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Changes ahead for the NFL Combine

NFL: Super Bowl LIV- NFL Experience Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As we head into NFL Combine, we want to keep you posted on some changes that will apply to the event this year and ones that may be coming in the future. Credit to Kalyn Kahler of Sports Illustrated for gathering a lot of the information.

Keep in mind that the Combine schedules have changed drastically. In particular, the workouts and television schedule have expanded to be an all day affair. If you like watching the players go through workouts, those have moved from late morning to the evening.

Thursday, February 27th 4-11 PM ET: QB, WR and TE
Friday, February 28th 4-11 PM ET: OL, RB, PK, ST
Saturday, February 29th 4-11 PM ET: DL, LB
Sunday, March 1st 2-7 PM ET: DB

As you might expect, these changes to the television and workout schedules come at a cost. One of the costs will be born by NFL teams who have historically utilized all 60 of their eligible interview slots to have deeper discussions with their priority prospects. The number of spots available to each team this year will be down to 45.

From the SI story:

“Even though it’s only 15 minutes, it’s the only opportunity to get the decision makers in a room with those guys,” one scout said. “15 less guys to be face-to-face with. That’s a big deal.”

How much this will impact team plans for who to will attend is not fully known. Kahler’s interviews at least gave the impression that not all team staffs are particularly pleased with the changes.

Privately, several scouts expressed concerns that the NFL has taken the combine too far in aiming to profit off of it. In the effort to amp up the combine and make it a more entertaining and lucrative product, the event is becoming increasingly less user-friendly for the club staff who were the original purpose for the combine.

The other area that could see considerable change as the Combine evolves is the individual drills. The bench press has been a part of the Combine for over 30 years but is no longer considered to be a particularly value piece of data. Jeff Foster, president of National Football Scouting, Inc., the organization that puts on the combine, said:

...the committee had discussions about replacing it with a pure strength test that would better project to functional football strength—something like pull-ups, or having players push and throw medicine balls that have an accelerometer inside (a drill like this would measure the amount of force a player can generate by shoving with his hands, a genuine football move).

There are likely some intriguing ideas for alternatives to the bench press or even the 40-yard dash. It sounds like scouts are becoming increasingly interested in seeing the event evolve.

“The majority of the combine drills are antiquated and have limited relevance,” one veteran scout says. “If we want to evolve, sure, there will be a gap of time without the ability to compare current to past, but we need to focus more on the future.”

For some scouts, these changes have been a long time coming. So much time is spent throughout the year evaluating players by their film or attending games. The time spent in Indianapolis each winter is extremely valuable as it gives these road warriors a chance to test athletes in very specific ways and complete their evaluations. This ability isn’t just important to the teams but to the players as well. If changes could make this event more useful, they should happen.

Hopefully more of these changes are made with the sport, teams and players in mind and less of them are made to simply fill prime television slots.