Today marks the start of the NFL Combine and it means that draft season is entirely underway. The combine is a place for prospective players to show off their athletic ability, while also allowing teams to have a closer look at the top candidates. Click here for the full schedule, but here's the basic line-up:
Day 1 (2/22): Group 1 (PK, ST, OL), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (TE)
Day 2 (2/23): Group 4 (QB, WR), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (RB)
Day 3 (2/24): Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB)
Day 4 (2/25): Group 10 (DB), Group 11 (DB)
First Day: Registration, Hospital Exam/X-Rays, Orientation, Interviews
Second Day: Measurements, Medical Exams, Media, Psychological Testing, Interviews
Third Day: NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, PK/ST Work-out*, Interviews
Fourth Day: Work Out (Timing, Skills, Stations), Departure
* - Only Day 1 Arrivals
As you can see, all four days are extremely important for front offices. Serious injuries or conditions of players like the Patriots T Marcus Cannon can be revealed on the first three days as doctors run tests to ensure the health of every participant. Whether it's physical, or mental, teams will know about it after the first three days.
Day four is what gets the attention from most fans. Looking at the events, we can see which players have NFL-caliber athleticism and we can also see which players might fall down the rankings.
Here's a list of the events and what they show:
40 Yard Dash - Straight line speed. Also important to note the 10 yard and the 20 yard splits. Players like LB Brandon Spikes fall in the draft because their measurables don't match-up with their on-field production. However, an above-average 40 time is key to almost every position in the league (other than OG and QB). That's right- Al Davis might not have been too wrong when picking speed demons.
Bench Press - Pure strength. A glamor event, the reality holds that very few positions actually care about elite strength. Center remains the only position where an elite bench press is key to the success of the player. An elite score will just inflate the value of the player. At best, it shows the potential physical endurance of a lineman.
Vertical Jump - Lower body explosion in a vertical sense. Not very useful, unless the player is expected to be jumping a lot. Elite CBs, WRs, and pass catching TEs will excel in this event. For other positions, the importance of this event lessens. Look for the Patriots to pay attention to the stars in this event.
Broad Jump - Lower body explosion in a horizontal sense. Extremely useful when gauging the closing speed and bursts of players. Key for CBs as they have to close in on the receiver, TEs and WRs as they burst from the line to gain separation, and RBs as it establishes the ability to get through the hole for additional yardage. DE/OLBs can also benefit as the event shows the ability to attack the line of scrimmage.
3 Cone - Change of direction ability. Key to many roles. CBs must have elite 3 cones to stick with receivers, DLs must be able to cut through traffic, OGs must be able to direct traffic and pull block, and WRs must be able to shake defenders. Key for many positions and the Patriots favorite drill to examine.
Shuttle - Lateral quickness. Important for Cs and OGs who must help block, as well as DLs who must avoid the blocks to either turn the corner or set the edge. CBs and LBs must also excel in order to move in space to make plays on the ball carrier.
Keep in mind that these drills are just pieces of the puzzle. It's important to compare these numbers to how they play on the field to determine the player's real ability and potential.