Pro football hopefuls face big test of their talents: NFL Combine

Participation in the NFL Combine is considered a crucial step toward a professional football career. Key events include the 40-yard dash, bench press, and Wonderlic Test.

Darron Cummings/AP
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton responds to a question at a news conference during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis on Saturday, Feb. 26.
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Mississippi State offensive lineman Derek Sherrod runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011.

The 2011 NFL Combine is underway at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Personnel from all 32 NFL teams are on hand to judge this year’s potential draft class. Scouts and team personnel will be taking notes in preparation for the NFL draft, which will be held at the end of April. Over three hundred amateur football players have been invited to demonstrate their abilities on and off the field.

The combine kicked off on Thursday and is scheduled to run through Tuesday. Saturday’s drills focused on offensive lineman, tight ends, and kickers. Sunday’s events will be centered on quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. The action is televised live on the NFL Network.

The marquee event at the combine is the 40-yard dash. An unexpected result can significantly alter a prospect's draft position. A poor showing could possibly leave fringe players without a deal at the end of April. In the 40-yard dash, teams are looking for speed and explosion. Athletes are timed at 10, 20, and 40 yards. Although the 40 yard total time is the most often cited stat in the media, scouts are also evaluating an athlete’s ability to start from a stationary position, or explode off the line.

Another event closely monitored by NFL teams is the bench press. The task is simple: bench press 225 pounds as many times as possible. The bench press is a common measure of strength, yet a key metric besides strength, is stamina. Most NFL-worthy prospects can press far greater amounts one or two times. But scouts also use this exercise to judge a player’s dedication in the gym throughout the years.

One of the more notorious assessments at the NFL Combine is the Wonderlic Test. After being handled like cattle for a day the prospects get to put their brains to work. The test is an intelligence exam that is designed to quantify cognitive ability. Quarterbacks have the most to lose here as they are expected to score high, but the test has less bearing on the outcome for other players. Results are undisclosed. But a few key scores inevitably surface, creating fodder for the sports media.

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