Every year the NFL Combine draws NFL hopefuls, coaches and franchise executives in a camp that has been shaping the future of American football since the 1980s. This event attracts the media and national attention as 300+ football prospects showcase their abilities and passion for the game. What is the NFL Combine, its purpose, and who is invited?
What is the NFL Scouting Combine?
The NFL Combine is a 4-day, invite-only event where athletes prove their physical and mental ability in front of NFL coaches, scouts and team owners. This event draws over 300 prospects from that year’s best college football players. The participants undertake a series of short but intense drills that measure their agility, speed, and reaction team. These results are used to filter Draft Combine-eligible athletes for placement in the 32 professional football teams in the USA.
Where and When is the Combine?
Since 1987, the US Football Combine has been happening in Indianapolis in the last week of February each year. Typically, the prospects meet for in-person workouts and interviews at Lucas Oil Stadium. Consistent with public health advice, due to Covid-19, this tradition was broken in 2021, where most aspects of the Combine were held virtually or on college campuses.
Indianapolis is primed to host the NFL Scouting Combine one more time in 2022. But starting 2023, the National Football League says that it will be accepting bids from other teams who wish to host the event.
What Kind of Testing Goes on During the NFL Combine?
The purpose of the NFL Combine Testing is to scrutinize NFL Draft prospects’ mental and physical makeup. While the physical drills attract the most attention, the NFL says that athletes’ mental acuity is just as important in terms of improving draft stock. During the NFL, mental sharpness is measured using the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test (simply referred to as the Wonderlic).
The Wonderlic is a fast-paced assessment tool that’s intended to supplement other NFL Scouting Combine measures. The test is done in a classroom-like setup and requires the athletes to take 50 questions in 12 minutes. While the questions aren’t overly complicated, the test is done in the same week when the players are constantly being assessed for other physical, mental, and medical attributes making it super stressful.
Part of what makes the Wonderlic test so challenging is that participants can’t read for it. The only way to increase one’s score is to know how to handle the pressure that comes with it. Here are tips to pass the Wonderlic test:
- Prepare thoroughly by attempting different types of Wonderlic practice tests.
- Identify challenging topics in the practice tests and master them.
- Take the Wonderlic practice tests in real-time to familiarize yourself with the time limitation.
- Relax and approach the actual test calmly. Starting with relatively more straightforward questions helps a lot too.
The physical aspect of the NFL Combine Testing includes a battery of events that speak volumes about a player’s strength, stamina, agility, speed and reaction time. These are the main drills currently conducted in the Combine:
- The 5-10-5 shuttle test (the 20-yard shuttle)
- The 225-pound bench Press test
- The 40-yard test
- The shuttle run
- The vertical jump
- The broad jump
- The three-cone drill
Preparation for the NFL Draft Combine - Drills and Exercises
The bench press in the NFL Draft Combine requires the athletes to lift 225 pounds for as many repetitions as possible. It is the second most popular drill in the Combine after the 40-yard drill and favors both offensive and defensive linemen. Scouts use this upper-body strength test as a measure of muscle strength and stamina.
The NFL Scouting Combine is the most nerve-racking exercise that most athletes have to endure to enter the NFL world. For the most part, how the prospects perform depends on how well they train beforehand. Training for the football Combine requires enhancing one’s raw strength, flexibility, agility, speed and power. Equally important is the need to master how to perform each NFL Combine test efficiently. The following guide offers vital preparation tips for NFL Combine drills.
The 5-10-5 Pro Agility Drill
The 5-10-5 agility test is a lateral movement workout that measures an athlete’s ability to accelerate and change direction. Although seemingly simple in theory, this is a tough test that requires a great deal of mastery to ace.
How to do the 5-10-5 Pro Agility Test
- Line up three cones five yards apart.
- Align the Blazepod timing gate with the centerline.
- The athlete starts by straddling the centerline in a linebacker stance.
- At the coach’s cue, the athlete explodes laterally five yards to the right to touch the line with his right hand.
- The athlete turns and sprints 10 yards in the opposite direction to touch the line with his left hand.
- Lastly, he changes direction and sprints through the finish line.
The secret to beating the 5-10-5 Pro Agility test is to run efficiently. Here are tips on how to do this:
- When straddling the line, it’s recommended not to lean forward or put any weight on the hand touching the ground.
- The athlete is free to sprint in any direction where they feel more comfortable when starting.
- When touching the line, the athlete should reach over with his hand without the legs crossing over.
- Lastly, when coming out of the 10-yard line, the athlete explodes to dash through the middle.
- Learn more about how to run the 5-10-5 Pro Agility test here.
Plyo Box Jump Using Blazepods
NFL scouts, coaches, and franchise owners use the vertical jump test to measure a player’s ability to jump from a standstill. More than just the jumping ability, this test also assesses an athlete’s ability to push off the line of scrimmage with power.
There are multiple drills that players can use to maximize their NFL Combine Testing vertical jump results. But one drill that is commonly used for this purpose is the box jump.
How to do the Plyometric box jump
- The athlete begins by standing a comfortable distance from a 12” -36” tall plyometric box.
- To start, he assumes an athletic position with his feet shoulder-width apart.
- At go, the athlete gets into a quarter squat, hinges at the hips and then forcefully surges off the ground onto the box.
