Call it a meat market, a talent show, or a job fair. By whatever name, the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis is one of the NFL’s prime events for teams to meet, test and evaluate players and give them physical exams.
There is more to it than what is recorded by stopwatches, tape-measures, sprints and weight-lifting.
What are some highlights that can be expected in the combine this week?
Mike: The two drills that always stand out are the 40-yard dash and the bench press – who can run the fastest and lift the most? Those are the drills that people can relate to the most because of how speed and strength relates to performance on the field.
The media interviews are always interesting. Sometimes players have a story to tell, or an incident – or two or three – to explain. There’s no hiding at the Combine. Teams have done background checks on players, and they want them to come clean on any negative incidents.
There have been some memorable moments over the years, and there are sure to be more this year.
Tim: The Combine is the epicenter of the NFL world for the next five or six days. Every coach, GM and scout is in one place at one time and they’re surrounded by a lot of the future stars in this league.
The 40 times and bench press are important, but teams will tell you the interview process, and certainly the medical evaluations, are even more important.
There are players that get taken off the board completely by what they say in an interview or what shows up on an MRI.
What position group workouts are you most looking forward to?
Mike: Wide receiver and defensive back – cornerback and safety -- are the ones I want to see because that’s where the Lions should focus for immediate help. Receiver is supposed to be a deep position, and they always light up the board with their times in the 40.
The player I want to see is Johnny Manziel, and how he plays to the media – whether he’ll be his typically brash self, or if he’ll tone it down to try to make a more conservative impression. I want to see brash.
Tim: I, too, will be very interested in the receivers. More specifically the workout of Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and USC’s Marqise Lee. I’m not confident Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, the best receiver in the class, will be available to the Lions at No. 10. Will Evans and Lee prove they should be considered at No. 10? Can they outshine Watkins?
I’m always interested in the linebacker workouts, too. Can players like Buffalo’s Khalil Mack and UCLA’s Anthony Barr, who were primarily rushing linebacker in college, play in space off the line of scrimmage and fit into a 4-3 scheme the Lions run?
It’ll start to become clearer who’s a 3-4 outside linebacker, who’s a 4-3 outside linebacker and who’s a 4-3 defensive end over the next few days.
I have to admit I’m interested in seeing Jadeveon Clowney (6-6, 274) try to run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash that he predicted, too.
With agents and general managers in such close proximity over the next few days there’s always a chance for the Lions get a deal done with one of their own free agents.
Is that scenario likely?
Mike: If there’s a deal to be made, why not the big one? Either extend
Would you do it?
Better yet, do you think the Lions would do it?
Tim: I’d like to see a long-term deal get done between the Lions and Suh that’s fair to both parties. Geno Atkins (5 years, $55 million) and Haloti Ngata (5 years, $60 million) set the benchmark. That should be the range the Lions are willing to go.
If Suh wants to break contract records, well, the Lions aren’t in a position to pay record money to a defensive tackle with
But that’s just me.
I’m not sure a long-term deal for Suh can get done so quick (timeframe of the Combine) with him having just hired a new agent and all. I could, however, see the Lions locking up a player like
Make it happen for Bell.
Mike: It looks like Suh’s negotiations are going to be an extended drama, but in fairness to him, he has made no comment. All the talk and speculation has come from the media.
Bell’s deal will get done. I don’t see that as a question mark. He produced for the Lions, and he wants to stay in Detroit.
But back to the Combine. There’s always one story that outshines the others. Which one will it be this year?
Tim: Like Tim Tebow and Manti Te’o before him, Missouri’s Michael Sam could set the Combine record for media members attending his podium session. It seems like the kid can handle it, but it’s the first time since the announcement that he’s gay that he’ll have to stand up and take all questions. This won’t be a controlled ESPN environment. No doubt he’ll dominate the headlines when the linebackers/defensive ends get to Indianapolis.
Manziel and Clowney will get a lot of publicity too, and there’s always a few stories out there no one expects from the workouts.
The Combine is a lot of work and it’s a frenzied five days, but if you like football, and you cover it for a living, there’s no place better to be.