Dive into NFL Myths: How Does The NFL Scouting Combine Work?

John Rizzo

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NFL Scouting Combine

The NFL Scouting Combine is a pivotal event in the world of American football, serving as a make-or-break platform for college athletes with dreams of playing in the National Football League. 

This blog post delves into the intricate workings of how the NFL scouting combine works. 

From the meticulous medical examinations to the eye-popping 40-yard dash, the combine is a whirlwind of athletic prowess and critical decision-making for NFL teams. 

We’ll explore how this annual event has evolved and discuss its controversies over the years. 

So, whether you’re a die-hard football fan or just curious about how the NFL finds its next stars, this comprehensive guide will unravel the inner workings of the NFL Scouting Combine. So, stay focused. 

What Is the the NFL Scouting Combine?

The NFL Scouting Combine is an annual event in American football where college football players eligible for the NFL Draft showcase their physical and mental abilities to NFL team scouts, coaches, and executives. 

Held in Indianapolis, it typically takes place in late February and early March.

During the combine, players participate in a series of drills and tests that assess their speed, strength, agility, and football-related skills. 

These evaluations include the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, bench press, three-cone drill, and more. Additionally, players undergo medical examinations and interviews with team representatives.

The combine is a crucial part of the scouting process, helping NFL teams make informed decisions when selecting players in the draft. 

It allows prospects to make a strong impression on potential employers and influences draft positioning.

It is a significant event on the NFL calendar, drawing considerable attention from both fans and the media.

History and Evolution of the NFL Scouting Combine

The NFL Scouting Combine has a rich history and has evolved significantly since its inception. Here is an overview of its history and evolution:

Origins (1977)

The NFL Scouting Combine was first established in 1977 in Tampa, Florida, as a centralized event for evaluating college prospects eligible for the NFL Draft. 

Initially, it was a relatively modest event with limited media coverage.

Growth and Relocation (1980s-1990s)

The combine’s popularity grew in the 1980s and 1990s, leading to its relocation to Indianapolis in 1987. 

Indianapolis offered a more centralized location, better facilities, and a controlled environment for testing. This move significantly improved the event’s logistics.

Expansion of Testing (1990s)

The 1990s saw the introduction of additional drills and tests, making the combination a more comprehensive evaluation tool. 

These additions included the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone, shuttle, and position-specific drills.

Media and Fan Engagement (2000s)

The 2000s witnessed a surge in media coverage and fan interest in the combine. The event’s drills and interviews were broadcast on television, giving fans a glimpse into the evaluation process.

On-Field Workouts and Drills (2010s)

The combine continued to evolve with the inclusion of position-specific on-field workouts, allowing scouts to assess players’ football skills and technique. This provided a more well-rounded evaluation of prospects.

Technology and Analytics (2010s-Present)

In recent years, the combine has embraced technology and analytics to provide more in-depth data on player performance. This includes advanced timing systems, GPS tracking, and biometric data analysis.

Expanding Player Participation (2010s-Present)

The combine has opened up to international players and athletes from various backgrounds, not just traditional college football programs. This has increased the pool of talent available for NFL teams to consider.

Venue and Date Adjustments (2020s)

In 2020 and beyond, there have been adjustments to the combine’s schedule and location, partly due to logistical and health considerations. 

The event’s timing and venue may continue to evolve in response to changing circumstances.

The NFL Scouting Combine has come a long way from its humble beginnings, evolving into a multi-faceted evaluation event that plays a pivotal role in the NFL Draft process. 

It has become a significant annual event for the NFL and football fans, offering a comprehensive look at the next generation of NFL talent.

How Does The NFL Scouting Combine Work?

How Does The NFL Scouting Combine Work?

The NFL Scouting Combine is a multi-day event designed to evaluate college football players eligible for the NFL Draft. Here’s how it works in 6-7 key points:

Player Invitations

NFL-eligible players receive invitations to the combine based on their performance and potential as determined by NFL team scouts and executives. 

Typically, invitations are extended to top college prospects at various positions.

Medical Evaluations

Upon arrival at the combine, players undergo comprehensive medical examinations, including X-rays, MRI scans, and a review of their injury history. 

This is crucial for teams to assess a player’s health and potential injury risks.


NFL teams conduct formal interviews with players to assess their football IQ, character, and overall demeanor. 

These interviews provide insight into players’ personalities and how they might fit within a team’s culture.

Physical Measurements

Players’ physical attributes, including height, weight, arm length, hand size, and wingspan, are meticulously recorded. These measurements are important for position-specific evaluations and comparisons.

Athletic Testing

Players participate in a series of standardized athletic drills and tests. 

These include the 40-yard dash (speed), bench press (strength), vertical jump, broad jump (explosiveness), three-cone drill, and shuttle drills (agility). These tests help quantify a player’s athleticism.

Position-Specific Drills

In addition to the standardized tests, players engage in position-specific drills that assess their football skills. 

Quarterbacks, for instance, perform passing drills, while defensive backs participate in coverage drills. This allows teams to evaluate a player’s football-specific abilities.

Psychological Testing

Some players are asked to take psychological assessments that provide insight into their mental makeup and decision-making under pressure. 

This information can be valuable for teams assessing a player’s mental resilience.

Throughout the combine, NFL teams’ scouts and executives observe, evaluate, and collect data on each participant. 

The results and information gathered during the combine play a significant role in the decision-making process leading up to the NFL Draft.