- Land softly and quietly (preferably in a squat position) and stand tall.
- Step back down and repeat.
By adding Blazepod Flash Reflex Training Lights to plyometric box jumps, coaches and trainers can test their trainees’ explosive power limits with pinpoint accuracy. This App-based system also keeps live data of athletes’ performance, making it easy to compare results and track progress.
NFL Bench Press Drill
The bench press is among the most challenging Football Combine drills. Thus, draft prospects who meet the NFL Bench Press status quo are generally considered to have been training well. Below are the 225 bench press totals that different-sized football players need to hit to impress the coaches and executives:
- Linemen- 30-39 reps
- Linebackers and tight ends- 25-30 reps
- Running backs- 20-25 reps
- Receivers and defensive backs- 15-20 reps
Best exercises to improve the NFL bench press performance
- Dumbbell floor press- 5 sets of 8 repetitions
- Bench press- 5 sets of 3 repetitions
- Reverse band bench press- 5 sets of 3 reps
- Straight arm cable pulldowns- 3 sets of 12 reps
- Close-grip bench press guide- 5 sets of 5 repetitions
The Standing Broad Jump
This test is also known as the Standing Long jump test. It is used as a measure of an athlete’s lower-body strength and stamina. Like the vertical jump, the standing broad jump also showcases the player’s explosiveness and balance attributes.
Below are exercises and tips to improve standing broad jump performance
- Practice the test regularly, aiming to improve with each jump.
- Build power and strength using plyometrics, squats, Romanian Deadlift and lunges.
- Develop strong leg muscles by doing oblique exercises and leg weight workouts.
The 40-Yard test
The 40-Yard Dash is one of the five main events all players undertake in the NFL Draft Combine. This test involves sprinting 40 yards as fast as possible and is run to evaluate American football players’ speed and acceleration.
Time splits are taken at 10, 20 and 40 yards. The 10-yard time split is used to assess groups that typically cover shorter distances, specifically offensive and defensive ends. The 20 is commonly used for the running backs, linebackers, tight ends and fullbacks who primarily run middle distances. Lastly, the 40-yard split is often used for receivers, defensive and speedrunning backs.
Here are exercises to improve 40-yard dash time
- Wall drill- develops acceleration mechanics.
- Staggered broad jump- necessary for developing explosiveness and power base.
- Strength workouts include goblet squats, push-ups, glue bridge, prowler marches, and sandbag sled drag.
Tips on How to Get an NFL Combine Invite
Typically, the committee members of the NFL Combine invite 300-335 draft hopefuls each year. Of these, 250 invitations are sent to prospects who have completed their 3-year eligibility before the next college bowl games.
The other 50 slots go to underclassmen and players who have shown interest in entering the draft before completing their college eligibility. The actual number of players in the NFL per year varies depending on the number of underclassmen who have requested and qualified for an early entry.
Below are tips on how to qualify for the NFL Combine
- Get a high school diploma
Prospects need a high school diploma to qualify for the NFL Draft Combine. The hopefuls also need to have completed three years after high school.
- Play college football
The NFL Scouting Combine also puts a premium on applicants with a bit of experience and maturity. For that reason, it’s necessary to participate in college football.
- Develop movement mechanics
All NFL Combine participants have to undertake a series of physical activities that assess optimal start position, change of direction, movement efficiency and finish techniques. NFL hopefuls should be keen to develop these attributes early enough.
- Declare for the draft
Three years after high school, athletes dreaming of playing for the NFL should register for the draft. The process starts by registering for the NFL tryouts.
The NFL Combine does a lot more than just scouting for the next generation of notable football players. Essentially, this program develops a generation of talented individuals with the character and skills to foster the continued popularity of the National Football League. For coaches and trainers aspiring to develop the next wave of the best NFL players, Blazepod’s Light-based Kit is the ultimate system for developing athletes’ speed, agility, flexibility, strength, and self-confidence. Learn more about how Blazepod helps prospects prepare for the NFL Combine here.
What does the NFL Combine consist of?
The National Football League Combine consists of interviews, medical tests, mental tests and physical drills, including the 225-lb bench press, 40-yard dash, broad jump, and 5-10-5 pro-agility test.
How do you run a 5-10-5 shuttle?
- Place three cones in a line five yards apart.
- Stand in a 3-point stance straddling the centerline.
- On the command, sprint five yards to the left and reach over to touch the line with the left hand.
- Turn and sprint 10 yards to touch the furthermost line with the right hand
- Finally, sprint across the centerline to finish the drill.
How much can an NFL player Bench Press?
The standard NFL Combine Bench Press weighs 225 lbs. However, some NFL stars like Vershad Jackson can bench press 355 pounds.
Who benches the most in the NFL?
Stephen Paea (Dallas Cowboys) currently holds the record for the most 225-lb NFL Bench Presses at 49 reps. He set this record during the 2011 NFL Combine Testing event.
What do the NFL scouts look out for?
NFL Combine scouts are the link between prospects and the teams or clubs they work for. During Combine testing, scouts look for athletes who stand out from the rest in terms of fitness, technique and tactical awareness. Also, NFL scouts are looking to create the next generation of NFL pros. Thus, they also look for generally competitive athletes with the hunger to become pros. Of course, the prospects have to showcase this in character, body language, and interaction with scouts, teammates, coaches and agents.