and safety Tramain Thomas.
Franklin led the Hogs in tackles in each of the past four seasons, compiling 100 or more tackles during his senior and junior years.
Thomas was tied for 13th in Division I with five interceptions during his senior campaign. He also was second on the team and tied for 10th in the SEC with 91 tackles while playing through a shoulder injury much of the season.
Razorback players attending the combine and those that were not invited will have one last opportunity to showcase their abilities before the NFL Draft at Arkansas’ pro day on March 6.
Last year 18 former Razorbacks performed at Arkansas’ pro day, including quarterback Ryan Mallett. This year senior offensive linemen Grant Cook and Grant Freeman, linebacker Jerrico Nelson, cornerback Isaac Madison, safety Elton Ford, running back Broderick Green and defensive lineman Zach Stadther along with others will get their chance to perform combine drills for the NFL scouts on hand.
If the combine tells fans and future NFL hopefuls anything, it’s that no matter where you attend college, if one works hard enough and plays well enough, the scouts will find you.
One of the more shocking 2012 combine players scheduled to attend is Shawn Loiseau, a former linebacker at Merrimack. Loiseau’s invite is not shocking because of his ability to play but due to the size of Merrimack’s college.
Better known for their hockey teams, Merrimack is a small school in North Andover, MA with an undergraduate enrollment of 2,064 students. The Warriors compete in the Northeast 10 Conference, a Football Championship Subdivision conference formerly called Division II.
In-state Arkansas football fans will be happy to know that safety Kelcie McCray and linebacker DeMario Davis of Arkansas State are scheduled to attend the combine as well.
McCray is listed as the 14th-best safety at the combine while Davis is ranked as the 16th-best linebacker.
Arkansas State will hold their pro day on March 27.
The 2012 NFL draft is April 26-28.