The NFL’s annual pre-draft meat market gets underway this week at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. Here’s everything you need to know heading into the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine:
WHAT’S CHANGED THIS YEAR?
A whole lot, actually. In an effort to boost TV viewership, the first three days of combine workouts will be held in primetime for the first time this year. Coverage will begin at 4 p.m. ET on NFL Network on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday. Here’s a rundown of which positional groups will hit the field each day:
Thursday: Quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends
Friday: Running backs, offensive linemen, special teams
Saturday: Linebackers, defensive linemen
Sunday: Defensive backs
In previous years, workouts ran from Friday through Monday and were held in the morning and early afternoon.
While the core combine exercises will remain the same (more on those in a moment), the position-specific portions of player workouts have been revamped. Sixteen new drills will be introduced this year, and 10 used in previous years have been eliminated. Many of these positional drills also will be timed for the benefit of the TV-viewing audience, according to a report from The MMQB.
WHAT ARE THE DRILLS?
During their on-field workout, draft prospects will take part in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, 60-yard shuttle and various position-specific drills. Off the field, they’ll be weighed and measured, undergo medical and psychological evaluations, interview with teams, complete the Wonderlic test and bench-press 225 pounds as many times as possible. It’s not uncommon for players to sit out one or more of these drills for various reasons.
In most cases, prospects also will speak with reporters two days before their on-field testing. We’ll hear from the tight ends first beginning at 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS TO WATCH?
The notable combine attendee is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Alabama phenom who suffered a season-ending hip injury in November. Tagovailoa won’t participate in any drills in Indy, but his medical evaluation will be crucial. If no issues arise, he’ll likely be a top-five pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
As for the actual combine participants, all eyes will be on a wide receiver group that’s considered the deepest the league has seen in years. Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III are the headliners, but draft experts are predicting as many as 30 wideouts could come off the board in the first three rounds — an absurdly high number. Just 13 receivers went in Rounds 1 through 3 last year.
The New England Patriots’ draft needs won’t become clear until after the first wave of free agency, but they currently need help at tight end, receiver, defensive tackle, interior offensive line, edge rusher, linebacker, safety and potentially kicker.
New England also could draft another quarterback if Bill Belichick and his staff aren’t completely sold on 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham. Utah State’s Jordan Love, Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Washington’s Jacob Eason have been mentioned as potential Patriots targets.
WHEN DO COACHES AND GMs SPEAK?
After a month or two of public silence, the combine features the first offseason media availability for most coaches and general managers. Forty-seven of them are scheduled to address reporters on Tuesday, according to the latest NFL release, with three more doing so on Wednesday.
At least one representative from nearly every team will field questions in Indy, with three exceptions: the shot-callers for the Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills are not scheduled to meet the media. So, if you’re hoping to hear Bill Belichick’s or Nick Caserio’s take on this pivotal Patriots offseason, you’ll be out of luck.
Many coaches with Patriots ties will be available, however, including Tennesse’s Mike Vrabel, Detroit’s Matt Patricia, Houston’s Bill O’Brien, Miami’s Brian Flores and Joe Judge of the New York Giants.
WHAT ELSE GOES ON AT THE COMBINE?
The prospect evaluations are the main draw, but the combine also turns Indianapolis into the center of the NFL universe. Coaches, GMs, scouts, agents and media members spend the week hobnobbing in convention center halls, hotel lobbies, steakhouses and late-night bars, kicking up a tornado of rumors and speculation. Basically, it’s the Super Bowl of NFL gossip.
We typically hear updates on impending free agents and potential trade candidates during combine week, so keep an eye out for news on quarterback Tom Brady, who’s set to hit the open market next month for the first time in his storied Patriots career.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images