The official NFL Scouting Combine doesn't begin until Feb. 19. That's where the most well-known college prospects will choose to display their athletic gifts or sit out the glorified workout based on the advice of their agents.
Before that begins, a group of lesser-known NFL hopefuls will try their hand in a series of open tryouts called regional combines. These tryouts are set to begin Feb. 8 in Houston.
This is not an event for athletes with high-powered agents and management teams. These prospects have to pay an entry fee just to get a shot. The fee is $245 for positional players and $295 for kickers and punters.
The tryouts aren't simply open to players who have recently finished their college careers. Essentially, almost anyone with a realistic dream of playing in the NFL, and the entry fee to spare, can attend.
That said, the NFL has taken steps to prevent this from becoming the equivalent of the comedic auditions on American Idol.
The event's official website includes this disclaimer:
NFL Regional Combines are not fantasy camps. Applicants must meet NFL eligibility rules and be able to perform at a high skill level. The NFL reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to reject any applicant it determines to be unqualified or unfit to compete.
With that, hopefully the NFL-equivalent of the "Pants on the Ground" guy will be encouraged to sit this one out. In addition to the passage designed to deter those who seek to mock the process, there are official eligibility rules as well.
Prospects who are successful in the regional combines will be invited to the super regionals at Detroit's Ford Field on April 12.
Here's a breakdown of the schedule, per the event's official website:
Dates and Position Schedules
- Houston—Feb. 8
- New York/New Jersey—Feb. 15
- Los Angeles—Feb. 22
- Tampa Bay—March 1
- Atlanta—March 8
- Atlanta—March 9
- Chicago—March 15
- Miami—March 22
- Seattle—March 22
- Baltimore—March 29
- Indianapolis—March 29
- Baltimore—March 30
- Houston (Kickers)—Feb. 9
- Houston (Punters)—Feb. 9
- New York/New Jersey (Kickers)—Feb. 16
- New York/New Jersey (Punters)—Feb. 16
- Seattle (Kickers)—Mar. 23
- Seattle (Punters)—Mar. 23
Tests and Drills
Prospects will perform in a battery of tests and drills to prove they have what it takes to take the next step toward chasing their NFL dream. Here's a rundown of what the athletes will face if they attend and participate, per the event's official site.
- Short Shuttle
- Bench Press
- 40-Yard Dash
- Vertical Jump
- 3-Cone Drill
- Standing Broad Jump
- QB—Pocket Movement
- QB—3-5-5-7 Step Drops/Throws
- RB/FB—Off-tackle Reaction
- RB/FB—COD Pitch Drill
- RB/FB—Pass Routes
- OL—COD Wave Drill
- OL—Long Pull
- OL—Short Pull Power
- OL—Pass Pro Mirror
- OL—Pass Pro Rush L & R
- DB—Back Pedal, Turn and Catch
- DB—“W” Drill
- DB—Back Pedal, Weave, 90 Degree and Catch
- DB—Back Pedal, Break Forward, Speed Turn and Catch
- LB—4-Bag Agility Drill
- LB—Wave Drill
- LB—45 Degree Pass Drop and Catch
- LB—Pass Rush L & R
- LB—90 Degree Catch Drill
- DL—Punch, Hand, Shiver Drill
- DL—Body Control Drill
- DL—4-Bag COD Drill
- DL—Pass Rush L & R
- WR/TE—Sideline Tap-Tap Drill
- WR/TE—Over Shoulder Catch Drill
- WR/TE—Pass Routes
A breakdown of each test and drill can be found here.
Previous Success Stories
Per Dan Greenspan of NFL.com, "50 participants in the 2013 Regional Combine are on NFL rosters, with 30 on active rosters."
Perhaps the most notable is Josh McNary of the Indianapolis Colts. The Army alum played in five games as a rookie in 2013. He had this to say about the process and the opportunity it created for him in the NFL.
It was huge and it was really beneficial. It was really my only opportunity to get times and stats on paper. When it came down to it, the combine was like my last resort, my last and only hope to get these numbers on paper and get some good looks.
They pretty much had a representative from each team around the league that were scouting and just identifying talent out there. It was a good way for me to get into contact with a lot of teams.
We'll see if this year's events can render more success stories.
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