2012 NFL Combine: 5 Drills We Love (And 5 We Hate)
If you've never watched the NFL Combine, you're missing out on five of the most entertaining skills competitions in sports.
The combine tests the finest collegiate football players on their athletic abilities. It may be rigorous for players, but it sure is entertaining for fans.
Spanning the week of February 22-28, fans are treated to hundreds of these specimens competing to impress NFL executives and earn higher draft considerations.
The combine is broken up by positions, with offensive linemen and tight ends opening up the contest Saturday. Quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs compete on Sunday. Defensive linemen and linebackers are up on Monday. Defensive backs finish up the combine on Tuesday.
Every player goes through six general workouts. Each positional player then performs a series of position-specific drills.
Here is a quick guide to five quality drills worth catching and five you can avoid.
Hate: Broad Jump
The broad jump is lame because while it measures lower body strength, there's other drills that do the same and are more entertaining.
Other drills in the combine really show skills identifiable come Sunday.
The 40-yard dash reflects speed. Skill tests measure each player's ability to field their position. The bench press is a gauge for strength.
Most of us stop using the broad jump after the seventh grade.
There's a much better barometer for leg strength on the next slide.
Love: Vertical Jump
The vertical jump drill is dazzling. Through a television it's easier to identify amazing vertical jumps than it is to truly see who is blazing the dash.
It's impressive to see some of these quarterbacks or linebackers get up so high. It's really fun to watch when it's a defensive lineman.
It's a quick drill, so those without patience will be rewarded.
Hate: Quarterback Foot Drills and Slants
This is a drill for advanced scouts and higher up executives, not fans.
Much of this contest is footwork and passes to wide receivers who have zero connection to the quarterbacks.
It's not exciting to watch these players take a snap, drop back, pitter-patter and be done.
If you must watch quarterbacks, check out the deep downfield passing. Not much better, but still more exciting than foot drills.
Love: Running Back Cut Drills
These are fun to watch for a few reasons.
Quarterbacks clearly fall into first rounders and late rounders. Running backs are generally more even. There's a lot to prove at the combine, so they're all very much into it.
In most of these drills, running backs are required to really think about what they're doing while they're burning through a series of drills.
In one drill alone, running backs must take a hand-off, high-step over four blocks, then determine whether to cut right or left based on a coach at the end simulating a defensive player.
The drill shows speed, ball-handling, the ability to cut and the ability to read a defense all in about six seconds.
If you do watch the running back drills, you can get lunch around the time they practice catching five-yard slants.
Hate: Defensive Back Drills
It's not that the defensive backs themselves aren't worth watching necessarily. It's also not that the drills should be hated.
In fact, most of the drills are a combination of linebacker and wide receiver drills.
The reason you can skip them is purely based on the timing.
Defensive backs are last.
If you make it through the entire combine, or even one day of it, you'll have already seen almost all there is to offer.
By the time these guys are up, you've seen players test their speed and cutting ability an uncountable amount. If you watched the wide receivers, you've seen guys run, jump and catch.
By default, the defensive back drills are a waste of time for fans.
Love: Wide Receiver Drills
Which wide receiver drills? All of them.
This is one of the best positions to watch as a whole for fans.
One drill requires wide receivers to begin with their backs turned to the thrower. The receiver then snaps around to catch the already thrown ball.
The same drill then sends the receiver shooting down the field with quarterbacks on either side, forcing him to catch passes coming at him from left and right. The timing requires an immediate catch and release and straight route-running.
Another tests the ability to catch passes along the sideline while keeping feet in bounds.
That's running, catching and awareness all in one.
Hate: Offensive Lineman Drills
Fans must be honest with themselves for this question: Which position is the least dazzling position in the NFL?
Most of you likely answered "offensive linemen."
If the offensive line is hardly considered for fame, MVP awards and fan-favortism, why would the NFL Combine be any different?
Consider that there is a reason offensive linemen compete on the first day. It is to get their group over with and move on.
There just isn't much interest involved in watching these big guys run, jump or practice snaps and blocking.
Love: Bench Press
If the 40-yard dash is the most exciting drill for the fast, the bench press highlights the strong.
It's a decently quick drill to watch and the excitement factor is up there. Competitors must bench press a specific amount (225 pounds in the video) as many times as possible.
There's just no better showing of raw power.
Hate: Shuttle Run and 3-Cone Drill
In the Shuttle Run, players run laterally back and forth as quickly as they can. In the 3-Cone drill, the athletes show more sprint, pivot and cuts.
Honestly, you can only watch so many different ways to prove a player's quickness. Do we really want to see anyone else except running backs and maybe wide receivers do this?
Besides, anything that requires as much thought as these drills are just too much.
There are much better drills to watch for speed.
Love: 40-Yard Dash
The 40-yard dash is the cream of the crop of events at the combine.
It's one of the most exciting events to watch. Due to its length, it's also one of the easiest to watch.
The 40-yard dash is one drill that athletes really care about.
Every wide receiver and running back wants to be the fastest man in the NFL. Every tight end wants to prove he can torch defensive backs even though he's a monster in size.
No offensive lineman wants to be the slowest in the combine.
Everyone competes and we—the fans—win.