NFL Confirms Changes to 2021 Scouting Combine Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2021

Florida Atlantic defensive back James Pierre runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The NFL will stage its 2021 scouting combine in a "different format" amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ditching the in-person workouts and interviews at the events and making them virtual.

On Monday, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero shared a memo from the league about the move. The NFL said it will have incoming draftees work out at their individual schools:

Flying a bunch of prospects and team personnel to one central location presented obvious logistical problems for the NFL.

The NCAA made things more difficult when it laid out plans to stage the entire 2021 men's basketball tournament in and around Indianapolis. That basically took the option of delaying the combine off the table since Indianapolis would be unavailable for the entirety of March and the start of April.

Last Friday, The MMQB's Albert Breer reported how this year's event "won't look like any combine has before," laying out the various changes that were likely in store.

In general, this won't be a significant departure from the buildup to the 2020 NFL draft.

The combine went ahead as scheduled because the pandemic had yet to gain a significant foothold in the United States. Then last March, the NFL prohibited team personnel from attending workouts or conducting in-person interviews.

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The league has yet to make a determination about whether team representatives can travel to a school's pro day this time around. That could potentially alleviate one concern coaches and executives could have about judging a player's workout on tape.

Arguing about the utility of the scouting combine seems like an annual exercise. Performing well or badly in drills doesn't necessarily indicate how a player will perform in the NFL.

This year will be a good indicator as to how much the combine aids in the overall evaluation process.