The first day of NFL Combine position drills is here, and running backs, offensive lineman and special team players will all take the field for their final day to impress scouts. This is the first year running backs will be among the Day 1 arrivals, swapping places with the tight ends, who will go with the quarterbacks and wide receivers Saturday.
With representatives from all 32 teams in attendance, these drills will wrap up a four-day interview that included a bevy of measurements for prospect potential.
This will be the first group to take the field for workout and position drills, having already had a day of orientation and registration, a day of measurements and medical examination, and a day of psychological testing, bench press, meetings and interviews. Ninety-four of the 332 players participating in this year's combine will perform their last day of drills Friday.
Not all position drills are created equal, leaving certain groups with specific maneuvers that best represent what teams are looking for at a certain position. Running backs, for example, will take part in the off tackle reaction drill, which puts their lower body burst ability to the test along with their quick decision making. After a handoff, the running back has to then accelerate over several bags spaced out on the ground, which shows scouts awareness and finesse of a rusher.
Offensive lineman, on the other hand, take part in the kick slide drill, which shows scouts the prospect's pass protection mechanics and first step off the line. Players get two chances at this drill, one from the two-point stance and one from the three-point stance, but both will show how well the player can guard the quarterback.
In addition to the position-specific drills, there are standard workout drills, including the 40-yard dash, bench press, shuttle run, three-cone drill, vertical jump and broad jump. Often labeled the "Underwear Olympics," the use of these physical tests have been criticized by some NFL coaches because they encourage prospects to train specifically for the events, costing them precious time to hone their actual football-playing skills.
"I think that's a huge mistake that a lot of those players make, but I'm sure they have their reasons for doing it," New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told NESN.com. "We're training our players to play football, not to go through a bunch of those February drills.
"I think there are a lot of players and I think a lot of players learn from that, that they look at their rookie year and feel like, ‘I wasn't really as physically as well prepared as maybe I was in college or what I will be in their succeeding years in the league,' and train more for football and train less for the broad jump and three-cone drill and stuff like that."
The importance of the results of these fitness drills varies among position groups -- the bench press might be more relevant for a lineman while the 40-yard dash could be more appropriate to evaluate a wide receiver -- but even scouts and talent evaluators agree that the numbers can be deceiving.
Mayock says the 40-yard dash is fun and easy to compare between athletes, but it really doesn't matter. Most overrated part of the Combine.— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) February 23, 2016
While USA Today recently reported that the league has formed a committee to review all aspects of the combine, it will be standard operating procedure this week in Indianapolis, and you can watch it live all day long on the NFL Network Friday morning through Monday afternoon.
NFL Combine schedule for Feb. 26
Player Set A (Special Teams, Offensive Line, Running Backs): On-field drills & positional workouts
Player Set B (Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends): NFLPA meeting, psychological testing, Bench press
Player Set C (Defensive Linemen, Linebackers): Media availability, physical measurements, medical exams
Player Set D (Cornerbacks, Safeties): Arrival, registration, hospital pre-exam and X-rays, orientation
How to Watch
When: 9 a.m. ET (Three-hour edition airs at 4 p.m.)
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
TV: NFL Network
Announcers: Rich Eisen, Mike Mayock, and other NFL Network analysts
Online: NFLN Online
For more on the NFL Draft, be sure to check out Mocking The Draft.