On Thursday, in my hometown of Palm Coast, Florida, it was between 75-80 degrees all day. Compare that to Indianapolis where it was cloudy and will dip below freezing multiple times while teams and media are in town, and it's easy to ask why Indianapolis.
Why not Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Dallas or San Diego?
First off, the central location of Indianapolis makes travel to the combine amenable for just about every team. Far more than if it were tucked away into a corner of the country. Yet, it's more than that. Indianapolis is not only central in terms of location, but also structure.
Lucas Oil Stadium is in the middle of the downtown area, allowing walking between the many nearby hotels and restaurants. In many respects, it's become a second home over the years, as the trip has taken on an almost hallowed reverence in team and media circles. It's a pilgrimage to sit at the altar of football—heck, the religious aspect starts to seem even more realistic when you remember everyone's going to eat at St. Elmo's at least once during the trip.
The NFL could move the combine to wherever it wants—to a bigger city or warmer climes—but don't expect it to happen anytime soon, if ever.
Coverage of the combine starts Saturday on NFL Network and NFL.com. However, you can follow along each day with Bleacher Report, as we keep you abreast of what's ahead and what transpires each day. Matt Miller, Mike Freeman and Matt Bowen will all be covering the event and are great follows on Twitter.
For More Preview Combine Reading
- Position-by-Position Combine Primer (Michael Schottey)
- Inside the Drills and Tests (Bowen)
- Burning Questions Heading into the Combine (Ty Schalter)
- Official Invite List (National Scouting)
Day 1 Highlights
Psychological Testing/Bench Press: Group 1 (Offensive Linemen, Specialists); Group 2 (Offensive Linemen); Group 3 (Tight Ends)
Available for Interview on Thursday: Group 4 (Quarterbacks, Receivers); Group 5 (Quarterbacks, Receivers); Group 6 (Running Backs)
Arriving in Indianapolis on Thursday: Group 7 (Defensive Linemen), Group 8 (Defensive Linemen), Group 9 (Linebackers)
Day 2 of the combine is, largely, the reason media heads to Indianapolis. With quarterbacks, receivers and running backs in for interviews, the scrum for big names that may or may not make it in the NFL is tenacious and a test of endurance.
Day 2 also provides the backdrop for one of my favorite combine anecdotes. As Tim Tebow was called to the podium, almost everyone in the assembled media jostled to get close to him and hoped he would pick them to ask one of the many generic questions he would give a non-answer to.
Then, as they were gathering around Tebow, a small-school receiver was called to a table just a few feet away. Thanks to a freelance obligation, I had to eschew the Tebow interview and sit at a table with former Detroit Lions beat reporter (now deceased) Tom Kowalski—a personal idol of mine—and interview Central Michigan's Antonio Brown. While most prospects will only give each reporter a question or two, Kowalski and I were able to get Brown's life story and then some.
It was a big moment in my early career, yes, but more importantly it's a reminder that the biggest names in the combine may not be the best NFL players. Moreover, the guys who don't make any buzz or intrigue any of the media may end up having perfectly fine careers.
Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M), Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson) and Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville) are the biggest prospect names who may find their way to the podium (pending availability) on Friday.
In terms of coaches and general managers, Green Bay Packers fans can look forward to both head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson holding court. The biggest crowd, however, will probably assemble for Denver Broncos vice president John Elway.
A full list of coach and personnel media availability can be found on the NFL communications website.
Player evaluations continue in the weight room as the offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists will gather for the bench press. It's worth noting that, since 2006, of the top five bench-press performances, three are free agents who have not had careers that matched their brute strength.
Scouts, however, aren't exactly looking for the strongest guys. No, they don't care as much as they bench press itself as what it can mean in terms of commitment to training. If a guy has functional strength on tape, that's enough, but if he comes into Indianapolis and doesn't show that same strength on the bench it could mean that he doesn't take training or the weight room very seriously.
This same group will also take the Wonderlic, as well as a second aptitude test that was first used last year. In many ways, like the bench press, this isn't about measuring someone's brain power. In fact, it's been difficult to find any correlation between Wonderlic scores and NFL success over the years. Luis DeLoureiro of Sports Illustrated wrote:
Enter the Wonderlic test -- the intelligence test given to almost all draft eligible players. Through the years, the Wonderlic has provided plenty of fodder for pre-draft discussion -- mostly resulting from an NFL-obsessed nation that clings to any and all offseason information.
But correlation between the Wonderlic and performance at the next level has been hard to achieve. In fact, depending on this test of intelligence to predict future NFL success is not very smart...
Bottom line: the Wonderlic makes for a nice conversation piece. But like everything involved with the draft, it's a very inexact science with little bearing on future NFL success.
It's not a deal-breaker or dream-maker for any player, but it's a piece of the overall puzzle—a way to complete the story of who a guy is. Football intelligence and IQ are not the same thing, and plenty of great players (even quarterbacks) do poorly on these tests yet can analyze a football play like no other.
Teams will be asking them to do that in the individual interview sessions throughout the week as well.
With workouts starting on Saturday, stay locked on to Bleacher Report for all of your combine coverage.
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