The next four days are worth millions of dollars for a few dozen players in Indianapolis. The NFL draft combine runs Thursday through Sunday, and more than 300 of the most-hyped prospects will be in attendance for a series of workouts and interviews.
It’s not all about 40-yard dash times, high jumps and cone drills, which earn the ire of many. The important stuff happens on the field with position-specific drills as well as the backroom interviews where the players convince coaches and scouting departments that they’ve got the mental capacity to understand the pro game and the maturity to handle the life of a millionaire.
This isn’t the end-all, be-all for these prospects, but it serves as a formal introduction. In the next two months, interested teams can schedule private meetings and workouts that will likely carry more weight in the draft scouting process.
But for now, let’s take a look at the combine’s schedule and a highlight of the measurable workouts.
Workouts for offensive linemen, kickers, punters, long snappers and tight ends
Highlighted participants: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo, Villanova offensive lineman Ben Ijalana, Colorado tackle Nate Solder, Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey, Penn State interior lineman Stefan Wisniewski, Tulsa tight end Charles Clay, Wisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks, Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker, Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams
Workouts for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers
Highlighted participants: TCU quarterback Andrew Dalton, Delaware quarterback Patrick Devlin, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Washington quarterback Jake Locker, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter, Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray, Kansas State running back Daniel Hunter, Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams, Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure, Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, Boise State wide receiver Titus Young, Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin
Workouts for defensive linemen and linebackers
Highlighted participants: Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, California defensive end Cameron Jordan, Purdue defensive end/outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget, North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn, Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, Temple defensive end Muhammad Wilerson, Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor, UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers, North Carolina linebacker Bruce Carter, Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, Georgia linebacker Justin Houston, Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones, Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews, Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller
Workouts for defensive backs
Highlighted participants: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, Miami cornerback Brandon Harris, Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, UCLA safety Rahim Moore
The fast guys will brag about this event throughout their careers. Players make money by running better than a 4.4.
Players try to max out their reps at 225 pounds. Scouts want to see how strong players are, particularly linemen and linebackers, because they can measure how hard they’ve been working out since the end of the college season. They also want to know who has the willpower to keep going.
Players stand flat-footed and jump straight in the air, knocking aside a set of bars to measure their peak reach. It’s a way to show explosion, but other than that, it’s a weird workout.
Players stand flat-footed and jump forward as far as possible, and they’re supposed to land in a balanced position. You know, because that happens so often during games.
Players show their quickness moving in different directions, which is important for cornerbacks. For instance, some believe LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is the best player in the draft class, but one knock is his quickness, despite his exceptional raw speed. This drill could actually validate his candidacy as a top-five pick.
This is similar to the cone drill, but it’s more about lateral movement, which makes it a little more important for the linebackers who can show how quickly they can move side to side in a similar range that they might take while reading a play.