Breaking down the NFL Scouting Combine
February 25, 2002
By Gil Brandt
Special to

To say that the NFL Combine is a gathering of the top college players from around the country might be an understatement. Simply put, it is the elite, the cream of the crop, the best of the best.

Here is perhaps the perfect example of what a terrific job combine organizer Gene Babb does in selecting the right players to attend this annual gathering in Indianapolis: Of the 246 players who were taken in last year's draft, only 30 were not invited to the combine. None of the non-invitees were drafted higher than the fourth round.

And so, less than a month after the conclusion of the 2001 NFL season, the league turns its attention to the combine. This year's gathering takes place March 1-4 in Indianapolis. And while teams have already been quite active in preparing for the 2002 NFL Draft, the combine traditionally kicks off the beginning of NFL draft-mania.

There are several reasons why the combine has become such an important part of the draft process. Among them:

1. All 32 teams get to watch the prospects in an equal setting, under the same conditions.

2. Owners, general managers and coaches have the opportunity to see most everyone who will be drafted -- all in one place, within a four-day period. There will be plenty of flying around the country for individual workouts in the weeks to come, but the combine is "one-stop shopping."

3. The combine is just another means of helping teams make good decisions, and the escalating cost of signing first-round draft picks makes the decision-making process all the more crucial. Teams spent a total of $160 million on signing bonuses for last year's first-round picks. They want to make sure they know what they're doing.

The genesis of the combine took place in 1977, when the workouts were conducted by three separate scouting services -- National, Blesto and Quadra. The system was streamlined even further in 1984, when the workouts were moved to one site. The combine is an invite-only event, closed to all but invited players and NFL team officials.

Of course, the combine continues to attract more media every year. There will be well over 100 writers on hand, plus radio and TV crews. They're not allowed to watch the workouts that take place in the RCA Dome, but there is a special interview room set up adjacent to the stadium for players to meet the press after workouts.

The combine schedule

There are 333 NFL prospects invited to this year's combine -- the most since 1993. They will descend upon Indianapolis Thursday afternoon, and here's what will take place:

Players stay at a hotel within walking distance of the RCA Dome. After dinner on Thursday, they will get a brief orientation on how to conduct themselves in the coming weeks (after the draft, rookies will have a three-day seminar that expands on life in the NFL).

At 7:30 Friday morning, the first group of players -- offensive line and kickers -- heads to the RCA Dome for measurements. The physicals begin at 8:15. All 32 teams have trainers and medical staff present. After that, there are two taped interviews. The first is not exactly an interview, but an opportunity to videotape the player for body build. The second is a 10-minute interview in which players are asked about their background, their goals, etc.

At 1 p.m., players are tested for strength -- scouts record how many times they can bench-press 225 pounds. After that, they take the Wunderlic test, which some teams use to evaluate a player's intelligence.

After dinner, players make their way through the first floor of the hotel, where all 32 teams have their own rooms set up for player interviews, psychological testing and simple "meet-and-greets." The team officials are well-stocked with hats, shorts and other team apparel to entice players to stop in and visit with them -- last year's hot items were team backpacks. By the time the players leave Indy, they probably have about 50 extra pounds worth of NFL souvenirs.

Saturday morning, the first group returns to the RCA Dome for speed and agility testing. They'll run 40-yard dashes, do jumping drills and position-specific football drills.

By noon Saturday, the first group will be on its way home. The combine will be over, but the workouts, interviews and training leading up to the draft (April 20-21) is just beginning.


With the combine already in full swing in Indianapolis, Gil Brandt will check in with some daily news and notes.

Friday: Players started arriving on Thursday at around noon to a very cold Indianapolis. My first impression was there weren't any guys out of shape; everyone was in really, really good shape.

As an example, RB Damien Anderson of Northwestern said he was going to run, said it was important to run and he was going to. Every guy looked like they were in optimum condition. DeShaun Foster of UCLA appeared to be in very good shape. Boston College RB William Green also looked good; T.J. Duckett out of Michigan State looked in great shape. All seemed to be at minimum weight. Maybe Duckett was 240 but the guy looked svelte.

As for offensive linemen, if there is a congeniality award, Texas tackle Mike Williams wins it. He's a giant of a man with a pleasing personality. In looking at films, people have started seeing the hustle play that he made on an interception play vs. Colorado in the Big 12 championship game. It was a great play that saved a touchdown.

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