The 2014 NFL combine begins on Feb. 22, kicking off four days of the country's top pro football prospects running through drills and evaluations in an attempt to bolster their stock for the draft in May. Perhaps the most entertaining part of these workouts will come on Feb. 23, when the wide receivers will be put through a drill called the Gauntlet.
It's an intimidating moniker, but a cool workout. Standing on the sideline, a receiver catches a pass while stationary, spins around to catch another, then sprints across the width of the field, grabbing passes from quarterbacks stationed alternately on his left and right. In all, he'll attempt to catch seven passes, all of which are fired from close range from constantly shifting locations (NFL.com provides a great example video).
The idea here is to test not only a player's hand-eye coordination and catching ability, but his awareness and reaction time. The ability to snap the head and locate the ball as it's already in flight are critical to the quick timing routes needed to play receiver at the next level.
The speed of the drill also forces players to catch with their hands only -- allow the ball to come in on the body and there's no time to drop it and field the next pass.
The final pass of the sequence comes just as the receiver reaches the far sideline, making them drag their feet and testing field awareness and footwork.
Players to watch
Sammy Watkins: Last year saw DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson selected in the first round of the 2013 draft and go on to have a successful season, but pundits believe Watkins will be better. Garnering comparisons to A.J. Green, he's almost assured to be a Top 10 selection in May and the combine affords him an opportunity to shine on the national stage. He may not have the ideal height teams are looking for, but he's a smooth route runner with an ability to change direction quickly. Watkins' times in Indianapolis hinges on his position drills and route running, both of which will be under scrutiny.
Mike Evans: Few receivers are more intriguing than Texas A&M's Mike Evans, who could cement himself as a Top 15 pick with a good combine. He has all the size teams will look for at 6'5, but there are questions whether he's fast enough to gain separation in the NFL. That said, players like Dez Bryant and Vincent Jackson have made a career off their size and hands, which teams will look at closely in their comparisons to Evans.
Marqise Lee: Smaller than other top receivers, Lee has a chance to show off his athleticism and acceleration. Indianapolis will be vitally important to him, where he'll aim to convince teams he has the ability to gain separation off the snap and find holes in coverage. This is where he succeeded at USC and could be a difference maker in the NFL if paired with a reliable quarterback.
Kelvin Benjamin: The young underclassman from Florida State is a risk, but we've seen teams swing for the fences in order to find playmakers. Benjamin needs work on his route running and technique, but if a team invests the time he could be a steal at the back end of the first round. Position drills will be most important for Benjamin, who possesses a rare combination of size and speed.