The most anticipated event in the lead up to the NFL Draft is the Scouting Combine held every year at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The 2019 edition officially begins on Tuesday, February 26th, with the arrival of the first groups of players out of the 300+ prospects who will be gathering for the week-long job interview.
All the details about the combine and how you can watch coverage of it are below...
NFL Network will be airing combine content all week. It will dominate their general programming like NFL Total Access, and official combine coverage will start with press conferences and interviews on Wednesday.
Here is the NFL Network combine program schedule* by day:
*All times below listed in Central Standard Time
Wednesday, Feb 27, 12:00PM - 4:00PM — Press Conferences with GMs/coaches and Player Interviews on “Path to the Draft.”
Thursday, Feb 28, 12:00PM - 4:00PM — Press Conferences with GMs/coaches and Player Interviews on “Path to the Draft.”
Friday, March 1, 8:00AM — On-field workouts for special teams, offensive line, and running backs. NFL Network will re-air the day’s events in the evening.
Saturday, March 2, 9:00AM — On-field workouts for quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. NFL Network will re-air the day’s events in the evening.
Sunday, March 3, 8:00AM — On-field workouts for defensive line and linebackers. NFL Network will re-air the day’s events in the evening.
Monday, March 4, 8:00AM — On-field workouts for cornerbacks and safeties. NFL Network will re-air the day’s events in the evening.
On Saturday at 12:00PM, ABC will have two hours of combine coverage of their own for the quarterback and wide receiver on-field workouts.
2019 NFL Combine Schedule
Tuesday, Feb 26 — Arrival, orientation, and interviews for special teams, offensive line, and running backs.
Wednesday, Feb 27 — Arrival, orientation, and interviews for quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. Measurements, medical exams, and interviews for special teams, offensive line, and runnings backs.
Thursday, Feb 28 — Arrival, orientation, and interviews for defensive line and linebackers. Measurements, medical exams, and interviews for quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. Bench press, media time, and Wonderlic testing for special teams, offensive line, and running backs.
Friday, March 1 — Arrival, orientation, and interviews for cornerbacks and safeties. Measurements, medical exams, and interviews for defensive line and linebackers. Bench press, media time, and Wonderlic testing for quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. On-field workouts for special teams, offensive line, and running backs.
Saturday, March 2 — Measurements, medical exams, and interviews for cornerbacks and safeties. Bench press, media time, and Wonderlic testing for defensive line and linebackers. On-field workouts for quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends.
Sunday, March 3 — Bench press, media time, and Wonderlic testing for cornerbacks and safeties. On-field workouts for defensive line and linebackers.
Monday, March 4 — On-field workouts for cornerbacks and safeties.
Titans Media Schedule
Titans general manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel will speak to reporters from Indianapolis on Wednesday, February 27th.
Robinson will speak at 10:15AM and Vrabel will follow at 10:30AM.
No doubt TitansOnline.com will stream the press conferences live.
Measurements, Medicals and Interviews
On the day following their check-in, players are first put through measurements, which detail their height, weight, hand size, and arm length, as well as medical exams with private specialists and team doctors.
The measurements are important in revealing a player’s true size and weight, as collegiate websites often bolster their athletes, but these measurements aren’t a significantly meaningful evaluation tool compared to the abilities shown on tape outside of the extremes in either direction.
However, the medical examinations are a hugely important factor for teams in the evaluation process. Former NFL coach Dave McGinnis appeared on The Midday 180 on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville the other day and had this to say about the medicals at the combine:
“The first reason that takes someone off your board are the medicals, okay, those medicals are something that are extremely important.”
A Bleacher Report article from a few years ago went in depth on what the medical exams consist of and detailed the various internal and orthopedic evaluations performed by a multitude of doctors and specialists. According to recent Missouri Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Matthew Matava (past president of the NFL Physicians Society and the former team physician for the Rams, who remains a professor of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine at Washington University in St. Louis):
“If a player is healthy, the evaluating internist will compile a general health report which is shared with the other teams. Once the medical evaluations are complete, each player is given an internal medicine grade that can be somewhat unique for each team. This grade then gets factored into their overall medical grade. This is given to the team’s general manager and head coach to be used when they make draft decisions.”