The Selection Process of The NFL Scouting Combine

The Selection Process of The NFL Scouting Combine

The selection process for the NFL Scouting Combine is a rigorous and selective one, designed to invite the top college football prospects eligible for the NFL Draft. 

Here’s how the selection process works:

NFL Eligibility

To be considered for the NFL Scouting Combine, a player must meet the NFL’s eligibility criteria. 

This generally includes being at least three years removed from high school graduation and declaring for the NFL Draft.

Scouting Evaluation

NFL team scouts, coaches, and executives evaluate college prospects throughout their careers. They assess a player’s performance, skills, and potential impact at the professional level.


NFL teams compile a list of top prospects at each position based on their evaluations. Invitations to the combine are extended to these prospects. 

The number of invitations can vary yearly, but it typically includes several hundred players.

Positional Breakdown

Invitations are typically broken down by position. Different positions have different tests and drills at the combine, so the selection process ensures a balanced representation of players across positions.

Decline or Acceptance

Players who receive invitations must decide whether to accept or decline. 

Players sometimes choose not to participate because they feel confident in their draft status or prefer to showcase their skills at their college’s pro day.


In some cases, players who were not initially invited may be named as alternates. These alternates are on standby if invited players withdraw due to injury or other reasons.

International and Special Cases

The selection process has also expanded to include international players and those from non-traditional football backgrounds. 

Special cases, such as players overcoming significant challenges or excelling in lesser-known college programs, may also be considered.

The selection process aims to ensure that the NFL Scouting Combine features a diverse group of prospects who have demonstrated the potential to excel in the NFL.

Controversies Surrounding the Combine

Like any major event, the NFL Scouting Combine has not been without its share of controversies. Here are some key controversies and issues that have surrounded the combine:

Discrimination and Bias

The combine has faced criticism for potential discrimination and bias, with concerns about certain positions. 

Players from smaller schools or international prospects may receive less attention or opportunities than more high-profile prospects.

Invasive Medical Examinations

The comprehensive medical evaluations at the combine have sparked debate. 

Some argue that the invasive nature of these examinations, which often include X-rays and MRI scans, may infringe on a player’s privacy or lead to overexposure of medical records.

Excessive Media and Fan Scrutiny

The growing media coverage and fan engagement have put immense pressure on the young prospects, potentially affecting their mental well-being. 

Overanalysis of player performance can create unrealistic expectations and negative consequences.

Overemphasis on Athletic Testing

Critics contend that the combine places too much emphasis on athletic testing, which may not accurately reflect a player’s actual on-field performance. 

Some argue that it overlooks qualities like football IQ, leadership, and situational skills.

Neglecting Mental Health

The intense scrutiny and high-stress environment of the combine have raised concerns about the mental health of participants. 

Players’ psychological well-being may be impacted, leading to calls for greater support and counseling services.

Gender Inequality

The combine has traditionally focused on male athletes, but some have criticized the lack of opportunities for women in American football. 

As women’s football and opportunities for female athletes grow, discussions about inclusivity have emerged.

Combining Events with Health and Safety

The combine’s format and scheduling have been adjusted in response to health and safety concerns, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These changes have generated debates about balancing evaluation with participants’ well-being.

The NFL Scouting Combine has evolved over the years, and while it remains a crucial part of the draft process, these controversies and issues have led to ongoing discussions about potential reforms and improvements.


What is the purpose of the NFL Scouting Combine?

The NFL Scouting Combine is an event where eligible college football players showcase their physical and mental abilities to NFL teams. 

It helps teams assess players’ athleticism, medical status, and football skills, influencing their draft decisions.

How are players selected to participate in the combine?

Players are selected based on evaluations by NFL team scouts and executives. 

Invitations are extended to top prospects across various positions, emphasizing those with potential for the NFL.

What happens during the medical evaluations at the combine?

Players undergo comprehensive medical examinations, including X-rays, MRI scans, and a review of their injury history. 

This process is crucial for teams to assess a player’s physical health and potential injury risks.

How do the athletic tests and drills work at the combine?

Players participate in standardized athletic drills and tests such as the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, and position-specific drills. 

These tests assess a player’s speed, strength, agility, and football-related skills.

How do the results from the combine influence the NFL Draft?

The combine’s results and evaluations significantly affect a player’s draft position. 

Teams use this data, interviews, and medical assessments to make informed decisions about which players to select in the NFL Draft, helping shape the future of their organizations.

Wrapping Up

The NFL Scouting Combine is more than just a showcase of athletic prowess; it’s a dynamic evaluation process that shapes the future of the NFL. 

As we conclude this exploration of the combine’s inner workings, we’ve unveiled its selection process, rigorous evaluations, and the controversies it has faced. 

This event has become a nexus where dreams are realized, careers are made, and controversies spark change. 

It’s a testament to the constant evolution of professional sports, reflecting the NFL’s commitment to finding the most exceptional talent. 

From the high-stakes interviews to the iconic 40-yard dash, the combine is the crucible through which NFL stars are born. 

Its rich history and ever-evolving format remains a cornerstone of the NFL Draft, continuing to captivate fans, analysts, and players alike. Best of luck. 

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John Rizzo

I am a professional rugby player in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. I have been playing rugby for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to play in many different countries. I am also a coach for both youth and adult rugby teams. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. I am currently working on my MPA from American University and plan to pursue this career path after graduating next year. LinkedIn