Here comes the Combine

Here comes the combine. The event which opened Wednesday in Indianapolis bears almost no relation to its humble beginnings.<p>

The NFL Scouting Combine has grown from a selection of prospects running a few drills and getting physicals. Now the combine emphasizes thoroughness with interviews and full workouts and a position-by-position schedule for each of the seven days, as the scientists of the draft hopes to leave no stone unturned.

The exhaustive study involves teams' medical, coaching and scouting staffs holding about 330 prospects under the microscope. Their position on the draft board can be hugely affected by this week's proceedings.

This week's schedule includes the following physical tests: the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump, three-cone drill, bench press (number of repetitions of 225 pounds), the short shuttle (15 yards total) and long shuttle (60 yards total). That covers everyone, while players are also subjected to position-specific drills.

While player workouts are the most visible portion of the process, the increased emphasis on the interview makes the combine a much bigger overall challenge for NFL hopefuls than in the past.

The interviews are subjective. The medical tests are not. X-rays and MRIs often come into play as teams search for protection from unpleasant injury surprises later.

Sometimes the most important tests are those not taken – the top players sometimes are held out of the combine's physical testing. Premier prospects can afford to sit these out until spring, when they'll perform on their own campuses for invitees.

With one day of the combine in the books, the work is just beginning for participants and staffs. For draft aficionados searching for information in a sea of prospects, the combine provides some "hot stove" fodder in the cold days between the Super Bowl and the the April 24 NFL Draft.

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