Football Terms – Indianapolis Combine
The NFL Combine is held in late February every year, and this is a several days event held in Indianapolis where the NFL teams gather the top 200 or so players for tests. These tests include 40-times, vertical jumping, strength tests, height and weight tests, IQ testing and interviews.
While teams already have ideas about where a player goes on their draft board due to extensive live scouting and film scouting, the NFL Combine changes perceptions on a number of players every year. Certain players move up and down the NFL draft board due to what is seen at the Indianapolis combine.
Some players come to the draft combine out of shape or injures, and therefore their workouts may be disappointing. Others have impressive workouts which help them rise in the rankings. Scouts and coaches sometimes complain about "workout warriors" who test well, but can’t play when it comes game time. This works both ways. I’ll use two examples.
Workout Warriors – LaDainian Tomlinson
Ladainian Tomlinson came to the 2001 NFL Combine as the running back with the best numbers in college football that year. But because he played for the TCU Horned Frogs in a lesser conference, most teams had him rated as a late 1st round or early 2nd round selection.
When LT ran his 40 yard dash at the combine, though, he ran a 4.3 40 time, which is considered blazing speed. Suddenly, Tomlinson’s college numbers took on a new light, because he projected as a potential star on the NFL level. LT2 rocketed up draft boards and was selected 5th overall.
Workout Warrior – Kyle Boller
Kyle Boller had an average college career capped off with a stellar senior season. His arm strength and mobility were thought to be 1st round potential, but the talent had not really translated to production throughout most of his college career. He was considered a last 1st, early 2nd round talent.
But on his workout for pro scouts (He skipped some of the workouts at the NFL Combine in lieu of a private workout, which happens with certain star players.) At the workout, Kyle Boller decided to show his arm strength. Boller got on his knees at the 50-yard line and threw the ball through the uprights from midfield. This was a feat the scouts had never seen, and Boller rocketed up the draft board. Kyle Boller was drafted 9th overall.
Of course, Ladainian Tomlinson has gone on to become one of the NFL’s best producers, perhaps its best overall player at any position and certainly the #1 running back these past few years. Though he had a great draft combine, LT ended up being more than a workout warrior.
Kyle Boller, on the other hand, has shown to be a classic workout warrior. He has arm strength, but his inaccuracy and bad decisions have kept Boller from ever becoming a solid NFL starting quarterback. The game seems to move too fast for him, and therefore Kyle Boller, despite his obvious athletic talents, is prone to turnover the ball too often.
As they say,
NFL scouting is an art — not a science. Of course, there’s a lot of science to it. NFC Scouts and GMs try to collect as much data as possible. They look at every game tape their is on a player. They test him in every way possible, to get his "measurables".
They do extensive background checks, to see what his personal past and criminal record shows. They talk to former coaches and teammates to see about the player’s work ethic, leadership and team skills. In the end, though, NFL front offices are guessing if a 20-year old kid has what it takes to play in the National Football League, or if that 20 year old will continue to be motivated to improve and learn after receiving million of dollars.
The NFL Combine is a part of this process, though only one part of the process. These days, football fans can watch large portions of the NFL Combine on the NFL Network, so you can see what it’s all about in the comfort of your own living room.