Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, his assistant coaches and an "army" of the team's scouting and medical personnel began heading to Indianapolis on Monday for this week's annual scouting combine. Yeah, the draft hype officially begins on Tuesday.
This year's combine will include 334 draft prospects. They will perform cone drills, shuttle runs, 40-yard sprints and football-specific drills, all in shorts and t-shirts that will guarantee nothing about a player's ability to perform on the real stage. Nonetheless, the combine is the single-most important event leading up to the spring NFL draft.
"There's a lot of information we gather. It's an information-gathering time of year. The combine is the place where you can see the majority of the draft class," Del Rio said as he headed out the door to catch a flight.
"Every year there are alerts that come up and questions that are answered that remove alerts. It's just another step in the very thorough evaluation process," Del Rio added.
The player interview sessions have become the star attraction of the week. Teams will personally interview as many players as possible and arranging an interview with a player is a way of saying the team is interested in him.
Players will be asked questions such as:
What were your best three performances of the 2007 season? What is the best way to present football material to you; visual, auditory or reps on the practice field? Who is the toughest opponent you faced during the season? Would your teammates classify you as a leader? Do you have any regrets having attended your university? Have you had any significant injuries since the season ended? Who is the person from whom you seek advice? Have you ever been disciplined by a coach?
Another critical phase of the evaluation process is the week-ending physical examinations. The Jaguars will send five physicians and three medical trainers to Indy to conduct physical exams.
"We do the physicals on all of the players at the combine. Our physicians see every player that comes to the combine over the course of four days. The guys get physicals Thursday thru Sunday. It's the most extensive physical; it covers everything," Jaguars assistant athletic trainer Joe Sheehan said.
Medical information was the original reason for creating the scouting combine. The workouts and interviews were added as time went on.
"If you've ever been inducted into the military service, your first 48 hours at the combine would be reminiscent of when you were called for your draft physical," a veteran scout said.
Mistakes have been many: Mike Mamula became a top 10 pick on the strength of his combine workout. Ben Roethlisberger fell out of the top 10 as a result of his.
"I always put the most value in the college tape I watch. The college tape has to be the biggest factor," Del Rio said. "You have tape. They're taping the workouts. It is an opportunity to get in front of a large number of players. Without this it would be very difficult to go face to face with as many individuals as we do."
"Nobody, for me, falls at the combine," Jaguars personnel exec Gene Smith said. "Why would somebody fall at the combine? The game is played in pads, not shorts.
"What position offers the most value from the workouts? It's the defensive backs because you can clearly see all of their movement skills and their ability to adjust and track a deep ball," Smith added.
Let the games begin.