Under ordinary circumstances, the NFL community would have all eyes on the Scouting Combine right about now, where the majority of the players who are anticipated to be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft will participate in on-field athletic drills, comprehensive medical tests, and interviews.
The league was able to get the Combine in as normal last year, but the Pro Day circuit was just getting underway when the Covid-19 pandemic really grew serious around the country, and it brought everything to a standstill. While we continue to work to get the virus under control, life has taken steps toward normality, but it will continue to have its thumbprint on everything we do for a while.
Earlier this week, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who is on a league committee overseeing the Combine, gave an update on what the event might look like this year, which, needless to say, will be radically different.
“As far as the Combine, the Combine is still up for discussion”, he said. “I’m actually on the Combine committee. We’re trying to move closer to what we will be able to do, when, and where. As we stand right now, it will be a medical-only for select players, and again, that process will hopefully get finalized here in the next week or so”.
While there will be no drills at the Combine, it is anticipated that schools will still have their Pro Days this year, and obviously much greater importance will be placed on them in 2021 than at any time since before the Combine existed. But they won’t be quite the same, either.
“The Pro Days will, again, like the Combine, be different”, Colbert said. “We will focus on whatever the schools mandate and how they’re mandated by their own states. We’ll attend as many of those as we possibly can in preparation for the draft. But again, like the Combine, the Pro Days will be judged and worked from as safe a manner as we possibly can”.
Essentially, the Combine will be almost entirely limited to a focus on medical evaluations, in the hopes of getting a central hub of data—not a geocentric hub—for medical information on prospects. It’s likely there will be no one location, but rather several locations where prospects will undergo medical evaluations to be shared with all 32 teams.
The interview process figures to build off of that which was conducted throughout the 2020 NFL Draft process, which is something most of us have likely grown familiar with over the course of the past 11 months: Zoom meetings. They will have to be regulated in some manner of course, but teams have a working knowledge of this process by now.
The biggest question for me pertains to standardizing the on-field testing. Aside from the medical data, which is more easily replicated, the greatest value of the Combine was the ability to measure up prospects against the best of the best with standardized measures. The league has talked about ways to try to standardize Pro Day events, but there will likely be only so much they can do in that respect.