The reason the NFL Scouting Combine came into existence was to have an efficient and economical way to obtain a physical on 300-plus players. It's the first time you can have your medical personnel check out these players and that was the main thing I wanted to get out of the combine during my days with the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans.
My pet peeve about the perception of the combine is that it has a great deal of influence on how a team looks at a player. The biggest impact on a player's grade -- by far -- is how he played on tape. The combine is just a tool to fill in areas you don't have information on, mainly medical condition and measurables.
After the physical, the next most important portion to me is the position drills. This gives you a chance to see players at each position execute drills, one right after another so you can judge who is the better athlete and/or technician. When two players are rated close together on tape, a workout can provide some clarity. The combine provides the first opportunity to compare two players side-by-side in drills.
Also, you get a chance to see players do things in these drills you might not see on tape. A college defensive end looking to convert to linebacker in the NFL will perform coverage drills. A defensive back who never played man coverage in college will engage in man cover drills. A running back who rarely caught the ball out of the backfield will catch the ball multiple times. An offensive tackle who only played on the right side in college will be able to take a crack at the blind side. The two most informative positional drills for me are those of the offensive line and defensive backs.
Lombardi: Combine captivation
The third area I feel is useful at the combine was the opportunity to perform psychological and visual testing. And of course, the actual interviews. We would have some key questions for a player to answer, based on his background. You only have each player for about 15 minutes, so there really isn't a whole lot of depth to these interviews.
To fans, the combine's most alluring event is the 40-yard dash, but this can be a misleading measurement for team officials. Players train hard for the combine and many of them post 40 times that make them appear faster than they really are in typical game settings. I judge a player's game speed off tape. If his combine 40 seems much faster, I throw it out, because it's not a true reflection of his game speed.