INDIANAPOLIS--The majority of the 325 draft-eligible players that have converged on Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine will put their skills on full display inside Lucas Oil Stadium for one day. A few will decide to opt out of the field drills for various reasons including Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford and Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree (pictured).
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Derek Landri was one of those small few in 2007 who didn't participate in the drills, but it wasn't because he didn't want to. Landri suffered a torn MCL and PCL in his knee during Notre Dame's Sugar Bowl game and was still rehabbing the injury. He didn't think twice about attending the combine even though he wouldn't be able to do anything on the field.
"It was one of the most frustrating things I have ever been through," Landri said. "I had to sit back and watch everybody. You're watching all of these guys and a lot of them you played against. You watch them compete and fight for a spot in the draft."
While the defensive linemen were on the field, Landri decided to make the most of his time. He walked through the tunnel at the RCA Dome, introducing himself to NFL coaches and personnel staff. It was his only chance to make an impression.
"I just tried to sell myself as a quality person," Landri said. "I couldn't do the things everyone else was doing."
Landri was able to work out at Notre Dame's pro day which took place about 10 weeks following his injury. Pro days on college campuses are where each player will show his skills in a more familiar setting. Stafford will be able to throw to his Georgia receivers and Crabtree will be at a hundred percent after dealing with a nagging ankle injury.
Known for his strong work ethic and speed off the line, it was important for Landri to show the scouts what he was capable of doing. The Jaguars liked what they saw and selected him with the 166th overall pick in the fifth round and he has played in 28 games in his first two seasons.
Can I get a minute with you?
The scene each evening at the combine is similar to the job fairs that are taking place all across the country. Each NFL team sets up interviews with players of their choice to provide an opportunity to further evaluate a potential employee.
"You take advantage of every opportunity you can," Jaguars linebackers coach Mark Duffner said. "This is a job interview for the players and most of the players understand that and prepare for it."
The interviews typically last 15 minutes, which had Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez comparing it to "speed dating." The time allows the teams a chance to ask questions about a player's past if there are unanswered questions, or maybe go to the drawing board to see how quickly they can digest an offensive or defensive play.
"Every single opportunity you have to get a chance to get up close and personal with a potential draftable player is important because you are observing and evaluating," Duffner said. "You're not just looking at how fast they run or how high they jump, or how much they bench press. You are trying to determine how well they express themselves, how well they communicate, how well they comprehend your communication. You come away generally with a feel for them as people or an early glimpse of what kind of character they have."
How are players selected for the combine?
The player selections are determined by a committee which includes the directors of both the National and Blesto scouting services, which represent 26 NFL teams, and members of various NFL player personnel departments. Every player eligible for the draft is reviewed and voted on by the committee. The event can hold up to 335 athletes with the numbers at each position varying from year to year.
No invite doesn't mean no call on draft day
With only 325 players invited to the combine in 2009, it doesn't mean an invitation completely rules out your chances of being drafted. According to nfl.com, of the 2,548 players drafted in the last 10 years, 393 weren't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Since 1998, only three players (DE Aaron Jones, 1988, Pittsburgh; DT Eric Swann, 1991, Arizona; CB Darrien Gordon, 1993, San Diego) have been drafted in the first round after not being invited to the combine.
The week is broken up into eight different position groups: specialists (punters, kickers, long snappers), offensive linemen, tight ends, quarterbacks and wide receivers, running backs, defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. Here's a look at the schedule for quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs for the next three days:
Friday, February 20
Measured for height, weight, hand, arm and body composition * Full medical exams and psychological testing *
Scheduled interviews with NFL teams *
Saturday, February 21
Wonderlic Exam * Informal interviews with NFL teams *
Sunday, February 22
Timed in the 10, 20 and 40-yard dashes * Vertical jump and broad jump *
Skill drills on the field * Depart from Indianapolis *
Super Bowl in February
Jaguars linebackers coach Mark Duffner has more than 33 years of coaching experience and he is in entering his 13th season in the NFL. Duffner has seen the week in Indianapolis grow from a small gathering to a showcase event for the NFL.
"It has become more by being televised on NFL Network," Duffner said. "It's become quite a spectacle for the NFL in general in terms of exposure for fans to see potential draftable players. In a lot of ways, I think it's a good thing. The interest in the players has increased and it's been a good thing. They certainly have a lot of information at their fingertips whether it's from the Mel Kipers of the world that are able to provide and do a good job of evaluating in their own right. The information out there that is provided is a heck of a lot more, no question."
Did you know?
According to NFLDraftScout.com, the fastest 40-yard dash timed at the combine since 2000 was run by former East Carolina and current Tennessee Titans running back, Chris Johnson. Johnson was clocked at 4.28 at last year's combine.
SATURDAY'S TV SCHEDULE ON NFL NETWORK
11:00 a.m. – Workouts: Kickers, offensive linemen and tight ends
2:00 p.m. – Press conferences
7:00 p.m. – NFL Total Access from the combine