Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
The Gauntlet is a drill at the NFL Combine designed to put receiving skills such as reaction time and vision to the test.
Along with the big events at the NFL Combine -- 40-yard dash, vertical jump and bench press -- each position group goes through its own specific set of drills. For the wide receivers and tight ends, they get something called the Gauntlet.
The Gauntlet, and here's a video from NFL.com (under the "position drills" tab) to bring the idea to life, aims to feature a receiver's hand-eye coordination and subsequently, his ability to concentrate on pass-catching.
Each receiver begins the drill on the sidelines. They each catch a pass in place, spin and catch another, then begin running the width of the field straight down a given yard line. Along the way, five quarterbacks -- three on one side of the wideout, two on the other -- will zip passes. On a perfect run, the receiver alternates looking for throws from both sides, catches passes in stride, drops them and runs across to the other sideline, ending the drill.
A wide receiver's ability to focus on what's coming, with the five passes coming quickly one after the other, is tested, along with his skill in snatching balls out of the air. There's little time for anything other than quick grabs, so hand-eye coordination and being able to catch the ball using hands only -- no body catches -- is paramount.
As the video notes, NFL scouts like it because it showcases a player's fluidity -- being able to run fast and smooth while concentrating on multiple targets. But head coaches tend to be averse to the whole drop-the-ball-after-the-catch thing that the Gauntlet calls for.
Players to watch:
--Tavon Austin, West Virginia--Austin's playmaking ability after the catch is undeniable, but his size is going to be one of the biggest question marks at the Combine. He also didn't run conventional routes at WVU, being utilized in mostly screens, outs and drags. His route-running ability is sure to be tested in Indianapolis.
--Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee--Patterson is arguably the most physically gifted receiver in this class, but he has something to prove at the Combine after a somewhat hectic "laissez faire" offense at Tennessee. His technique is a big concern at the moment.
--DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson--Hopkins has incredible hands and body control, among the best in his class. Expect him to blow the doors off this drill and propel himself into Top 20 discussion.
--Keenan Allen, California--Allen has the size, speed and strength, and may be the first receiver off the board in April, but he needs more polishing on his route-running and balance. Look for scouts to challenge him in that area.