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Football 101: NFL Scouting Combine

The annual NFL Scouting Combine is the best way for teams to gauge the prospects on their list for the upcoming draft. It’s usually a week long event, this year running from Feb. 22-28.

Since the combine is by invitation only, and also since some players choose not to participate or only do so in some drills, there are also individual pro days. Those are held after the combine and before the NFL draft. Whether it’s during the combine itself or at a pro day, this is the time to make your best impression on potential suitors for your NFL career.  They get tested, poked, prodded, evaluated, and basically gone over with a fine tooth comb by trainers and coaches from all 32 teams.

Below is a listing of what the basic drills are and some helpful links explaining in greater detail the purpose of the drills by position.

40-yard dash
The 40-yard dash is the marquee event at the combine. It’s kind of like the 100-meters at the Olympics: It’s all about speed; explosion and watching skilled athletes run great times. These athletes are timed at 10, 20 and 40-yard intervals. What the scouts are looking for is an explosion from a static start.

Bench press
The bench press is a test of strength — 225 pounds, as many reps as the athlete can get. What the NFL scouts are also looking for is endurance. Anybody can do a max one time, but what the bench press tells the pro scouts is how often the athlete frequented his college weight room for the last 3-5 years.

Vertical jump
The vertical jump is all about lower-body explosion and power. The athlete stands flat-footed and they measure his reach. It is important to accurately measure the reach, because the differential between the reach and the flag the athlete touches is his vertical jump measurement.

Broad jump
The broad jump is like being in gym class back in junior high school. Basically, it is testing an athlete’s lower-body explosion and lower-body strength. The athlete starts out with a stance balanced and then he explodes out as far as he can. It tests explosion and balance, because he has to land without moving.

3 cone drill
The 3 cone drill tests an athlete’s ability to change directions at a high speed. Three cones in an L-shape. He starts from the starting line, goes 5 yards to the first cone and back. Then, he turns, runs around the second cone, runs a weave around the third cone, which is the high point of the L, changes directions, comes back around that second cone and finishes.

Shuttle run
The short shuttle is the first of the cone drills. It is known as the 5-10-5. What it tests is the athlete’s lateral quickness and explosion in short areas. The athlete starts in the three-point stance, explodes out 5 yards to his right, touches the line, goes back 10 yards to his left, left hand touches the line, pivot, and he turns 5 more yards and finishes.
Positional Drills consists of specific drills for each position which is more defined and gives scouts a better evaluation for that player.

Listing of each individual position drill, click here.’s Mike Mayock explains each drill using video, very handy!

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