The NFL Scouting Combine is a week-long showcase occurring every February at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where college football players perform physical and mental tests in front of National Football League coaches, general managers, and scouts. With increasing interest in the NFL Draft, the scouting combine has grown in scope and significance, allowing personnel directors to evaluate upcoming prospects in a standardized setting. Its origins have evolved from the National, BLESTO, and Quadra Scouting organizations in 1977 to the media event it has become today.
Athletes attend by invitation only. An athlete’s performance during the combine can affect their draft status and salary, and ultimately their career. The draft has popularized the term workout warrior, whereby an athlete’s draft stock is increased based on superior measurable qualities such as size, speed, and strength, despite having an average or sub-par college career.
NFL Scouting Combine History
Tex Schramm, the president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1989, proposed to the NFL competition committee a centralization of the evaluation process for NFL teams. Prior to 1982, teams had to schedule individual visits with players to run them through drills and tests. The national invitational camp was first held in Tampa, Florida, in 1982. It was originated by National Football Scouting, Inc. as a means for member organizations to look at NFL draft prospects. For non-member teams, two other camps were created and used 1982–1984.
In a typical year, there are about 330 invited players. About 250 invitations are sent before bowl games are completed to those who have completed their seasons. However, underclassmen have until mid-January to confirm their draft status. Invitations are made to those receiving supermajority support from the selection committee.
Sports writer Steve Silverman explains, in an article he wrote, what happened to Terrell Suggs in 2003. Suggs was a star player for Arizona State but when Suggs ran a slow 4.83 40 he was downgraded. Later, he became a star player for the Ravens. Doug Tatum of Times-Picayune argues that it is unlikely players will be asked to run a 40-yard dash again during their career. Silverman says that the best way to scout is to simply watch them play.
The NFL scouting combine was first shown on television in 2004. Media and cameras were historically prohibited, but with the launch of NFL Network on November 4, 2003, six installments of one-hour shows to recap the day’s events aired in February 2004. NFL Network aired two hours of combine workouts for each workout day in 2005, 26 total hours of coverage in 2006, 27 hours in 2007, and 25 hours in 2009. It began airing over 30 hours of Combine coverage starting in 2010, which received 5.24 million viewers.
Beginning in 2011, a series of eleven regional combines for players not invited to the main scouting combine, as well as other free agents, were held in eight cities from January to March. The best players from these regional combines were invited to the NFL super regional combine at Ford Field in Detroit in late March. In 2016, the NFL went away from this format only holding five Combines in Houston, Arizona, Baltimore, Minnesota and New Orleans.
The first NFL Veteran Combine was scheduled on March 22, 2015 at the Arizona Cardinals’ team facility. The combine corresponded with the NFL owners’ meetings also being held in Phoenix from March 22–24, 2015. The combine featured veteran free agents, and all 32 clubs in attendance. There were over 2,000 applications from players to participate, although only a select few were chosen. Some of the notable players included Adam Carriker, Felix Jones, Michael Sam, and Brady Quinn. However, only two players participating in the combine were still on NFL rosters by Week 1 of the 2015 regular season.
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