February 24, 2020
The combine has been around for almost 40 years; with data entry specialists probably plugging heights, weights and 40 times.
What began in 1982 as an organized method of obtaining detailed medical information on potential NFL draft picks in an economic and convenient way has turned into a television show. And this year, for the first time, it will be a primetime television show, 163 prospects took part in the inaugural combine in 1982.
The on-field workouts will run Thursday through Sunday, as clusters of positions go a five-day stir fry.
There will be more eyeballs on the league’s annual gathering of top college talent but fewer assistant coaches watching those prospects run through drills that have been tailored by position and more accurately mimic what they’ll be doing in the NFL.
“Point-blank, it’s about the eyeballs,” NFL Network VP of Production Charlie Yook told NFL.com. “We should get a larger consumption of the Combine in all platforms. This is no different than moving the first round of the draft to Thursday primetime, and moving a weekly game to Thursday night during the season. Thursday night is a football night.”
The Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams, two teams that missed the playoffs last season, are leaving their assistants behind this year, figuring their staffs can watch the on-field drills on broadcasts and review taped interviews without having to fly to Indianapolis.
The decisions save upwards of $50,000 per team, but at what cost?
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, for one, isn’t a big fan of the Rams and Broncos not bringing their full staffs and personnel departments.
“The one thing that’s interesting, I’ve read all these stories about people leaving personnel at home and coaches not coming to the combine. And I don’t know how I feel about that because I think when you get a chance to be around the players, as many opportunities as you can get a chance to be around them and be in the room with them when you interview them, I think there’s value in that,” Jeremiah said.
The bench press has been one of the combine components since at least 1985, but many NFL evaluators don’t take it seriously as an indicator of football strength. The bench press is an endurance strength test, and Foster says the committee had discussions about replacing it with a pure strength test that would better project to functional football strength—something like pull-ups, or having players push and throw medicine balls that have an accelerometer inside (a drill like this would measure the amount of force a player can generate by shoving with his hands, a genuine football move).
I polled a handful of scouts on the purpose of the bench press. They all agreed that it doesn’t translate to the field and is only useful when comparing current prospects to past players. Many scouts view the bench press as just a number to reference. It shows NFL teams how much time a prospect spends in the weight room, but not whether that endurance strength will help a wide receiver beat press coverage. Scouts evaluate functional strength live during games or practice and on tape.
The bench press will still be a part of this year’s combine, but Foster says they are considering eliminating it in the future to modernize and make sure that each component of the combine is applicable to football.
Click HERE for the full schedule from Jordan Reid’ Twitter feed.