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Cover 3: What to look for at Scouting Combine


Three writers discuss what they will be looking for at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.

John Schmeelk: The most important aspects of the combine are the things media and fans don't see. It's what happens in those MRI machines and on those training tables when teams get their hands on these players and evaluate them medically for the first time. More than anything else, medical reports cause players to move up and down boards. Staying healthy and on the field is a valued attribute in the NFL.

Then there are the player interviews with coaches and front offices. Teams put players on the white board to test their football intelligence and get a better feel for who they are as people. It can be difficult to evaluate how a player will be impacted by becoming a highly paid professional. Money can change people in unexpected ways. Interviews help teams figure that out.

As for the testing, the combine is a huge cross-check operation. The key is for the times that each player puts on the board in testing to match what they showed on tape during the football season. It's the players who put up outlier numbers that draw the most attention. Keep an eye out for those.

The easiest drills to value are the 40 yard dashes for the skill position players (especially wide receivers) and defensive backs. I also like to watch the agility drills like the 3-cone and short shuttle drills to see how players move side to side and change direction. The NFL is a change of direction league, which often creates separation between players at all levels of the field.

Dan Salomone: While I am not in the scouting business, I am in the writing business -- and business is a-boomin' for all of us in Indianapolis. For the last few months, all we've heard about is Joe Burrow, Chase Young, Isaiah Simmons, Jeff Okudah, Jedrick Wills and on and on and on. Now we get to see and hear from them in person, and then bring you their stories. When you look at the mock drafts, all you get is a sentence or two on the prospect. Now, you can expect to get a lot more. All the information will confirm or debunk what you previously thought.

Additionally, we will hear from head coach Joe Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman on Tuesday. This is the season of playing things close to the vest, but they will offer a State of the Giants address at a critical point in the offseason. The draft is obviously the main topic at the combine, but free agency will sneak up quickly. In fact, the day they talk is the first day clubs can designate franchise or transition tags. Who knows? Maybe we get some news. Either way, will bring you robust coverage from one of the biggest checkpoints in the NFL calendar.

Lance Medow: The combine is a complementary piece to the player's resume, which was composed on the field throughout his collegiate career. A few days of workouts shouldn't trump a much bigger sample size of work from games, especially since players don't wear any pads during the combine. I look for players who showcase versatility in the workouts. It's not about wowing everyone in the marquee event (40-yard dash) but about whether they're successful during various drills. You want to find well-rounded players, not an individual who flashes in only one area. It's important to see that their production during drills without pads or helmets equals or even surpasses what they have accomplished on the field. For example, if a player showcases great speed in games, you expect to see that reflected in the 40-yard dash, or if a player appears to have impressive ups, then that should show up in the vertical jump.

To me, the most important facet of the combine is what you actually don't see on television. That's what takes place in the face-to-face meetings with team executives. More often than not, you learn a lot about a player off the field more so than what happens between the lines. The mental side of football is just as key as the physical aspects. How a player reacts to schemes and understands the X's and O's of football is the biggest takeaway from the combine, not necessarily the stats he posts during a few drills.


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