The BR article also discussed the importance these medical reports hold in the decision-making process.
“The doctors will have a meeting with the GM and coaching staff closer to the draft where they will flag about 50 players that need to be discussed further from a medical perspective,” Matava continued. “(The GM and coaching staff) will want to go over the grades we assigned because they may really like a player’s ability but want to understand how significant of a risk he is based on his medical history. We do our best to explain why we gave one player a ‘C’ and another a ‘B-.’”
After measurements and medicals, players will participate in team interviews. Each team submits their list of players they’d like to interview and a schedule is set up, allowing each team 15 minutes per player. During the process, an air horn signals the end of each meeting, at which point the player moves to his next team interview.
In addition to the off-the-wall (and sometimes inappropriate) questions prospects receive from teams that are more widely reported, the interviews often consist of players being asked to draw out plays on paper and describe concepts so evaluators can test their football knowledge and recall abilities.
While not as flashy or as media-focused as the on-field testing, the medicals and interviews are generally more important for most prospects than any of the actual on-field workouts, with a few exceptions for the players who need to confirm they have the baseline athletic traits and others who will show off in impressive fashion.
The next day after the measurements and medicals, prospects participate in media appearances and perform their first physical workout, the bench press, where each player attempts to bench 225 pounds as many times (or “reps”) as they can.
Then, on their fourth day in Indianapolis, the real fun begins (for us). The on-field workouts consist of the following drills, starting on Friday with special teams, offensive line, and running backs:
- 40-Yard Dash: Simultaneously the most widely-touted and yet least indicative drill, the 40-yard dash is the top event most people tune in to watch or read about. While it’s rare to see typical NFL players run 40 yards in a straight line at any point in an actual football game, this marquee drill does measure speed, explosiveness and first-step quickness. Excepting receivers, running backs, and defensive backs, the 10- and 20-yard splits can sometimes be more important than actual 40 times for many position groups.
- Vertical Jump: An explosiveness test, the vertical jump is exactly what it sounds like, measuring how high a player can jump straight upward from a standing position.
- Broad Jump: Like the vertical, the broad jump also tests explosiveness, this time by measuring how far a player can leap forward from a standing, two-foot stance. Sticking the landing is an important facet of this drill.
- 20-Yard Shuttle: In the 20-yard shuttle, each player starts in the middle of two cones and first runs right five yards to touch their first cone, turns back and runs 10 yards to touch their second cone, and finally runs to finish in the middle of the course. This drill is usually more important for running backs, wide receivers, edge rushers and defensive backs, as it is meant to test acceleration, lateral quickness, short-area explosiveness and start-stop ability.
- 60-Yard Shuttle: The 60-yard shuttle is similar to the 20-yard shuttle but with the added element of endurance. Rather than start in the middle of three cones, the player starts at the end and runs to the first cone and back, followed by the second cone and back, and finally to the third and furthest cone and back, with the cones set 5 yards apart from each other.
- 3-Cone Drill: One of the most important drills for change-of-direction positions like running backs, wide receivers, and cornerbacks, as well as speed rushers, the three-cone drill (unsurprisingly) consists of three cones, this time arranged in the shape of an L. The drill requires players to run around the cones and measures lateral agility, explosiveness, and most importantly, change-of-direction skills.
- Position-Specific Workouts: Beyond the numeric testing drills listed above, each position also has its own share of on-field workouts. Quarterbacks partake in throwing drills, receivers run routes and catch passes, linebackers and defensive backs drop back and flip their hips, and much more as teams take advantage of the opportunity to witness players working out live in person.
Players to Watch
There are a few players that are expected to, as they say, “destroy” the combine. Those players to keep an eye on (for entertainment value) are...
- D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss — Metcalf is a physical freak of nature who is expected to, as they also say, “break” the combine. He should measure in taller than 6’3” and could run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash.
- Ed Oliver, DT, Houston — Ed Oliver is the quickest defensive tackle in this class who’s movement testing may end up looking more like a linebacker than a lineman.
- Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma — Murray’s 40-yard dash time should also draw lots of attention. The speedy QB prospect has his sights set on Reggie McNeal’s record time for quarterbacks at 4.35 seconds.
- Andy Isabella, WR, UMass — Isabella is a true contender to be the top performer in the 40-yard dash. The explosive slot receiver from UMass beat former No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward in the 100m and 200m state track championships in high school in Ohio, and Ward tied for the fastest time recorded at last year’s combine with a 4.32.
On top of the “freak” performers, there are a bunch of other players I’ll be paying close attention to as a Titans fan, including most of the receivers, edge rushers, and interior offensive linemen.
Justin Melo just dropped his top-50 big board for MCM, which includes a multitude of prospects to watch this week.
You should also check out his latest mock draft if you want to start familiarizing yourself with the top players ahead of the combine.
A few highly-touted players will be absent from the combine workouts for various reasons, some due to injury and other rules-related.
In 2016, the NFL made a policy change to ban players with domestic violence or sexual assault convictions from attending the combing in the future. A couple of players this year will not be attending the combine as a result of this policy.
- Jeffrey Simmons, DT, Mississippi State — Simmons, one of the elite defensive tackle prospects in this draft, was not invited to the combine due to a violent incident from his high school days in which he attempted to break up a fight involving his sister after a woman allegedly made derogatory comments about Simmons’ deceased nephews, and Simmons ended up punching the woman in the face multiple times. For this reason, Simmons was not invited to the combine. Simmons would not have been able to participate anyway, as he recently suffered a torn ACL during a training session.
- Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State — Not as highly regarded of a prospect as Simmons, Preston Williams was also not invited to the combine specifically for a domestic violence incident from 2017, when Williams allegedly shoved a former girlfriend multiple times during an argument. Williams was arrested again three weeks later when he violated a restraining order issued after the first arrest. After pleading guilty to the harassment charge and receiving a deferred sentence, the other charges were dismissed. Williams will not be at the combine because of this.
- Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR, Oklahoma — Marquise Brown apparently played the end of his final season with the Sooners with a significant Lisfranc injury in his foot, and he recently underwent surgery to repair the damage. Brown is expected to be ready for NFL training camps, but he will not be able to participate in any of the on-field workouts at the combine. It’s a shame because Brown was expected to be one of the most athletic players in Indianapolis. He is still expected to be present and available for team interviews.
- Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama — One of the highest-rated safeties in the draft class, Deionte Thompson suffered a torn ligament in his wrist while lifting weights recently and had to have surgery, meaning he too will be unable to participate in the on-field workouts at the combine.
- Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida — A potential top-ten pick, Jawaan Taylor is one of the best offensive tackles in this class, but he won’t be participating in combine drills due to a hamstring injury. Dr. James Andrews reportedly advised Taylor to avoid all activities that involve running or jumping. Matt Miller doesn’t think this will affect Taylor’s top-ten stock.
- Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska — Ozigbo was the biggest combine snub of the year; the electri simply was not invited to participate for reasons unknown. Justin Melo interviewed Ozigbo for Music City Miracles a couple weeks ago.
Usually, the top storylines from the combine revolve around 40-yard dash results. Times in the extreme — whether fast or slow — are sure to draw attention when the players take the field towards the end of the week. There are plenty of lines and prop bets for different players’ results in the various drills.
Zach Lyons of MCM’s own Football and other F Words Podcast will be keeping a Google spreadsheet updated to track combine results for players that may be on the Titans’ radar based on fit and positional need. Feel free to follow along and use that sheet as desired.
Before the on-field drills start, we will be served plenty of headlines and pull quotes from the press conferences with head coaches and general managers, as well as the prospect media appearances.
And we might hear the beginnings of swirling rumors this week, too. With the start of the new league year approaching quickly, trade talks could heat up at the combine. Team executives will be in close proximity to each other all week long with the opportunity to ‘talk shop’ between meetings and media appearances with trading and free agency officially opening in a little over two weeks.
F Words Pod will also have a combine preview episode dropping on Tuesday (I’ll update this article with the link when it becomes available).
The combine is the last major event before free agency begins on March 13th, so enjoy this week as we gear up for the next stretch of the offseason.