The NFL hosts the combine every year at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana, during the middle of February. Every team participates, and all data from the various tests is shared. The scouting combine is the unofficial kickoff to a six-week evaluation period that concludes with the NFL draft in April.
With 31 teams and seven rounds in its draft, the National Football League selects 217 players every year. 300 athletes will be invited to the combine, but that number does not include juniors leaving college early.
More than 300 players attend the invitation-only combine. Workouts to test strength and speed are conducted at the RCA Dome. But much of the business takes place in the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, including measuring, interviewing and psychological testing.
At 6-4, 267, Jones is considered one of the top four or five tight ends available in this year's talent pool. The only major question marks associated with him headed into the season were health related, as the former basketball star has now gone through ACL surgery on both knees. But Jones finished 2001 in excellent health. And assuming he performs well at the Senior Bowl, Jones should be the first Tide athlete chosen in the draft.
Though he has obvious talent as a kick returner, there are questions about whether Milons (5-11, 187) can be an every-down receiver in the pros. So more than most athletes, his performance at the Senior Bowl and combine will likely be critical in determining where he will end up being drafted.
NFL scouts attend all of the various college all-star games, but the Senior Bowl is taken most seriously. So invitations to the game are prized. With pro coaches crowding the sidelines, practice sessions in Mobile can make or break an athlete's draft status.
Despite only average college statistics, McAddley (6-2, 207) has excellent size and legitimate sprinter's speed (4.40 in the 40-yard dash). So based on athletic potential alone, he will get a long look from the pro scouts. McAddley is not included on the early roster for the Senior Bowl, but reportedly he will participate in the Hula Bowl.
Tide seniors not invited to the combine or one of the major all-star games will also get their chance to be evaluated. Every March Alabama hosts a Pro Day, where each athlete interested works out for the assembled NFL scouts. Jones, McAddley and Milons all plan to attend that workout as well.
Player groups arrive in Indianapolis at the combine in waves, but each athlete normally spends three days being evaluated, interviewed and tested.
Early on the athletes are measured, often providing the first accurate information regarding their size. In addition to being weighed, players are measured for height, arm length, hand span, inseam and several other categories. During the evenings, players attend seminars and personal interviews with the teams, which consist of psychological testing and one-on-one sessions with coaches.
The next session is given over to medical testing. Each athlete's body is checked on a Cybex machine, measuring stability and strength of the various joints. Drug testing is done, involving both urine and blood work. All 31 NFL teams have trainers and medical staffs available, and physicals are videotaped.
For the final session the athletes move to the football field, where those that participate are tested on several standard football-related measures. 10-yard, 20-yard and 40-yard dash times are all taken electronically (scouts pay closer attention to the shorter distance numbers for linemen). Three shuttle runs are timed: 20-yard (5/10/5), 60-yard (5/10/15 twice) and the three-cone, L-shaped drill.
The vertical jump and standing long jump are measured. And the athletes' strength is judged on the bench press, where each participant is asked to rep 225 pounds as many times as possible.
Many of the very top-rated players will not work out at all--or pick and choose their events--for fear of giving a poor performance and falling in the draft. Many prefer to run their dashes during a local workout at their schools. But most take part in the interviews, testing and medical examinations in Indianapolis.
And one way or another, almost all the best athletes will be on hand to talk to teams and be seen.