Why the NFL Scouting Combine Matters

Matt Bowen NFL National Lead WriterFebruary 20, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 26: Tyrann Mathieu of Louisiana State University works out during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 26, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Everything is a test at the NFL Scouting Combine—and I can’t wait to see who handles the pressure of Indianapolis.

I love the competition at the combine, the stressful environment and the demands this event puts on draft prospects for four days at the end of February.

Think of it as the ultimate job fair where every interview or drill is watched by the entire league. Scouts, coaches, general managers and owners. They’re all there to evaluate these prospects as they start to build their own draft board.

We all understand the knock on the combine as these drills inside Lucas Oil Stadium don’t always translate to the field. And you don’t play the game in shorts or run a timed 40-yard dash on Sundays. That’s the difference between “stopwatch speed” and “game speed.”

But we also have to look deeper into this event to find it’s true meaning—or purpose—in the draft process.

I went through the combine back in 2000 when I came out of the University of Iowa. Was I nervous? Or even a little scared? You bet. And when that plane touched down in Indianapolis, I knew this thing was no joke.

It starts immediately with medical checkups, and it doesn’t end until you run the 60-yard shuttle on the final day to wrap up the combine. Four days of interviews, written tests and the workouts on the field before you head back home to resume training.

Heck, this thing will wear you out.

These prospects don’t run until the final day in Indianapolis. By that time, you are tired, stressed and, well, ready to get back to the airport. However, the final day means the 40-yard dash, short shuttle, three-cone drill, vertical jump, broad jump, etc. along with positional drills that I broke down on Wednesday

You know, the stuff we watch on TV as these future pros look to run a sub-4.5 40 time.

And that’s the real story here.


Can these prospects produce during workouts when they have spent the previous three days on a strict schedule meeting with teams, going through the bench test, written exams (the New York Giants had a 500-question multiple choice test), the Cybex leg test, the Wonderlic and standing up on a stage for scouts to write down notes about their bodies? 

It’s not easy. And it shouldn’t be.

This isn’t some pro day back on campus where prospects dress in their own locker room, run in a comfortable setting or post ridiculous times in indoor facilities or on fresh-cut Bermuda grass.

Nah, not in Indy. Here, these prospects are going to run and jump and lift in the most challenging atmosphere possible.

I was gassed at the end of the drills. The change of the direction, the multiple movements and the stress of the four-day process made me feel like I had just played a game.

My hamstrings were tight, my back was stiff and my knees let me know that I had just run through those combine drills at top speed on the old turf at the RCA Dome.

There should be some nervous energy when these guys put their hand on the line to run the 40 or swing their arms to generate some power in the vertical jump.

You get two shots to run the 40. That’s it. Two shots (when you haven’t slept well in some Indianapolis hotel room) to make teams go back and evaluate more tape if you can post a decent time.

Or, let’s be honest here, two shots to earn some money.

After all that pre-combine training, this is where the draft prospects get to compete on the big stage for the first time.

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks in action during their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

I’m a strong believer that every prospect should work out in Indianapolis. That’s what it’s for. And this is why I’m a big fan of Jadeveon Clowney and Sammy Watkins coming to the combine ready to run through all the drills.

Two prospects who carry a top-10 grade—with absolutely nothing to hide.

Sure, there are guys who will take the advice of agents to wait till their pro day to work out. I don’t agree with it, as the top players should be able to showcase their talent on any stage at any time.

But that’s not my decision to make. And the league will eventually get over it after some initial negative reaction. 

But for the majority of the players who do show up at the combine prepared to work out, this is a great opportunity to impress the entire NFL and produce during the most stressful event of their athletic careers.

So let’s find out who’s ready to pass the test this week in Indianapolis.


Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.