The underwear olympics are upon us!
Next week, over 300 former collegiate footballers will participate in the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. Traditionally, the televised portions of the week-long event take place throughout the morning and trickle into the early afternoon. That will not be the case anymore starting this year.
For the first time, the on-field workouts at the combine will be broadcasted live from the late afternoon time slot and into the late night. This was something that was in the works starting early last year and was officially announced as a reality after the 2019 NFL Draft. The long-and-short of why it’s happening: ratings. The draft is an ever-growing entity that millions of people watch every year. The combine obviously will never reach that massive audience, but its own TV popularity was struggling.
The order of which position groups will workout has also been changed. In years past, offensive lineman and running backs kicked things off on day one, followed by quarterbacks and pass catchers, and then defenders rounded out the weekend. This year, quarterbacks and pass catchers go ahead of the big uglies and backs.
The full schedule is as follows: (via NFL.com)
Thursday, February 27th
- Tight ends, Quarterbacks, Wide receivers (4-11PM EST)
Friday, February 28th
- Place kickers, Special teams, Offensive linemen, Running backs (4-11PM EST)
Saturday, February 29th
- Defensive linemen, Linebackers (4-11PM EST)
Sunday, March 1st
- Defensive backs (2-7PM EST)
All the drills will be aired exclusively on NFL Network and can be streamed on NFL.com.
The shift to a much later time slot may displease NFL personnel that personally attends the event, but it was made with you and me in mind. They need us to watch 21-year olds run around in compression shorts!
Players to watch
One specific 21-year old to watch run is wide receiver Henry Ruggs III. The reason why? He has the best chance to break John Ross’ 4.22 40-yard dash time since Ross blazed that time back in 2017. Ruggs already has first-round hype attached to his name, so a sub 4.22 time would only confirm that status. He might even break the 4.2 barrier, so be sure to watch Thursday night.
Ruggs’ former quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, won’t be throwing balls to him in Indianapolis as he’s still recovering from his hip surgery. Joe Burrow probably doesn’t need to participate in any drills but is expected to do so regardless, in case you needed any reminder of what pinpoint accuracy looks like.
With Tagovailoa out, it’s another chance for Justin Herbert to close the gap and make his case as QB2 in this class. His velocity will be on full display for the throwing drills, but will his accuracy match up with the zip he puts on every pass? The same questions will be asked for Jordan Love, who’s also expected to go off the board in round one.
The battle for the top offensive tackle is way more competitive, and the combine may be what separates Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills, Andrew Thomas and Mekhi Becton from each other. All are expected to be first-round picks, so the Bengals may be more focused on guys like Prince Tega Wanogho, Matt Peart, and Senior Bowl standout Ben Bartch.
As the best player in this class whose name isn’t Joe Burrow, Chase Young will have plenty of eyes on him as well. Edge defenders who don’t test like above average athletes for their size don’t always fulfill whatever potential they have, but Young should be able to do enough to maintain his status as a top-three pick at the absolute worst.
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons is sure to blow us all away with his testing, but he’ll hear his name called shortly after Young goes off the board. The Bengals need to see if guys like Patrick Queen, Kenneth Murray, and Akeem Davis-Gaither are the freak athletes they appear to be on tape. It’s a big week for guys like Zack Baun and Josh Uche as well, who both may end up being off-ball linebackers in the NFL after spending their college days rushing the passer. Both are probable targets for the Bengals on day two of the draft.
Is this the last year of the bench press?
The practicality of the bench press has been a debatable topic for years now. Yes it signifies commitment to the weight room and gives dinosaur-armed players like Russell Bodine a chance to show off, but how much can we learn about a player’s functional strength from it? The answer is simply not much, and the majority of league evaluators agree.
Jeff Foster, the president of National Football Scouting Inc., told Sports Illustrated’s Kalyn Kahler that the he and his committee of five general managers from around the league are considering removing the drill in the near future, but will keep it around for this year.
More on-field drills will be added this year, including a figure eight drill that defensive lineman undergo at most pro days and a screen drill for offensive linemen. For the sake of entertainment value, the “W” drill for defensive backs and the gauntlet drill for receivers will now be timed.
Always remember: the behind the scenes stuff matters more to teams
This is your yearly reminder that the combine primarily acts like a gigantic clinic. Coaches and general managers (and directors of player personnel) care more about the medicals they receive on the players and how the players interview with them for the first time. They already have a good idea on what kind of athletes they all are, the testing is more of a confirmation process. The medicals and interviews are where new information is found, even if the content of said interviews seems nonsensical to the average
Got it all? Good. We’ll see you next week.